How do girls become women who are “Committed to Beauty over Health”

I just happened across a short GRITtv broadcast over at Sociological Images that reviews research on how most women are more prone to listen to product warnings that suggest they will get ‘age spots’ than product warnings for ‘skin cancer.’  In a nutshell, “The study at East Tennessee State University found that if you want to get women to stop using tanning beds, warning them about the risk of skin cancer isn’t nearly as effective as warning them about the risk of age spots and other forms of damage to their appearance.”

The report by Chloe Angyal made me think about how we enculturate and educate an entire group of children (girls) to take standardized “beauty” into consideration over and above taking personal health risks into consideration.

So let me take you through my thought process via the video information. Here is the recent report on women, beauty, and health risks:

Which made me think about our culture’s impossible beauty standards for women.  I mean really women have a lot of options in considering which beauty standard they would like to strive for over and above any health risks.  Should a woman strive for a beautiful tan, a beautiful weight, beautiful breasts, a beautiful nose, neck, chin, eyes – there are really so many elements of the female body that need to be modified it is hard to know where to start.  Which of course reminded me of the Dove Real Beauty campaign commercials about the production of female BEAUTY:

And looking at how beauty gets produced for our media industry of course brought me back to the question, how do girls learn to become women who are “committed to beauty over health”?   Because as the research report noted, “Last year, the Girl Scouts Research Institute surveyed 1000 teenage girls and found that 47% of them thought that “the fashion industry body image looks unhealthy.” 28% said that catwalk models look “sick.” But 48% said they wished they could look like catwalk models.”

And that little factoid, about how half of all girls want to look like supermodels, reminded me another of the Real Beauty commercials:

So when girls look at their future as women, those are the images imbedded in their minds.  In writing this little blog post I finished up by thinking to myself, Hmmm what picture could capture how little girls are brought into this beauty monitoring process? Perhaps a picture of a young girl on a scale monitoring her weight.  

So I did a google image search for “children on scales” and guess what… ALL of the photos that came up as search results for ‘children’ were of little girls. Apparently there is little demand for a stock photo of a boy on a scale.  And to add to the ick factor, when I clicked on the images that came up in the search they each linked to a “childhood obesity” article.

So a gendered committment to standardized beauty over health concerns? Well it makes perfect sense if you ask me.

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