The Abuse of Beauty
It has been said that we are each exposed to over 2,000 ads a day, making the advertisement industry perhaps the most influential force in society. With this power, advertisement companies abuse beauty as tool for seduction and profit. The media portrays an idealized version of what a woman should look like—tall, thin, young, big eyes, full lips, small nose, long legs—and regardless of a person’s race, the intended audience, or the product being sold, all these "beautiful" women in advertisements conform to this norm. Sort of like a national peer pressure, the media instills in us the notion that we should all look this way. Rita Freedman’s book “Beauty Bound”, provides us with some statistics. Based upon Glamour magazine’s surveys in 1984, 75 percent of readers felt too heavy and only 15 percent felt just right. Almost half of those considered underweight reported feeling too fat and wanting to diet. Among a sample of college women, 40 percent felt overweight when only 12 percent actually were too heavy. Nine out of ten participants in diet programs are female, many of who are already close to their proper weight. If a woman does not fit this mold—and based upon these statistics, it is evident that most women feel they don’t—she is made to feel unworthy and undeserving of success and love. Advertisement companies capitalize on this fact so that they can sell more of their products to make a person more “beautiful”, or so the consumer thinks. Jean Kilbourne in her article “Beauty…and the beast of advertising” states that more than one million dollars is spent every hour on cosmetics. Although the advertising industry can be seen as “artistic,” as it involves creativity and aesthetic appeal, the industry is simultaneously corrupt, theoretically qualifying it as “crime.” As previously discussed, advertisement companies place a tremendous amount of value on physical appearance and represent an ideal and impossible standard for what a women should look like. The crime in this sense lies in its purposeful degradation of women’s self-esteem for profit. The advertisement industry can also been seen as criminal in the sense that it is dishonest. Airbrushing and Photoshop fraudulently create an unachievable standard that even the models do not reflect. A Covergirl mascara ad, for example, asks “Is your volume true?” The joke is that the model in the advertisement is using fake lashes to convince you of her “true lashes”. The New York Times reports that the British Advertising Standards Authority in the United Kingdom has banned ads by Lancôme, Maybelline, L'Oréal, Revitalift, and Dior, which feature celebrities such as Julia Roberts, Christy Turlington, Rachel Weisz and Natalie Portman. The authorities claim that the ads were so extensively airbrushed or digitally altered that the product marketing claims were misleading and too perfect to be true. Efforts to disparage the power and influence of advertisement companies on our perception of beauty have become increasingly prevalent within society. Comedian Amy Schumer recently posted a picture of herself wearing nothing but a thong and heels and captioned the photo “Beautiful, gross, strong, thin, fat, pretty, ugly, sexy, disgusting, flawless, woman.” Schumer is reinventing the “one-type” concept of beauty instilled in us by the media. She is protesting that beauty can come in all different forms and we should stop telling women what they should and shouldn’t look like. A woman subsequently commented on her photo, “But what makes you more attractive are your brains, your humor and candor. Winning combo. You are a great example of a strong, smart, beautiful woman and do us all proud!” This comment emphasizes the fact that physical appearance isn’t the only thing that matters. Qualities of a person, such as personality and intelligence, are equally as important. Madeline Stuart has made waves in society as well. Stuart is a young model who has Down’s Syndrome. Her mission is to help change society’s overall perception of beauty. Her success as a model is quickly proving to the world that beauty comes in many forms. With both artistic and criminal qualities, the advertisement industry has created more harm than good in society through its dishonesty and abuse of power for means of profit.