Lost in The Matrix - The Digital Deterioration of Natural Feminine Beauty.
Today's beauty ideals are more unattainable than ever. At the same time, thanks to social media, it seems like everyone but us is reaching them. The modern woman is supposed to mold her body according to all the "in VOGUE" criteria, season after season, use an array of beauty products in the process, and later measure her happiness with the number of likes and comments on social media. Habits like these are creating millions of insecure narcissists, who are unable to distinguish reality from illusion.
Each new era brings a new role model for women to aspire to. Way back in the 15th century, women wanted to look as if they were the perfect curvy model for the painter Sandro Botticelli. The boyish figure became popular in the flapper girls of the 1920s. Then a few decades later, curves gained popularity again and the hourglass figure of 50's pinup girls and icons like Marilyn Monroe was considered ideal. The sixties saw the rise of Twiggy, and suddenly everyone was trying to lose weight and perfect that "mod" eyeliner look. In the ‘80s Brooke Shields made women want to look like an attractive "girl next door" with her famous Calvin Klein ad. Kate Moss became the symbol of the ‘90s with her "heroin chic" look and an unhealthy skinny physique. The new millennia saw the rise of a healthier, but nonetheless tall and thin ideal for a woman’s body, which is still present today.
- Molding the ideal body
Although we can easily distinguish a perfect prototype for each era, there are more elements to what becomes fashionable than meets the eye. Celebrities of the time were significant, but let's not underestimate the power of a wider political and economic context. For example, the phenomenon of how the slender figure lost popularity in the 1930's and 40s also had to do with the World War II, since a slim body became a sign of poverty.
It doesn't take much for one to conclude that today's beauty ideals are shaped by corporate interests. The highly competitive and judgmental world we live in is only promoting goals that can be obtained by spending money. The standards, created by the corporate lobbies, advertisers, and media, are backed by social media and as a result, the most popular girls on Instagram look like distant relatives of the Kardashians. Their "natural" look involves wearing high heels, hair extensions, false eyelashes and an excessive amount of highlighter, not to mention Botox or silicone injected or implanted in any area of the body where it can easily be neatly nipped and tucked. Nowadays, it seems that our role model is a Frankenstein-like idea of a woman who has Taylor Swift's legs, Kim Kardashian's curves, Keira Knightley's eyes and Kylie Jenner's lips.
Online, it seems doable. In real life, it is obvious that it can’t be done without the help of numerous filters and strong Photoshop skills. Beauty brand "Dove" has opened our eyes to how insecure women worldwide are with its "Real Beauty" campaign. It's series of videos that involved "real" women has proven that there is a reason why our perception of beauty is distorted since the models we see in fashion magazines are unrecognizable in real life – even to themselves.
- Social media - an industrial factory for manufacturing clone women
Women worldwide, especially young teenage girls, mimic what they see on the TV and the internet, believing it to be true. Everything they see reminds them that 24/7 glamor is necessary in order to be loved, successful in their careers, and respected by other women, who are living by the same rules.
A huge problem within this issue is the amount and diversity of "invisible" women, groups of women severely under-represented. The entertainment industry has a tendency to "whitewash" their products, which leaves people of any other origin but Caucasian without a role model. As soon as we enter the online world, we are swamped with messages telling us that we're not enough. At the same time, we see that all the popular people are following the same pattern, so we simply tag along. Afro-American girls begin favoring weaves instead of their natural hair. Teenagers from East Asia use painful methods to create a "double eyelid" look. In this climate, there is no way for an individual who doesn’t look like a Victoria's Secret model to feel confident and accepted.
- Unconfident, unhappy, and with a full face of makeup
In October 2015, social media influencer Essena O'Neil decided to quit Instagram, but not before she exposed the truth behind her photos to her 500, 000+ followers. She edited the description of each of her posts, thoroughly describing what happened in real life: the clothes she wore were provided by specific brands and it took her forever to find a perfect pose for each photo. Exposing that everything about each photo was fake - she didn't choose the clothes, the look or the pose. The worst part was that she felt miserable. She had thousands of followers, and yet she was lonely and in desperate need of validation. Thus, she decided to put an end to that superficial cycle, and quit social media for good.
Taking all this into consideration, it is safe to say that women's bodies are not their own. Instead, they belong to all the beauty product and diet pill manufacturers, plastic surgery clinics, marketing agencies and media houses that rely on objectifying already unconfident, unsure women. Our bodies stayed the same, and yet, the number of items we use for taking care of them keeps growing. It's the irony of modern times: we spend our time trying to look youthful and unique in order to be happy, and all that while we are becoming older, generic, and further apart from our true selves.