Beauty at Any Cost

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As a teenager with Hispanic roots, Victoria Banuelas has experienced first-hand the physical demands of a Hispanic female. Banuelas is a high school junior who feels that while in El Paso her “culture” focuses on the importance of being “religious and educated”, but soon found “that experience opened [her] eyes to reality” and that she was the minority in a society that is all about “appearance, brands, and other luxuries”.

In a recent report released by the Young Women’s Christian Association, also known as the YWCA, “Beauty At Any Cost” outlines the “narrow beauty standards” representative of beauty products, cosmetic surgery, and diet programs. These social beauty norms are adopted in one way or another by most young girls in our society.

The YWCA report stresses that “every woman in the United States participates in a daily beauty pageant, whether she likes it or not”. From the overwhelming advertisements (in magazines and on television) about the best mascaras or the most beautiful nail polish to reality shows such as “Dr. 90210”, which focuses on cosmetic changes like breast augmentation surgery, girls don’t stand a chance.

“Girls are taught that only one type of beauty is acceptable,” Dr. Ann Branan Horak, a Women in Literature and Religious Studies Professor at the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP), declares. Dr. Horak expresses that this superficial standard “creates incredible pressure to become the acceptable version of beautiful”, which also becomes “incredibly damaging” to how females feel and see themselves.

Dr. Horak stated that the image of beauty for most of society is “tall, white, and thin” and the outside of a girl is all that is seen and focused on. This shows how the idea of beauty is really shallow and wrong, especially for Hispanics and other minority girls whose physical features may not always fit the “normal” beauty standards.

Still, most beauty products, such as make-up, nail polish, and fragrant lotions, are no secret to females of any age. In fact, if we were to walk down the toy aisle of our local grocery store or shopping center there is sure to be several sets of play make-up and children’s vanity sets. How can this not send a powerful message to young and impressionable girls?

Banuelas believes that it is every female’s personal choice whether or not to buy or wear make-up. However, Banuelas states that while “society promotes it as important to be beautiful…beauty products are not necessary.”

The popular beauty industry represents an unrealistic view on life and the expectations put on girls. Solange Guillaume, a junior at UTEP, shares her satisfaction in wearing make-up almost daily and carrying a travel size bottle of her favorite fragrant lotion, Black Raspberry Vanilla.

Guillaume admits, “These things (beauty products) are not a necessity, but I like the way it makes me feel; pretty and girlie…The problem is really when girls overdue it,” says Guillaume about breast augmentations and other cosmetic surgeries.

It may be said that young girls and women feel the need to wear a certain “beauty mask” in an effort to gain (or keep) approval. But where is the line drawn? Will the popular phrase “no pain, no gain” continue to hold value in a world where beauty equals success, self-worth, or love?

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