The Gold Standard of Beauty: Targetting Insecurities

I recently received a comment from Amanda on my post "In Response to Impossible Beauty Standards," in which my husband explained that there was no conspiracy among advertisers. An advertiser's job was to sell products, and if s/he found something that worked, the technique would be used again and again.

Amanda left me this message: "Advertisements are telling us, often straight out, that we are ugly if we do not look a certain way." I went to her blog and saw that she had posted several not-so-subtle advertisements about beauty standards, one of which deemed Angelina Jolie the "gold standard" of beauty. Another was about Jolie's lips and how thin lips were ugly. (Click here to see the post.)

We often forget that the media, particularly advertising, is something of a super peer. It doesn't matter what compliments and encouragement your partner, friends or family give you about your accomplishments and appearance. Advertisements can quickly undo all that and undermine how you feel about yourself. That's their purpose.

If I were to try to emulate the "gold standard" Angelina Jolie, look what I would have to do:
1. Be younger: I can't turn back the clock, so I'll get some cosmetic surgery and a chemical peel, and spend some money on anti-wrinkle cream. Hit the treadmill. (Exercise staves off the ageing process.)
2. Get a better body: Breast augmentation surgery. Some liposuction here and there. Hit the gym some more. Buy a treadmill so I can exercise while I watch TV. Buy some more beauty products to make my skin smoother.
3. Need the lips: See a professional for some Botox injections.
4. Style: Change my wardrobe to get the Jolie "look."
5. Be taller: I've heard there is a very painful surgery to make you legs longer, but I'm not ready for that. I'll just invest in some expensive new high-heeled shoes and boots.
6. Be thinner, Angelina is super skinny: Still not satisfied with my body. Try diets and diet aids. Go to the gym even more often. Stop eating. Stop accepting invitations to dinner parties. Take up smoking. Drink more coffee.
7. Fix the hair: I'll have to grow it, but in the meantime, I'll get hair extensions and dye it so our hair's the same colour.

Did you hear a deafening Ka Ching! I spent a lot of time and money, and for what?

I will never look like Angelina Jolie, and the standard will soon change, leaving me with big lips, some dated, ill-fitting clothes, an eating disorder and a treadmill in my living room. Whose the big winner here? Obviously, the people exploiting my insecurities.

Not only do we waste our money trying to meet unattainable beauty standards, but we also waste our time and energy. If we led a simple life and didn't give a damn about our appearances, we would probably look similar to Susan Boyle. But maybe we would have developed a talent like the one she has too.

Isn't she a wake-up call for all of us? Susan Boyle is a middle-aged woman who has not bought into the beauty scam, and she's the first unadulterated image of a woman  we have seen in the media in a long time.

Wouldn't our lives be different if we could stop obsessing about our appearances and spending all our money on unattainable beauty standards?  What if we channeled all our time, energy and money into developing our interests, sustaining meaningful relationships, and discovering who we really are?


Kimmie | April 24, 2009 at 11:39 AM

Well, if Angelina Jolie is the Gold Standard, then I'll just have to settle, what's even less than Bronze? lol

Thanks for stopping by my blog today - and the suggestions...I'll have to follow up on that. :)

Heather | April 24, 2009 at 11:45 AM

Well, even less than bronze is still pretty good...

Anonymous | April 26, 2009 at 1:16 AM

Who is Angelina Jolie when she is at home? Send her down under & we will put her to work in the hot sun, there will be plenty of fruit picking jobs for the willing, shortly in Central Qld with Emerald's Citrus growing back in full swing. The sun will give a well even tan, or burn if you don't cover up.. Thanks for this great blog, Heather.

Heather | April 26, 2009 at 7:27 AM

That's right Ida. Nothing like some good old manual labour to bring out the true beauty in all of us!

Issa Waters | April 27, 2009 at 12:15 AM

I appreciated this article, and I retweeted it. Thanks. Definitely worth passing on.

Heather | April 27, 2009 at 4:48 AM

Glad you liked it Issa. I've picked up a full head of steam for my next post about Susan Boyle's makeover. Hope to see you soon. Thanks for the retweet.

Heather | May 2, 2009 at 9:53 AM

I have a response to the response from Ida on her blog:

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