Devastating Beauty

The essay by Teal Pfeiffer discusses the role of the media, especially magazines, in portraying beauty for women in a way that affects women’s mental and physical health. Despite the fact that the media shows women that are considered to be beautiful by many, they are also responsible for making many other women feel insecure about their bodies, leading to unrealistic desires of wanting to be like the models of magazine covers, advertisements, and even shows. Essentially, these companies are making money off of insecure females who need constant reminders of what beauty is, at least the beauty that these companies portray. Pfeiffer makes the argument that people should boycott these magazines, because it shows that the public rejects the kind of image of beauty that magazines promote.

Pfeiffer uses a lot of evidence to support the idea that women are deeply affected by the image of beauty promoted through magazines. This is especially the case when society becomes increasingly swamped by visual material. Many young women suffer from eating disorders like anorexia or bulimia due to poor self-image. Pfeiffer makes her strongest argument when she shows how images of beauty in magazines can really be troubling for insecure women who continue to view these magazines, and how this creates a cycle of insecure women purchasing the magazines to fuel the business. While there may be a correlation between the portrayal of a beautiful image by these magazines and poor self-image of women, it is a stretch to claim that the magazine companies are intentionally trying to convince women that being themselves is being like the women on the magazines.

Similarly, there is no evidence that fashion industries that release new clothing every season intends to make people define themselves with the clothes they put out. The psychological damage that these women experience may be self-inflicting, in that there may be other factors that are making these women so prone to associating themselves with the portrayal of beauty in the magazines. Even if the study from Stanford University indicates that 68 percent of the women felt significantly worse about themselves after viewing the models on magazines, this should not place blame on the magazines, that have their own standards of beauty, for making women feel bad about themselves.

Pfeiffer’s suggestion that these magazines should be boycotted sounds persuasive initially, but it doesn’t seem very strong of a suggestion when considering that the psychological damages are not directly caused by the magazines themselves. Boycotting the magazines is a bit different from boycotting restaurants that actively practiced racial segregation; the former never actively shuns women who do not share the image of beauty that they believe in. On the other hand, boycotting these magazine companies may actually be very unfair and unhealthy for business. The companies aren’t exploiting any of their workers, nor are they exploiting any of the women that feel bad about themselves through their own personal comparison with the women on the magazines.

Body-image dissatisfaction and eating disorders may be rising at an alarming rate among young girls, which can be a serious social issue, but this shouldn’t mean that companies who have their own standards of beauty should be held accountable for these issues. Shouldn’t cosmetics companies, or even Hollywood, then also be boycotted for expressing their image of beauty? Before calling for an outright boycott, it is important to consider the other factors that are causing insecurity issues among women who purchase the magazines.