Breaking Out Of Society's Expectations

A Teen's Take on Social Media and Body Image

Editor's Note:

In 7th grade this young writer says she became aware of the impossible standards womyn are expected to live up to in social media. She shares the painful experiences of friends and encourages us to recognize the false images and recognize our own true beauty.

Imagine waking up in the morning and looking at yourself in the mirror and hating what you see. Then, going on social media and seeing pictures of models only to be left wishing you looked like them. On top of that, knowing that there’s clothing stores that push the issue of what your own body should look like.

Did you know Abercrombie and Fitch’s largest size in jeans was a 10 and the sizes XL and XXL were not even on their sizing charts? The old CEO of Abercrombie and Fitch, Mike Jeffries, said his business was built around sex appeal. So, as a result, the sizes for womyn only went up to large but for men they went up to XXL because he wanted “buffer” men wearing his clothes.

For example, Jeffries said that sex appeal was almost everything. “That’s why we hire good-looking people, and we want to market to cool, good looking people. We don’t market to anyone other than that,” said Jeffries.

In 6th grade, a friend of mine would cry to me about this line of clothing. A 12-year-old girl crying about a brand that didn’t supply the size she needed. But this isn’t the only terrible thing that happens to womyn that can ruin their confidence.

Going into middle school, it just gets worse for girls because they start to realize the expectations of society and then struggle with self love.

It was in the seventh grade when I got very into social media and noticed the standards that womyn are held up too, like having to be size 0 in jeans or having flawless skin. I think social media is when I really started to notice how womyn are so sexualized and if they were provocative then they got more attention and more compliments from others.

This was so strange for me to see because I grew up learning you should never put yourself out there like that. It made me insecure because I saw all these pretty girls that have these perfect hourglass figures and I thought that this is what you need to look like to be seen as beautiful.

It was in the seventh grade that I started to really understand what true insecurities really felt like. Now, sure I got over these thoughts and learned to accept myself, but not everyone is as lucky as me.

Have you ever thought about how it must be to be a homosexual girl who has not yet come out to her Hispanic parents and is expected to be very “girly?” Well, I have a friend who is in this current situation. I asked if she felt pressured to live up to today’s expectation of womyn, such as wearing makeup and getting “dolled up” for almost every occasion.

“It’s hard because I’m gay and I have to be slightly 'boyish' but then I have to keep in mind that my mom doesn’t know,” she said.

So not only does she feel pressured about what society could say, but she is mostly worried about her mom. How can she live up to society's expectation of her and also not reveal the fact that she’s lesbian to her parents? The first time she felt truly pressured was when her mom sat her down and told her she needed to be more ladylike, since after all she is a womyn. She drilled this idea down on her.

We talked about where she thought these standards come from and she replied with, “People just go along with these standards and that’s why there isn’t any change. I also believe that these standards are slightly from the Bible.” For example there’s an expectation that a womyn was made for a man to be his helper and be his caretaker.  

I then asked her if she could change a specific thing about how the media portrays womyn and she replied that she would change the weak look given to us. For example, womyn in movies need to be protected by the men in a bad situation.

An example would be from the movie Southpaw. In the scene where Billy’s wife had died, Miguel had been taunting both Billy and his wife and was yelling an offensive term over and over again. His wife, Maureen, tries to tell Billy to calm down, but he ends up fighting with Miguel. The wife ends up getting shot and dies. This scene shows that womyn do not want to condone violence and that they can’t defend themselves since Billy starts a physical fight for Miguel to stop talking about them both.

So, if we weren’t portrayed as so weak no one would want to mess with us because there would be that slight thought of what if they actually can defend themselves.

The way womyn are portrayed in the media has affected us more than we realize. Little girls grow up internalizing that they have to look a certain way to be beautiful which is anything but the truth. The way womyn have been sexualized has totally ruined our image on the true definition of beauty. All womyn are beautiful and you shouldn’t have to be a certain size for that to be seen.  

This story was first published by The Warrior Times.

The Warrior Times is Yerba Buena High School's student-run news publication that creates stories by the youth, for the youth.  The young people write passionately about issues occurring in their lives, communities, and the world.  Together, they are working toward elevating collective consciousness, compassion, and commitment to justice.

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