What Is The Problem With The Media’s Beauty Standards?

Photographer working with professional model during photo shoot

Finally, it seems like significant change is going on in the corporate media. No more are just ultra-thin girls meeting its previously very inflexible beauty standard – or what it has been an acceptability standard for girls. Women with real fat on their body (gasp!) Are now increasingly represented in mainstream television as well as glossy magazines. Not only are they looking, but they’re being presented as examples of terrific beauty.


Sports Illustrated featured on its cover the stunning model Ashley Graham in 2016, which made international news because she’s by traditional media norms about 70 pounds overweight. Graham is now likely to become a judge on the panel for its series”America’s Next Top Model” with Tyra Banks. The popular HBO series “Girls” made headlines over the last couple of years since it shown actual cellulite on among the stars of the series.

Glamour magazine followed suit by displaying on its cover the four stars, among them morbidly fat, her cellulite intentionally exposed. Cable TV, YouTube, and other types of alternative media distribution set the precedent a decade and much more earlier. They’ve allowed us to see actual bodies represented on movie on a regular basis. Now, the corporate media itself is changing.

It’s happening

Women who are bigger than scarecrow thin are no longer banned from representation as being ordinary, and even beautiful, folks. What a success – or so it seems. After all, for years, feminists, concerned parents, and “plus-size” activists have been objecting to the media’s demonstrations of ultra-thin girls as the measure of female beauty, and the essential body type to even be eligible for a celebrity.

They contended that this standard puts virtually every woman alive, even lean women, at the “too fat” category, and that it contributes many women and girls to develop and anorexia, bulimia, and the sort of dieting that ultimately contributes to binging. Corporations like Dove have surfaced. The mainstream media are adapting to these requirements. The fundamental tenets of public discussion on “body image” and the representation of women have changed. It’s progress, for sure. But something’s missing.

Keep into account

Something about as large as an elephant in a room. It’s something which has everything to do with why so many women and women have “body image” problems in the first place, and why so many develop eating dysfunctions. That something is not just about an inflexible or unrealistic or even physically unhealthy beauty standard. It’s also about how women’s attractiveness is treated. It’s about how women’s bodies, however diverse in size and colour and age, are depicted.

To put it in feminist language: the issue is sexual objectification. The Sports Illustrated cover featuring the beautiful Ashley Graham may have sent the message to women who are bigger than scarecrow thin that they, too, can be sexually desirable at the weight they are. But is that a message about respectful want? Do the photographs of the three featured women of varied body types evoke from the male audience: a respect for women’s boundaries, an acknowledgement of the self-possession and their complex humanity, and also the understanding that a woman’s sexuality is shared only with those a woman chooses to discuss it with? Or does it send the message to the male viewer the complex humanity of women who turn them on is not actually real, or does not matter?

Sexual boundaries

Does it send the message that girls do not have meaningful sexual boundaries? And that women are not selective in whom they choose to share their sexuality with since – only look – those three varied models who have what many believe to be the best job in the world for girls – modelling – are offering it to the camera and to countless anonymous male audiences, no standards needed? Girls and women don’t develop low self-esteem, body image complexes, and eating dysfunctions because their body type is not represented in the media.

That’s part of the issue. But it’s not the main part. In actuality, the tight control within an outer beauty standard is truly only a facet of the real, deeper issue – and that deeper issue is that the disrespectful portrayal of women. The portrayal of women – as well as women – as sexual objects. Not every woman will agree that sexual objectification of women is a kind of disrespect.

Le saviez-vous ?

Some women believe embracing that function is a way to maintain their femininity, and that the sexual attention that they get from this is not disrespectful. I’d argue that what they are appreciating is the alleviation of open disrespect and disregard. For guys who’ve learned to objectify women, the prelude to “getting some” looks sort of like respectful behaviour – smiles, nods, attention, perhaps some gentlemanly courtship. But if the guys giving the attention do not find a complex, inherently self-possessed human being if they see a lady presented as a sexual thing, there is no realness in their series of respect.

If you read reports from women and women about how their eating disorders began, many refer to sexual abuse in the household, sexually objectifying opinions tied in with the ultra-thin beauty standard, and being too influenced by that ultra-thin beauty standard in the media – after their self-esteem is reduced. And low self-esteem comes from being treated as though invisible. It comes from being treated as if one’s insides, one’s infinitely intricate humanity, isn’t real or significant. It comes from being represented in the omnipresent media as if one does not possess the sexual and physical boundaries that those who matter have.


Appearance does matter – since we issue. Our look is part of our wholeness. It’s the internalized separation of body from selfhood – self-objectification – which needs mending. It’s the sexual objectification of women and women in society which needs changing. When we are self-possessedwe love our own body without ever needing to reflect on whether we love our own body. We love being alive, we love being ourselves, we love being in an remarkable human female body, amazing since it’s living, and it gives us life.

We’re all by nature self-possessed – until our connection with our body is severed from the violent and the subliminal insistence throughout society and throughout the press that the female body doesn’t signify human selfhood. Instead the feminine body is conceived of and presented as though it’s publicly accessible, until it’s been privately claimed by somebody apart from the human self in that feminine body.

Self love

The pure self-love we’re born with is damaged or injured in this procedure. The battle against the rigid ultra-thin beauty standard appears to have been won, or victory is in sight. But the problem behind this beauty standard, why it was so uncontrollable, and why it existed in the first place, is sexual objectification and disrespect toward women. Everything begins with objectification. It’s time to mention that “invisible” elephant in the room. The problem that is currently identified as women’s and woman’s “poor body image” will continue till we establish another motion that effectively challenges the objectification of women and girls. We made some progress. Let’s keep going with making change.


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