Being “Pretty”: Media’s Image of the Perfect Woman


From left to right: Zoe Davidson, Seetal Ahluwalia, and Sally Kulesza all write a positive message to share with others.

Hope Kahn

We’ve all done it: based our worth on what other people think of us. Both guys and girls have standards, but for girls, those standards are projected heavily and are particularly harsh and unrealistic. Girls feel pressured to look the part of society’s ideal image which can lead to feeling negative about one’s self.

Abiola Morakinyo, sophomore, sometimes has to separate herself from society’s judgements. “I remind myself that just because someone doesn’t think I’m pretty, doesn’t mean that I’m not actually pretty,” said Morakinyo.

The way society expects girls to be comes from society’s definition of a ‘perfect image.’

“The image definitely comes from the media,” said sophomore Autumn Weinig, who also feels the pressures of society. “Our society has created the image that the perfect woman is tall, thin, [with] perfect skin, etc and it prevails in clothing companies making clothes for only one body type, in magazines, television and more.”

Standards and ideal images aren’t always physical, but are also found in the way girls act. “It’s a list of Do’s and Don’ts,” said Weinig. “Do not be loud, but do not be too quiet. Do not be too smart but do not be unintelligent. Do not be too feminine, but don’t act masculine,” said Weinig. “Especially toward teenage girls, it doesn’t feel acceptable to be yourself.”

Many girls agree these standards are unrealistic. “I don’t fit that mold at all,” said Morakinyo. “Physically, I’m a little less than average height, I’m kind of chubby, I have very short hair, but I like to think that I have nice eyes and a nice smile.”

“I am inspired whenever I see women who are thriving despite adversity, who love themselves openly, and who exceed the expectations that society has set for them.”

Morakinyo doesn’t let the views of others get to her, but that is not always possible. “I usually am pretty positive about the way I look, but sometimes it’s hard because there is so much negativity,” she said. “Like I’m chubby, and I’m okay with that, but it often feels like the rest of the world isn’t okay with that. And that goes for the rest of my appearance too, for the most part.”

When girls are younger, they are more sensitive and not as capable of coping with the negativity from society’s expectations.

“The views of society do affect the way I feel about myself, but not nearly as much as when I was younger,” said Morakinyo. “I think it just causes an overall self-doubt, especially in young girls who probably don’t even realize how much it wears on them, and if they do realize, likely they don’t have any way to really deal with it.”

Morakinyo sees how the views of society impacts her peers as well.

“I have so many friends that will not believe people when they tell them that they are pretty,” said Morakinyo. “They have become so convinced they aren’t attractive, desirable, [or] valuable because they are told that a certain thing is attractive, and they can clearly see that they aren’t that thing. They have been told [this] so much, whether directly or not, that they start to believe it, and don’t trust people when they are told otherwise.”

Guidance counselor Ms. Pruett, sees how girls deal with self image directly. “The biggest struggle for teen girls is fitting in, whether it’s because of body image or personality wise,” said Ms. Pruett.

Junior Nicki Blair sees how fitting in in high school can be difficult. “Girls are really hard on girls. I have to watch myself sometimes with how I talk and how I act because people are very judgemental,” she said.

Freshman Zoe Davidson also sees how harsh girls are on each other. “Girls can be the hardest on other girls, especially if they lack confidence themselves.  “Over the summer I had a camp counselor [who] made a rude comment about me and the little girls near us started repeating it. It got fixed because we talked to the person in charge of camp,” said Davidson. “But the main thing you have to realize is that most people will say those negative things because they aren’t confident about themselves.”

Women’s value is often based only on the unwritten standards and views in society. “We focus on female celebrities appearances instead of their accomplishments, on diets that harm you instead of help you, and on bodies that are not real,” said Weinig.

Famous people are a major impact on how girls feel about themselves because they set false representations of how women look and act. This is because the normal woman doesn’t look like that. “[If I could], I would change who’s famous and why they’re famous,” said Davidson.

“I won’t lie, I have definitely been uncomfortable with my body, and how it didn’t fit the image I was seeing around me. But that’s when I would stop and think; I am healthy, happy, and alive, it’s all okay.”

“You start correlating being famous with this idea of perfection. If you look like this then you’ll have money, be liked, and be famous,” said Davidson.

Weinig has personally felt affected by the thought of judgements from others. “I’ve been nervous or scared of what people will think of me or what I do, and whether or not it’s okay solely based upon how they think I should act,” she said.

When women and men get compared in roles of society, oftentimes men prevail. Woman feel casted to the side and girls start to feel pressures from society and worry about the future.

“As a woman, I’m probably going to have to work twice as hard to get half the recognition, I’m going to have to alter the way I speak or interact in order to not put people off, and I’m probably going to be held to different standards than my male peers and probably won’t get as much respect,” said Morakinyo.  

However, Morakinyo also believes that society is starting to adjust the way it views women. “The change is coming from people not restricting themselves or others to those standards in a personal level, and also demanding that the media also break the standards. From people first choosing on a personal level to not perpetuate those standards, and also starting to demand that the media do so at the same time,” said Morakinyo.

Society is visibly beginning to change the mold what we see as the “beautiful girl” because the future is happening now. Models are beginning to go unretouched in photoshoots and plus-sized models are becoming more frequently used. Dove’s ‘Real Beauty’ Campaign uses girls of all shapes, sizes, and races in order to have people embrace who they are. Also, Aerie by American Eagle started #AerieReal which is their campaign to “love the real you.” These factors allow girls to see that not everyone is perfect and people understand that, allowing them to be who they are without worrying. Society is changing, making people see that they should be okay with who they are.

A positive self image is accepting who you are. “A positive self image is being okay with your flaws; knowing that you have imperfections but you don’t take it to the extreme, where the only thing you can focus on is the negative,” said freshman Seetal Ahluwalia.

Focusing on the negative, according to Davidson, causes many girls to suffer. “Nobody’s perfect and everyone knows they aren’t perfect. But if you focus on the negatives you aren’t going to be happy,” said Davidson. “If you embrace what makes you different and your flaws then you’ll be happier.”

“Feel good about yourself, dress how you want to dress and not how other people want you to, don’t let anyone tell you what’s right and wrong. You do you,” said freshman Sally Kulesza.

“People are accepting that beauty isn’t just one thing, and that beauty doesn’t determine a person’s value,” said Morakinyo.