The standard of beauty: A dangerous ideal

Each week, The Beacon’s editorial board will take a stance on a current issue.

Since the dawn of time, society has been obsessed with beauty. Our desire to stay forever young or turn back the clock to the days of our youth to be “young and beautiful” is ubiquitous in society.

Upon turning on the television one is quickly exposed to a commercial advertising anti-aging products or a television series that is explicitly ageist. Thus, it is clear to see that there is a universal fascination with obtaining beauty and it’s close associate, youth. This unanimous obsession has been the breeding ground for what one may call the standard of beauty.

It is a harmful ideal that has caused damage to thousands of men and women from all walks of life regardless of age, race or class.

A few days ago, a talented Jamaican dancehall artist, Spice, known in the United States for her involvement in the VH1 series Love & Hip Hop has been the subject of a lot of ridicule for a recent decision she made. The artist is a person of Afro-Jamaican descent with a naturally dark complexion.

However, the artist recently uploaded a picture to her instagram profile with a now, white complexion. The reason for her change in appearance has to do with her decision to whiten her skin through the use of whitening and skin lightening agents.

The phenomenon of skin bleaching is by no means a new occurrence. This practice has been present in society for ages.

With this being said, why would one try to bleach their skin? Why would a person try to alter any one of their physical attributes? The answer is simple, to be perceived as attractive or beautiful in the eyes of one’s self or others.

It is important to note that the concept of beauty is a subjective one. Depending on what geographic location one resides in or travels to, they may or may not be in line with the standard of beauty attributed to that location.

The standard of beauty is essentially a variable standard of what it means to be attractive that is contingent on the feminine beauty ideals that are present in a given culture.

The feminine beauty ideal is “the socially constructed notion that physical attractiveness is one of women’s most important assets, and something all women should strive to achieve and maintain”.

The question is, why do such beauty standards exist? The answer is quite simple, according to Cristina Donati writing from the Huffington Post, the reason is due to “the ideas that the media puts into our heads from what they display in advertisements”.

In other words, as consumers the media influences our perspectives and the schemas that we form throughout our lives.

As a consequence of this, the media also informs what we see as beautiful or grotesque. Donati continues to state that “people see these perfect models being shown as the image of beauty, but people do not understand how photoshopped advertisements truly are”.

In essence, Donati is suggesting that the standard of beauty is difficult to attain even for those who possess said attributes. These beauty standards are unrealistic.

It is important to note that the standards and ideals that are perpetuated in the media have a butterfly effect on society.

A media outlet showcasing women of fair complexions as more attractive than women of darker complexions can cause a child of a darker skin tone to internalize such beauty standards. This internalization can lead to internalized colorism and internalized racism.

As a consequence of this, a woman like that of Spice can resort to activities such as skin bleaching and the modification of her body to achieve the standard of beauty.

Such activities can present a wide range of deleterious effects on an individual. In the case of Spice, bleaching creams have been proven to contain carcinogens that can result in skin cancer. Is the attainment of Western beauty standards so important that one would risk their health? To some, the answer is unfortunately yes.

So the next time you’re presented with an image of a woman who appears to be a size six or a guy with a chiseled body, it is important to understand that these images are not realistic or typical.

Beauty is something that cannot be standardized, it is a subjective attribute that varies from person to person.