Current Pop Culture Is Detrimental to Teen Heath & Self-Esteem
by Stacy Sukharevsky on Friday, February 26th, 2016
Scrolling through any high school student’s Instagram profile, you will probably see photos of dramatic poses, dreamy backgrounds, and complementary filters. The comments will likely include: “omg so perf!,” “#canibeyou,” and “model status to the max.” That said, for photos that feature the whole body, comments target the entire person, including her clothing, size, and shape.
For other girls scrolling their feeds, like me, these photos are often extremely unnerving. The first thought to pop into our heads is: “Why is that girl so much prettier than I am? Look how much attention she gets! Why can’t I be her?” These sentiments ultimately lead to countless hours in front of the mirror staring, comparing, and wishing that we were skinnier, prettier, or blonder.
At the moment, several stores dominate the teen girl shopping industry, such as Brandy Melville, Abercrombie & Fitch, and Victoria’s Secret, to name a few. If you visit the online catalogues of these websites, you will notice that their models have what every girl dreams of: an hourglass figure, perfect skin, and soft, silky hair.
So, after visiting these websites, you leave for the mall, excited to try on these brands, thinking they’ll look as great on you as they did on the model in the photos. Yet, standing half-dressed and struggling to fit into impossibly tight skinny jeans, your smile falters. Your hope of being “hipster” and “cute” disappears. Dejected, you leave the store, knowing that in just a month you’ll return only to be disappointed again.
Why do these brands promote such impossible standards for their clothes? This is, at its core, a question of intent vs. impact. Stores want to advertise their products in order to prompt their customers to buy. Instead, these tactics end up prompting teenage girls to develop depression and eating disorders because they don’t see themselves fitting into their society.
In a 2006 Salon interview with Mike Jeffries, the CEO of Abercrombie & Fitch, he explained why he doesn’t want “larger” people shopping in his store: “We hire good-looking people in our stores. Because good-looking people attract other good-looking people, and we want to market to cool, good-looking people. We don’t market to anyone other than that.”
Although this interview is disgusting to me and gives insight into the reasons behind teenagers’ body image issues, it’s not even the worst of it. Chip Wilson is the founder of Lululemon Athletics, a famous but expensive chain that sells athletic gear. In an interview with Bloomberg TV, Wilson stated that, “Frankly, some women’s bodies just actually don’t work for [wearing Lululemon pants]… it’s really about the rubbing through the thighs, how much pressure is there over a period of time, how much they use it.”
This brings me back to my first point. Typically, in this generation, a “Brandy body” is seen as ideal. Brandy Melville models are particularly “hipster” with flirty smiles, perfectly flat stomachs, and smooth blond hair. Though this image is unattainable, many girls begin to think of visiting the gym more, eating more healthily, or not eating at all in order to attain it.
Society, our school, and even we provide standards to grade how we look. If we don’t meet these standards, our self esteem is deflated, and the vicious cycle of lusting after expensive clothes that never fit right begins. This is an issue that has permeated our community, and I believe that we need to do something about it.
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