By Erykah Benson
The Tower (Grosse Pointe, Michigan)
“Society has changed. They want us all to hate ourselves,” Vicky Beacham ’17 said.
Beacham put it bluntly.
In a spiral of media and peers, there is an overall pressure for girls to maintain a certain image.
Several factors contribute to how people are pressured to look a certain way.
Beacham said some girls are pressured to look a certain way because they want to impress boys.
“Guys want them (girls) to look hot. Guys want them to look nice,” Beacham said. “And everyone’s expected to be skinny because then they feel like if you’re fat then no one wants to date you. Guys always have this like specific girl in mind. And if you don’t fit that format, then they don’t want you.”
According to information provided by Brown University, opinion from the opposite sex plays a role in influencing people’s confidence.
Beacham, however, also said that even though some girls do strain to look a certain way to impress guys, it shouldn’t be the biggest concern.
While Beacham doesn’t think that it should be the most important thing, she does think that boys may play a part in how girls see themselves.
Maddie Lardner ’17, on the other hand, said that while some girls are pressured by others to worry about their appearance, there are others who do not feel the need to.
“A lot of guys think girls wear makeup to impress other guys, and that’s not true. Some girls just like to wear makeup, and in other cases some girls wear makeup for the heck of it. Some girls feel pressured to wear makeup, and feel that they need it,” Lardner said.
Beacham said that society has gotten to the point where body confidence is not the norm.
“It’s gotten so bad that if someone is like, ‘Oh, I like the way I look,’ then they’re mistaken for being vain. And now, people think it’s cool to not like the way you look and all this stuff, which is really stupid, because unless you have a viable reason for not liking the way you look, like if you have depression or something like that, then you should appreciate the way you look,” Beacham said.
According to studies conducted at Stanford University and the University of Massachusetts, 70 percent of college women said that they felt worse about their own looks after reading women’s magazines.
“This is more of a societal thing,” school social worker Douglas Roby said. “I’d say this is a national problem. People are concerned about they look. And some more than others. So how do I create a prescription for how to be comfortable with yourself? Because truthfully, there are many things that are out of our control.”
Shannon McGlone ’16, President of the Feminist Club, fiercely stood her ground on her opinion on media’s effect on body image.
“I think that media plays an enormous role, for both men and women, for women in particular,” said McGlone. “Everybody values media time as one of the most important aspects of your life.”
McGlone said that society’s objectification of women plays a role of how they are portrayed in the media.
“On a national scale, you see women represented as drinking their can of Coke in advertisements, and they dribble just a little on their chest,” McGlone said. “Or the way that even newscasters dress. Female newscasters will dress oftentimes in a really low-cut shirt, and they’ll have all their makeup on, and I think it’s a huge pressure for girls because they look at this and they see the media representing this, and if the media represents them that way, then perhaps that’s how they feel they should look.”
Not only does media in video form influence viewers with body image, but magazines as well. The result is an outcry by readers who criticize the use of Photoshop and retouching in magazines.
“Photoshop definitely has an impact on the way girls see themselves,” McGlone said. “Because that girl with the waist that has been slimmed by a computer and the eyes that have been enlarged — that’s something not even the model, the person in the magazine can live up to.”
In a swirl of media, expectations, images and pressure, again, Beacham’s words hit hard: “Society has changed. They want us all to hate ourselves.”
“It’s not coming from anywhere healthy or real,” McGlone said. “For the longest time we as women have not had equal rights,” McGlone said. “For most of history, women have been treated as second-class citizens. And it makes people uncomfortable, and I say people because it makes men and women uncomfortable, to change what has been around for so long.”
Though the feminist movement in America has been around since the early 1900s, a recent surge in the demand for equal rights for women is changing the way people are viewing themselves.
“It’s becoming more relevant,” Lardner said.
“I think we can only go up from here,” McGlone said. “In general, we do move forward, despite what may happen in the future.
Though the empowerment of women and women’s rights are progressing as time goes on, Lardner foresees years to come before there are equal rights between men and women.
“I mean, we’ve gotten pretty far. I’m guessing 20, sadly, to 30 years, that’s the rate I think it’s going at. I think in that amount of time, women will be viewed more eye to eye as guys,” Lardner said.
Calvin Klein released a new ad campaign on Nov. 11, 2014, featuring Myla Dalbesio, a size 10 model. Though controversy has sparked over Calvin Klein regarding a size 10 as its only plus-size model, the company normally portrays size 0s and 2s.
Many argue that the company has made a step in the right direction as to its personal progress when the model posed for their new campaign.
“More famous people are seeing what’s going on, they want to help,” Lardner said. “I feel like magazines should embrace that instead of writing articles on how to be skinny, they should be writing articles about how to feel comfortable with what you have.”
Despite the pressure of media and peers, Roby said that the key to appreciating how you look starts with yourself.
“Most peer pressure comes from internally, that, ‘I think this is what I need to be like.’ Or if I want to fit into this group, this is what I need to be like. It is self-imposed,” Roby said.
Lardner explained that body image is based on self confidence.
“As long as you like your body, you should be able, in an appropriate enough way for school, to show it off, without people knocking you down for it,” Lardner said.
In a world plastered with posters of models and model beauty standards, confidence in appearances is the daily struggle of people everywhere, not just South.