The adverse effects of European beauty standards


Photo By Dane Coyne

European beauty standards have become a societal goal to achieve, which causes adverse effects on those who do not fit those standards. Blue eyes, blonde hair and upturned noses are some of the features that fall under this standard.

     Over the years, society has made a lot of progress when it comes to racial justice. Society is much more accepting of people who are non-white, and that is more than we can say we had going for ourselves a hundred years ago. While it is great that we live in a more accepting society, there are still subtle remnants from the past that linger. Most don’t even realize it, but a beauty standard is being pushed on us, and that beauty standard is European features.

     Upturned noses, blue eyes, blond hair and pale skin are just some of the idolized features today. Although the pressure to conform to these specific beauty standards applies to many different kinds of people, teenage girls seem to be affected the most by them.

     According to the Girls Empowerment Network, a non-profit organization in Austin, Texas, that aims to empower women of all backgrounds, “One of the biggest problems is the lack of diversity seen in the media, which idolizes female celebrities that are white, tall and thin. This is unhealthy for many young girls of different ethnicities because they are seeing a society that does not represent their ethnicity well in the media.” 

     The fact that girls are being raised in a world where they are expected to look a certain way can be very damaging to their mental and physical health. Unattainable goals will only harm people, especially those who are not developed enough to realize that they are unattainable in the first place.

     According to an excerpt from Across the Spectrum of Socioeconomics by the International Socioeconomics Laboratory, “Eurocentrism is defined by a viewpoint where European culture is looked upon favorably and biased against non-western civilizations. Western beauty ideals include being thin and tall, having long hair, having light / tanned skin, having big breasts, large eyes, a small nose and high cheekbones.”

Blue eyes are one of many European features that are held to a high standard. These idolized features create unrealistic goals for those who do not possess them. (Photo By Dane Coyne)

     All these features, among others, contribute to a growing amount of people feeling the need to live up to an unrealistic standard of beauty that was set hundreds of years ago. When this is put into perspective, it’s apparent that we are basing the way we want to look on what was expected of us hundreds of years ago.

     While there’s nothing wrong with wanting to look a certain way, the standards that are being pushed on people, especially young women, can be very harmful to the way they look at themselves. People with features that are not traditionally European may begin to look at themselves in a negative light. The fact that people are beginning to be able to change their features to look how they want is not necessarily a good thing. Instead of people accepting who they are and being happy with the features they were born with, many are turning to surgery.

     According to Mount Sinai, a plastic surgery center in New York City, “Rhinoplasty is one of the most common cosmetic surgeries performed in the U.S. According to the latest statistics from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, more than 213,000 people receive a nose job each year.”

     This number is only getting bigger. Almost all of those nose surgeries are done to make noses smaller and more upturned. This, whether it is intentional or not, is encouraging people to view bigger and downturned noses as unattractive and undesirable.

     Although some things like nose jobs and colored contacts can be pinned on someone simply preferring the way they look with that feature, there are less subtle reasons for people changing their appearances that are sadly very commonplace today. Many women feel the pressure to straighten curly hair before entering professional settings. This is not an uncommon experience. So many people are led to believe that their curly hair is unprofessional and needs to be fixed before entering the workplace. This is an unrealistic and harmful standard that has been set in certain establishments. The worst part about it is that it’s usually subconscious as opposed to premeditated, therefore some people don’t even realize that they are judging someone based on their natural features.

     There is nothing wrong with European features. There is also nothing wrong with loving your traditionally European features. Where right crosses wrong is when those features are held as the standard. People should not be held to unrealistic expectations that they can’t naturally achieve. Everyone should be allowed to love their bodies and features as they are without worrying about how others are perceiving them. In generations to come, the hope among many is that children will be raised in a world where there is no unreasonable beauty standard so they can live their lives feeling just as beautiful as everyone else.