The Reality of Living in a Beauty Obsessed World

Growing up I was taught to always find the beauty in people both in who they are and how they look. Soon to be in my twenties, I still believe that there is beauty in everybody both inside and out. However, I’m starting to realize that not all people think like this. To some, the world is clearly divided into two categories the attractive and the unattractive. My parents may have taught me that all skin colours, shapes, and sizes are beautiful but according to our social lived experience beauty is defined by certain terms. These terms include tall, thin, and white. People of power perpetuate what is attractive and unfortunately we don’t have much say in this. Beauty according to society is more objectified, exaggerated, and sexually exploited. If we do not meet this criteria then we do not consider ourselves beautiful, and because of this we are constantly trying to become attractive.

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GIF via: Tumblr

Nowadays, we have a beauty obsession. We love to learn about any type of tips and tricks that can help us cover up our imperfections. The only reason why the beauty industry is a billion dollar industry is because we have been moulded into thinking we are never good enough. Our insecurities are what have made beauty into a global phenomenon. With the help of the Internet we’re constantly bombarded with numerous beauty products that will help us cover our imperfections. For those who can never find a friend in the mirror plastic surgery has become an option more people are choosing. You’re one tummy tuck or breast augmentation away from the mirror telling you, “You’re the most fairest one of all.”

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GIF: Teen Vogue

There is nothing like a good first impression and as humans by nature we respond to physical appearance quicker. We instantaneously assume things about people based on how they look. It’s not a coincidence that people who are popular are generally good-looking people. According to Charles Feng of Stanford University this is called the “halo effect.” He says, “we automatically categorize others before having an opportunity to evaluate their personalities, based on cultural stereotypes, which say attractive people must be intrinsically good, and less attractive people must be inherently bad.” Humans have the constant need to categorize and label people and this is because we all have superiority complex. We’re insecure beings and when we surround ourselves with people we think are good looking we feel accepted and worthy enough to be apart of the beautiful and popular crowd.

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GIF via Tumblr

It’s astonishing at how much the way you look can affect your life. According to According to author and economist at the University of Texas Daniel Hameresh and his book called Beauty Pays: Why Attractive People are more Successful, beautiful people not only get hired quicker but will more likely get promoted. For this reason, an attractive man or woman will make approximately 4% more than those who are considered unattractive, which is a fair amount in the long run.   Employers want attractive people to represent their brand and because of this your credentials might not always be enough in order to get hired. Attractive CEO’s tend to have larger and more successful companies than CEO’s of smaller companies. In addition, those who are considered attractive get milder prison sentences and are more likely to get approved for loans quicker.

Many companies and restaurants are guilty of hiring people for their looks, regardless of their work experience. As of this year, the executive of Abercrombie and Fitch, Amy Zehr is working on changing the company’s policies and recreating its image. Abercrombie and Fitch have been known for their preppy pretentious east collegiate style. Their target audience has been the “cool kids,”  mostly consisting of people of privilege. Abercrombie and Fitch less expensive sub brand Hollister is known for their “cali life” clothing. In hopes of trying to change their sexually exploitative marketing scheme the company is no longer using shirtless male models at brand events. It’s alarming and disturbing how many giggling girls run up to take pictures with guys with a nice set of abs. In an article from Refinery29, Abercrombie and Fitch is trying to expand their target audience by hiring more non-white associates and is no longer calling their employees models. They will no longer be hiring based on physical attractiveness. Although there have been more people of colour working at Abercrombie and Fitch, just this past year Samantha Elauf a young Muslim hijabi sued the company for denying her a sales associate position because she wore a head scarf. According to an article in the New York Times, “The company said the scarf clashed with its dress code, which called for a classic east collegiate style.” If the company was truly trying to diversify and change their image hiring a Hijabi would have been the perfect way of showing how their changing for the better. It’s not like she didn’t have the qualifications. She studied fashion in school.

I’m sure we’ve all had that experience of noticing a good-looking waiter or waitress while eating in a restaurant. It’s not a coincidence; employers know that people are more prone to talk to attractive people. According to an article in the Toronto Sun, former assistant manager of Moxie’s Classic Grill Daren Hawker “was directed by upper management to hire busty and thin applicants, regardless of qualifications.” It’s unfortunate that certain companies have to use people for their “busty or thin assets,” but we live in a reality where beauty itself has become a tool. In this case, restaurants are hiring what they think are attractive employees to help them with their business. Hiring attractive people helps increase the quality of the restaurant, especially if it’s a restaurant where it’s more then twenty-five dollars for a plate of food. The company wants to known as classy place and hiring good-looking people to serve people food. This is an example of how people of power are once again perpetuating an image that this is a classy place and because of that we hire good look people. People like being in an environment where they are surrounded by good-looking people because it makes them feel better.

Another famous food chain that is known for hiring attractive women too is Hooters. Despite what it says on there website the owl in there logo is not who people refer to as, “The Hooters Girl.”  Ironically on the site it says Hooters Girls use their “intelligence, experience, and personality to serve their guests.” They do not mention anything regarding about how a women must look physically in order to get hired. I’m not saying that the women who work at Hooters are not intelligent,  but how can you tell their intelligence from staring at their tight tank top and shorts? Frankly, they don’t need to mention anything about how, “the Hooters girl,” must look like because Hooters has been sued multiple times. It became a gender equality issue when the company would only hire women, they had no choice but to hire men in order to settle the lawsuit. Employees have also sued the company for racial and weight discrimination. According to an article by NBC news Farryn Johnson who is an African American was fired because she got blonde streaks in her hair. She was told blonde streaks are not meant for African Americans. Hooters has become a successful food chain by using women’s bodes as tools to benefit their business. It doesn’t matter if this is wrong or how many times Hooters has been sued because the company is still running.  Clearly companies don’t care if they are objectifying women or if they are discriminating against people because of their looks. They will continue to hire attractive people that will benefit their business and as long as women need the money it will continue to be a business. There are laws made saying we can’t discriminate one against, race or being gay, but it’s impossible to have a law saying we can’t discriminate against one’s looks because it’s difficult to define our own definition of beauty when so much of what we understand of beauty is culturally determined.

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GIF via Tumblr

Clearly beauty is valued more than education sometimes, however can one make a decent living with just their looks or is beauty and brains necessary for having a successful career? According to an article from Psychology Today, “Researchers at the London School of Economics and studied 52,000 people in the U.K. and U.S, and their results were conclusive: Attractive men have IQs 13.6 points above average, while attractive women score 11.4 points higher.” This makes no sense to me, how did the researchers decide that these 52 000 people were attractive? What definition of beauty did they use? If it is true that attractive people are in fact intelligent then they’ll most likely have a job where they have more money to spend on themselves. However, I’ve only heard of the opposite. Many people think that attractive people are not smart.  For instance, many models are trying to speak out that they’re actually smart individuals, but people are going to think you’re dumb if you’re job is to literally be a pretty face.

Beauty is a business and even though you might not have a degree they are ways to make money with just purely being attractive. People are becoming Instagram famous for being good looking.  Instagram has become a platform for people to display their portfolio and get noticed. For instance Matthew Nosza was just a regular guy in his twenties living in Pennsylvania. He posted a shirtless photo on Instagram and an agent from Wilhemna models noticed him and asked if he was interested in modeling. Another example is Brock O’Hurn. He’s in his twenties and was a personal trainer. After posting a video of putting his hair in a bun he now has over a million followers on Instagram and is currently a model. In addition, Instagram is becoming a marketing tool for many companies. According to an article in the Huffington Post, companies use “Instagram influencers,” to promote their products and brand campaigns. With the help of bloggers, the increasing number of photographers and of course hashtags, it is possible to make money off Instagram. Of course to do this you need over a thousand followers giving people another reason to step up their photography skills and constantly strive to look attractive. In return companies they are paid for representing their brand.

Not only is beauty an asset when looking for a job, but of course when comes to attracting to the opposite sex. The images in the media are all directed and retouched and yet these images have become one of the reasons why people have high standards when it comes to how the opposite sex should look like. According to Dario Maestripieri, a professor at the University of Chicago, “The reason why we favour attractive people is because “good looking people are more appealing as potential sex partners, and other people choose to interact with them…so as to increase the chances to have sex with them.” Considering sex sells companies like Victoria Secret and Hooters will always be in business. People think Victoria Secret models are attractive women. As much as I love Victoria’s Secret, the company promotes unrealistic ideas of beauty and teaches young girls that having sexual attractiveness makes you superior to other women.  Women don’t realize that it’s a models job to be objectified and used as a tool to promote clothing by wearing them. Buying their products doesn’t mean we’ll look more like a Victoria Secret Angel or have men everywhere lust over us. Nevertheless, women will always be a fan of the brand because we’re insecure beings and we don’t realize that it’s unrealistic to look like a Victoria Secret model. The whole idea of looking like a “Victoria secret angel,” is made up ironically by the 78 year old man who owns Victoria’s Secret Leslie Wexner. How surprising that a man is promoting the image of what sexy women should look like. According to him, they should look like an angel a divine creature that is not even human.  Thus women strive to look like something that is physically impossible.  We are in an age where beauty is becoming more important than substance.The company’s target audience is catered to men more than women.

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GIF via Teen Vogue

Hence, the beauty obsession will never die because we’re in constant competition with one another, our looks being one of those things. The images in media won’t let us femininity is defined by how you look. Whenever I don’t wear makeup, people ask me if I’m tired. The answer is no, I’m not tired I just don’t have time to put makeup on everyday. However, apparently I need too because I don’t look alive when I don’t have any on. Nowadays, we don’t need to enter beauty pageants to win a crown for looking pretty anymore our Instagram likes does that for us. We post photos of our achievements, graduations, and of us having a great time because we want others to know, “I’m doing great, better than you may be.”

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GIF via Buzzfeed

Catherine Hakim author of the book Erotic Capital: The Power of Attraction in the Boardroom and the Bedroom says that, women who are physically attractive should use that to their advantage. She said, “The beauty premium is an important economic factor in our careers, and that we should use our sex appeal and charm to get ahead in our careers. This was disappointing to read because even though we live in a world where beauty is important, for so long women were not allowed to attend university. Women were not even considered humans. This isn’t the fifties anymore and frankly women are more than just a pretty face. When in reality the fact they are more educated women in North America than there ever has been is a big accomplishment. However, as a society we have put so much importance on beauty especially for women it feel likes it doesn’t matter if we have a degree if we aren’t attractive. The images in the media have given women another reason to compete with another for looks. Our looks could possibly determine the job opportunities we get and the men we date. Thus, we don’t support one another as much as men support one another because there’s more pressure for us be perfect looking.

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GIF via Giphy

 

Beauty is different around the world. In North America, being beautiful is associated with being tall, thin, and , white but not all cultures think this is beautiful. According to an article in Cosmopolitan, in Thailand long necks are considered attractive. From just the age of five years old girls start to wear brass rings around their necks to help elongate their necks and continue to increase the number of rings they wear when they are older. In Africa, women are overeating to become fat because that is what is seen as desirable there. “Girls are forced to eat more than 15 000 times a day.” In Kenya, women use stones and pieces of elephant tusk to elongate their ear lobes because stretched ear lobes are seen as attractive. In Ethiopia body scars are seen as sexy. Scarring yourself is seen as a form of decoration. In Iran people where surgical bandages over their noses even if they never have had a nose surgery because that’s how common nose surgeries are there. It’s become a symbol of status for Iranian women. Nevertheless, one thing that is common among cultures is that beauty is important.

In a Ted Talk by model Cameron Russell, she speaks about how, “Image is powerful, but also image is superficial. How we look has a huge impact on our lives.” We are a visual culture and that is why Youtube, movies, tv shows, and apps like Instagram are so popular and are preferred. She continues on to say that she won the “genetic lottery,” and that is because she is tall thin and white.She says the photos you see of her are all created by a team of professions that include hair stylists, makeup artists, stylists, photographers, pre production, and post production. They are not real pictures of her they are constructions. Even when we know that it’s impossible to look like this, we still try to look like this because this is what we’re told is attractive.   These images and the products available to us show how much importance North American culture has put on one’s appearance. Looks aren’t everything but they are something. It’s just our reality that having a pretty face will benefit us in our life. However, in the process of trying to meet the criteria of being beautiful many have come insecure beings who never are satisfied with how they look. Many of us are constantly striving for beauty that is fake and is an illusion, not realizing that no matter what we will be continue to be told we don’t look pretty enough.

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GIF via Photobucket

Studies have shown that changing your looks can change your life. How you look can affect your self-confidence. In a Ted Talk by Susan Mathison, she says, “beauty is necessary, but it is yours to define.” However, that’s where she’s wrong, no matter what our definition of beauty is if people in society don’t agree with your definition than you might be unemployed or single for longer because most, “beholders view beauty similarly.” Beauty is valued and because of that those who are considered beautiful receive more attention and have more of an advantage at receiving opportunities than the average looking person. I want to be able to tell my future daughter that she is beautiful and she can do anything she sets her mind to. However, if my job as a parent is to prepare her for the real world than unfortunately not everybody will see her beauty like I do. These companies have been called out on discriminating people based on appearance, but people forget that the beauty industry is a business, and beauty itself has become a business tool. If you don’t fit under the aesthetic of the company’s perception of beauty then they’ll find somebody who does. Hence, women who do not meet the criteria of what defines beauty  try to meet that criteria by watching endless tutorials, reading beauty tips in magazines, and multiple trips to Sephora.

Feature Image via: KIIS1060