FEATURE: Pretty pressure

The media’s pressure on women to fit the mould of perfection is constantly growing, and women everywhere are modifying and harming themselves to fit it.

Words by Georgia Pearce

A young influence

The media today are constantly reminding women through their magazines and websites and advertising posters that a woman’s physique is something that if not perfect, is not worthy. With many different trends and fad diets emerging into the media of today, it’s fair to say women are feeling the pressure.

The latest craze is inspired by the newest teen star to hit puberty, seventeen year old Kylie Jenner. The obsession with her lips has driven the world into paranoia about their own lips and the idea of enlarging them and with this new trend, the product known as Fullips was sent into overdrive. Originally an American product, 58 year old Linda Gomez created a natural lip enhancer, in which people put their lips into a cup like device and like a vacuum,air draws the lips outwards and makes them fuller. The effect is only temporary, but it has taken the beauty industry by storm and lip makeup routines to a new level.

However, with the product selling at a pricey $20 for one and $50 for the recommended set of three different sized devices, teenagers have created their own devices for free – shot glasses and small sized cups found in the kitchen at home. The #KylieJennerChallenge as it is now known is viral. Not only viral, but dangerous.

Thousands of girls that are attempting to achieve Kylie’s artificially injected lips are finding themselves bruised and split lipped from sucking in air too hard. Has this Fullips product had an influence on this new craze? Speaking to the creator of Fullips, Linda Gomez believes they are not to blame. “No, I do not think we had anything to do with the challenge and I’m not even sure how it got started. I do think we got caught in the middle of it and got a lot of negative press because all of a sudden people looked to find our product or products like this to see if we were connected. We filed this patent in 2009—Kylie Jenner was like 11 at the time.”

Kylie Jenner may have been eleven at the time this product was coming to light, but girls as young as eleven these days are being influenced by it. And with the product being at a price eleven year olds probably can’t afford, it’s no wonder they are resorting to shot glasses in their homes. When addressing this issue to Linda, her thoughts were of concern. “Well, I do not think anyone under 18 should use or buy my product, let alone take part in this challenge, but that is simply the influence of the media. It can cause bruising when not used correctly and as we have all seen from the challenge that is exactly what happened. The concept is simple and easy. There are very safe instructions to use Fullips the way it is meant to be used. It should be used with only very gentle suction for 15-30 seconds when first starting. Clearly this is not what the girls in the challenge are doing with other objects.”

Turning the pages of any women’s magazine these days will leave you reading content of the same categories – sex, beauty, real life, fashion, health and male eye candy. Out of these categories, one is consistently more dominant than the others. Health is nowadays about 90% of magazines, but more specifically, how to get the perfect body. How to change the way you look.

And with summer on the way, the newest phrase has taken centre stage on the covers of every named magazine on the shelf. ‘BIKINI BODY’.How to get your bikini body.Swimsuits to enhance a bikini body.Workouts to create a bikini body. What to eat to maintain that bikini body. Following these pages usually contains a fashion shoot of a model showing off the exact bikini body you’ve just been persuaded to pain yourself to achieve. Women are repeatedly being shown these images of bodies that are Photoshop airbrushed to the maximum realistic illusion, and it is slowly manipulating women into believing they are simply not beautiful or ‘bikini body ready’ as they naturally are.

Finally fighting back

However, women are beginning to fight back. A recent advertisement campaign from company Protein World posed the question on their newest posters ‘ARE YOU BEACH BODY READY?’, along with an image of an extremely toned, petite woman and their product named ‘The Weight Loss Collection’ alongside her, subliminally sending a message to women that if they do not have a body like the model, their body is not good enough for the beach.

The posters have been put up around underground tube stations and trains in central London, and have been taken negatively by commuters. Londoners have hit back by defacing the posters, some saying ‘everybody’s body is ready’ and that ‘the body is not a commodity’. Some people have even taken pictures of themselves with the poster, either showing some rude hand signals or simply dressed in their bikinis, showing that everybody is different and that your body certainly does not need to be modified by this product to be good enough.When speaking to three women who took part in the backlash, Nicole Burstein, 31 and a children’s book writer, spoke of the message she wanted to convey when defacing the advertisement.“All I wanted to do was make sure that the next woman who had to sit opposite that poster gave herself a break, or felt a little bit better about herself.

“It doesn’t matter what you look like – you can be a supermodel, an athlete or a lazy-bones – being beach body ready is a state of mind. Feeling good about yourself is so much more than taking dietary supplements or protein shakes, and it’s easy to forget that in the face of such advertising.”

But we are now in an age in which we can stand up for ourselves and demand better.

The issue of women’s body image and the pressure to be thin is something PhD candidate Miranda Thomas, 27, definitely feels strongly about“Because I am a woman. Because I am fed up with letting other people’s opinions be the measure of my own self-worth. I am fed up that all women feel this at some stage in their lives. And above all else, I am fed up with companies profiting off the insecurities that they helped create.”

The recent Change.org campaign to remove the posters, already holding a hefty 49,000 signatures, has proved that such a united force has come together.Daisy Lewis*, 37 and a photographer from London,believes in the petition. “Change.org is a powerful platform and the petition is a great achievement. I don’t think the petition will change the world, but over time it may help provoke reflection and dialogue, and ultimately to change attitudes.” Daisy* also voiced her opinion on the controversial campaign and her contribution to it, saying “It’s an issue that’s so embedded in our culture, it’s easy to forget about and ignore. I’m just an individual, not a campaigner, but I wanted to feel that if I could make a stand, then so could others – which they have done.”

This uniting proves that women are fed up of being seen as imperfect through the medias eyes, and are starting to rise up against the conformities the media expects of women today.

*Daisy’s name has been changed for anonymity.

A reduced version of this feature is published online for BUzz News, see here.

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