Influencers and the Beauty Myth
Cristina is a bookworm, feminist, film junkie and foodie who likes to write about all of the above.
In her book, 'The Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty Are Used Against Women', Naomi Wolf uses the term to refer to the expectations set for women by society, the media and in particular; the ads that are meant to create flaws for women where they don’t exist and convince them of the ideology that looks are connected to how successful they are. This is done to make us buy more products. If I am to simplify Wolf’s complex book into one phrase it would be this; 'on the path to gender liberation women are often side tracked by societal pressures on how to look, often associating the notion of success with the notion of beauty and physical perfection.' Her book goes into a deep analysis and focuses on the late 20th century, having been published in the early 90s. It is certainly a book I recommend to any modern woman.
The question is, in the era of perfect beauty vloggers, bloggers and influencers, have women themselves taken the place of big media companies and corporations? Are influencers the ones who are now selling the beauty myth to other women, and how does that work for the current feminist movement?
While it is true that influencers and everyone in the online beauty industry now employ the same tools once used by the companies and the media that Wolf criticises, it is also important to state that the times have changed a bit since Wolf’s book was published. And while we still buy into certain standards of beauty, I would argue that this is a time when a certain awakening about body image is happening- an awakening that perhaps wasn’t that prominent 40 or 50 years ago. Women are starting to be more comfortable in their own skin and body positivity is gaining more and more popularity.
So with this change in mind, women are more conscious consumers. It could be that the popularity of beauty bloggers and influencers is due to the fact that the vast majority promote that same type of body positivity, or that those who watch them, genuinely want to find products that contribute to a positive attitude towards themselves, as opposed to them wanting to mold themselves into shapes that ensure success.
Another important factor is that these influencers- mainly women- have turned a damaging myth on its head- using the manipulation that according to Wolf kept women away from successful careers and a successful gender emancipation, into the instrument that helps them achieve that success and emancipation.
On the other side, it is important to point out that most videos or blogs about beauty products are based on that myth: buy this *insert product name* from this *insert brand* and you will become a happy and successful woman just like me! The problem arises when this culture strays away from the notion of looking a certain way to boost your self esteem and goes into the manipulative, superficial area analysed by Wolf; into the realm of the sponsored ads and endorsements focused mainly on selling a product to an audience.
And it is particularly problematic in the current context when social media portrays this glossed-over version of anything in life. When more and more women turn to being digital entrepreneurs and look up to those who have already made a name for themselves and who only portray the part of their lives they want people to see (i.e: the successful image of a beauty guru who uses certain products). It is therefore important that, while we acknowledge the positive things influencers do, we remain aware of the fact that part of their job is advertising and the same principles apply.
While we all want to look good, as women, it is important to keep our head in the game and not let the shine and sparkles of brands and beauty products influence our self worth or distract us from the challenges that our sex still faces and for the changes in the bigger picture that we can achieve, beyond the way we look or want to look.