Their faces are scattered across our billboards, their flawless figures mesmerize us at halftime of the Superbowl; but at what cost? To the naked eye, the impact of cosmetic advertisement cannot be seen, but magnified under the weight of social scrutiny and the self esteem of millions of women, the significance is undeniable. The depiction of women through popular mass media outlets has a tremendous influence upon global beauty culture, social construction and the personal self-esteem of individual women, worldwide. Society’s dependence upon media constructs our perception of reality on a daily basis, transforming the beauty culture on an international level, while the cosmetic industry profits. On a global scale, only 2% of women believe they are beautiful, excluding almost three billion around the world from the feeling of self-beauty; a figure that steadily increases interchangeably with the profits of advertising empires. The media portrayal of the perfect female body has a direct correlation with a negative physical and mental response from women of all ages, while the unattainable standards lay claim to an unhealthy worldwide epidemic.
The expansion of media conglomerates has allowed for an explosion of advertisement on every inch of marketable territory. The average American wakes up to commercials on TV, eats breakfast over an article in the daily post, drives to work past flashy billboards, listening to FM radio, arriving in front of their PC with the entire web at their fingertips. Every avenue of the aforementioned media outlets recites the same poem: look younger, taller and thinner; at any expense. Society’s concepts in relation to the nature of reality, based on shared perceptions or assumptions outlines the basic theory of Social Construction (Scweingruber). Mass media, our background, education, religion, family and friends all make-up how we: think, act and make decisions on a daily basis; but let’s focus on how advertisements impact our consumer habits and our perception of beauty. Social Construction, on a average day, through advertisements, can be attributed to the “Cultivation Effect.” This theory suggests that the daily exposure to all forms of media (specifically television) shapes or “cultivates” our view of reality, over time. The accumulation of these advertisements, their strategic location and the repetition of their message ingrains a cultural standard. In our global society, the media confers status, and enforces social norms (Scweingruber). Although the cultivation theory has an immediate effect on those who watch television heavily, it also impacts light viewers who are influenced by heavy viewers who flood our pop culture and spread their beliefs.
We are conditioned to admire the models on the cover of Vogue, but why? To understand our present view of beauty, we must look at the evolutionary psychology of facial beauty. From the earliest civilizations, humans have characterized our perception of beauty based upon a combination of inner beauty factors (personality, integrity, intelligence, etc.) and outer beauty or physical factors. Throughout history, women who are: young, exhibit smooth skin, average features and a proportional body are considered “beautiful.” Although the dynamics of popular culture the beauty industry change at the hands of the generational effect, an underlying combination of: averageness, symmetry and sexual dimorphism, outline our evolving social construction. Although the common definition of “average” leads most of us to a complacency with normality, in a cosmetic sense, averageness is believed to be a key factor in attractiveness. When a composite image is formed of human faces “averaged” together, it becomes progressively similar to the ideal perception of beauty. Advertising agencies use women who exemplify a combination of average features in addition to “The Divine Proportion” of symmetry to suggest the absence of genetic or acquired...
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