The standards society has set for beauty are unrealistic and cruel. These standards pressure women and even men to need to look a certain way to fit into society. Over the years, these standards have become more intense which causes issues such as eating disorders and the need for cosmetic surgery. These beauty standards can be seen greatly in the novel The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde. The novel can show the standards of beauty during the 1800s and the Victorian era which was totally different compared to today. Even with these unrealistic standards, there are realistic ways to fix it. We can use ideas such as the Dove Campaign to teach young men and women to be comfortable in their skin.
We as a society should be open to more realistic ideas of beauty other than those we set for each other. Throughout the years, the definition of beauty has altered as humanity has modernized. For example, the definition of beauty is “the quality present in a thing or person that gives intense pleasure or deep satisfaction to the mind, whether arising from sensory manifestations, a meaningful design or pattern” (origin of beauty). The definition of beauty changes between countries.
It is sad but each place has a certain way they want their women and men to look in order for surrounding societies to view them as beautiful. For instance, in The Picture of Dorian Gray, the society decided that beauty is the most important element in their society. The main character Dorian states, “I know, now, that when one loses one’s good looks, whatever they may be, one loses everything” (Wilde 26). This proves that even in the Victorian age, society has always based its ideas around beauty and all events that go along with it. Beauty Pageants have been around for several years, yet they only seem to grow more intense along with the standards of looking good.
These pageants reflect the values, and goals of the contestants however, most of these are about gender roles as well as sexuality since society bases themselves around femininity and masculinity. Because these pageants are viewed around the world, young men and women feel as though they need to appear as the models on the television. Not only this, but these pageants are extremely competitive. Several women come together to determine who is the most appealing which can be self-deprecating to those who do not win. These events are still going on today yet they have become much more stereotypical than they used to be. Hopefully in the future, these competitions will not influence young men and women as they do in today’s society. Beauty is a vital and central element of human experience. Numerous people from various cultures have the same desire to be charming as well as fit into the standards society has set for beauty.
For instance, “[the] Greek [society] ascribed beauty to things that are morally good, appropriate, and pleasing, be they natural objects or artifacts, tangible and concrete or abstract, personal deeds, or social institutions” (Lorand, 198). Beauty is all about opinions as well as feelings and emotions. It is a value that reflects the viewers’ aspects on life. In The Picture of Dorian Gray, Lord Henry stated his opinion of the topic when he explains how “beauty is a form of genius–is higher, indeed, than genius, as it needs no explanation” (Wilde 22).
He states throughout the book that if one does not have good looks, they shall not get far in life. If one is not beautiful they are named unintelligent and cannot think for themselves which is how most people behave today with society and businesses rapidly expanding. There are several companies and advertisements that put out ideas of how men and women are supposed to look. They fabricate products that can help humanity achieve that desired “fake” look. Women use products that can lighten skin and conceal imperfections which can be highly dangerous. Dating back to the twentieth-century, the cosmetic industry in America and Europe used mass-marketing techniques to reach out to women and men of all classes.
These companies also promised women that through diet, exercise, and the proper use of makeup, they could achieve physical perfection which is simply not true (Andrea, 84). Women have also resorted to the art of photoshop in order shape and color their bodies the way they want to. Another option most women follow through with, is plastic or cosmetic surgery. Plastic surgery was previously used for instances other than beauty, however it is now a way to change identifiable ethnic features or to make someone appears younger by removing facial wrinkles (Bullough 40). Women also use it as a way to enhance their bodies in areas such as the buttocks or the chest in order to be more appealing to society.
However, this can pose risks and consequences. A woman once complained that the silicone in her breast implant ruptured and leaked, causing her to have chronic fatigue, arthritis, and damage to the immune system. This must have not been a big enough scare since “breast enlargement surgery had become a $300 million business [by 1988]” (Bullough 40). Plastic and cosmetic surgery is also utilized by women to keep themselves looking youthful. This can be seen in the novel The Picture of Dorian Gray when the main character, Dorian, explains how “youth is the only thing worth having. When I find that I am growing old, I shall kill myself’ (Wilde 26).
This quote states that being youthful plays a role in being attractive and the community should try harder to think of practices that can fix the effects of aging even though it is something that cannot be stopped. When it comes to changing how we look, men and women do not stop at plastic surgery to alter their bodies the way they please. Women and even men have resorted to changing their skin color or hairstyle to fit into the population. Skin color supposedly shows the class in which people stand in as well as attractiveness. Some countries, such as Japan, find white skin ideal, so people are home to skin bleaching and tanning. The market has put out the idea that light skin is glamorous, modern and empowering.
These ideas about skin led the public to develop ideals about hair. It has been said that “to be feminine and attractive, [a] women’s hair should be curly, wavy, and preferably blonde” (Weitz 672). To achieve this look, women spent thousands on hot combs, oils, and chemical relaxers. Hair also has the ability to dictate the level of professionalism one has. Most of the population see “professional hair as short and straight, [which] are often at odds with the hair that many women of color have. Many Latin American communities value big, long, curly, and wavy hair, yet often college-educated Latinas adopt a shorter hairstyle to look more acceptable professional.” (Chaurasia 218).
To ensure men and women buy these products, companies will utilize people that can reach out and persuade their audience to follow along with an idea that is relevant and new. Hollywood stars for instance are used the most for product advertisements since they impact teenagers and adults the most. These companies mass market products used by these stars in order for the public to buy them. Famous models also try to endorse the company’s goods for their benefit as well as their audience. They will often use the slogan “if you want to look like me” to reel their viewers into buying the product even if it can be extremely harmful. Models and Hollywood stars are not the only people endorsing products such as those.
The Barbie is a doll representing a slim young woman, with blonde hair, blue eyes, and light skin. There are several people that believe Barbie is a bad influence on teens and young girls because of the way she looks and is built. Barbie shows an unrealistic body type which young girls, especially, may feel as though they should follow. For instance “a woman named Cindy Jackson, has had more than twenty operations and has spent approximately $55,000 on plastic surgery to mold herself into the image of the Barbie doll in the 1990s” (Pendergast 208).
The Barbie doll, in general, has created an impossible body type for growing girls and teens to follow according to several studies on that matter. Barbie has even been seen advertising diets. Diets are “more narrowly, a regimen of food intake planned to meet specific requirements of the individual, including or excluding certain foods” (origin of diets). Usually, adolescents act on diets to please society and become ‘ultra-thin’ which can lead to eating disorders and extreme weight-loss if not done the right way. Barbie encourages this act by having “a bathroom scale set to 110 pounds, and a book titled How to Lose Weight containing the advice: “Don’t Eat.” On the other hand, The Ken doll accessories included a pastry and a glass of milk.” (Pendergast 208).
This led parents to complain that the doll could easily influence their children. The company was forced to reconstruct the Barbie to stay in the toy business but there were numerous young ladies already affected by it. Having an eating disorder affects more than half of the youth population in this generation. An eating disorder is “developed when a person has an unrealistic attitude toward or abnormal perception of his or her body” (Davidson 785). Most of these habits come at the age of just seven to eighteen years old for most young women. These disorders typically accumulate so that people can appear a certain way in a short amount of time. Supermodels have stated before that they previously suffered from an eating disorder to look ultra-thin. This, however, encourages young girls to go through with having an eating disorder.
With the technology world we see “[that] the media constantly sends the message through words and images that being not just thin, but ultra-thin, is fashionable and desirable. Magazines aimed mostly at women devote thousands of words every month to diet and exercise advice that creates a sense of dissatisfaction, unrealistic goals, and a distorted body image” (Davidson 788). Since these disorders are caused at such an adolescent age, parents should take it onto their responsibility to make sure their children do not develop one.
This can be done by not placing their child on a diet unless instructed to by a pediatrician or dietitian. Hopefully, as we grow as a society the views on beauty can mature and become more realistic. From the time The Picture of Dorian Gray was written to now, the beauty standards have for the most part, have stayed the same. They continue to take over the lives of the public just like how it took over Dorian Gray. There are solutions however to tame the universal views on good looks. We all need to learn to have self-confidence and be comfortable in our skin.
The Dove Campaign served as a starting point for widening the definition and discussion of beauty and to celebrate diverse and healthy body shapes. After seeing the media corrupt the standards of beauty, Dove wanted to take a stand and prove how no matter the age, sexuality, or gender, everyone is beautiful in their own special way. Instead of using models they use real women of all sizes to get their point across. They also refuse to use tools like photoshop to contour the models in the campaign. They want to emphasize a positive body image message across the US which they do successfully due to all the positive feedback.
Beauty has so many definitions depending on the place yet most of the beauty standards are based on the opinion of several members of society. We have seen this in The Picture of Dorian Gray where beauty and the standards of beauty took over the life of the main character Dorian Gray. He was so focused on looking beautiful and youthful it led to his downfall which hopefully does not happen to more people in this corrupt society. We need to all come together and work with one another to fix the unrealistic standards we have set for men and women.