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Whitewashed Beauty Ideals and Disordered Eating

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Common complaints about the media include the fascination with oversexed, underfed celebrities and models. But another danger lurks beneath the surface of those skewed beauty ideals: the idea that white women are the epitome of beauty.

Different cultures believe in different standards of beauty, but those cultures' ideas of beauty are slowly edged out in the storm of White-driven “thinspiration” that constantly bombards us. Studies show that disordered eating and lower self-esteem are related to TV watching in women and girls of multiple races and ethnicities.

Whitewashed Beauty

The Beauty Redefined website recently wrote an article discussing what they called “whitewashed beauty,” the tendency of the media to take women of color and “lighten” them up by lightening their hair and skin and minimizing natural curves using photo-editing software.

Kristin Harrison’s 2006 study focusing on young African American girls found that TV exposure skewed girls’ beliefs so that larger girls believed their peers found them too large and smaller girls believed their peers found them too thin. Similarly, Mexican American women who have assimilated more into American culture (such as second-generation Mexican Americans) prefer thinner body types.

Images of White, skinny, sexy girls seen on TV and in magazines have been proven to change girls’ perception of beauty. Role models such as Queen Latifah, Beyonce and Sofia Vergara have all been Photoshopped in various publications and advertisements to complement the White ideal of beauty.

Whitewashed Beauty and Body Image

Different cultures have different standards of beauty because of their traditionally and geographically driven histories. But now the American media falsely convinces various young women that the White ideal of beauty is the idea of beauty that they should strive to attain.

Women believe in this distorted reality driven by White standards of beauty. Women of color have role models who are White and who are digitally enhanced to appear more white — an unattainable standard for just about every woman of color.

What is attainable is the thinner physique, which girls seize upon and work toward through disordered eating and over exercise. These habits are not only unhealthy but also potentially life-threatening. Disordered eating can manifest itself in various ways, including anorexia nervosa and bulimia.

The media should be more aware that by “Anglicizing” beauty, they are perpetuating the thin ideal that causes many young women to develop eating disorders.

Source: Beauty Redefined