An American study published last week, carried out by Harvard University for the Dove brand, quantified what idealized beauty standards are costing the country’s economy. The press release from the cosmetics brand reports that 305 billion dollars (more than 314 billion euros) would be lost each year because of physical complexes, and 501 billion dollars (more than 516 billion euros) because of discrimination on appearance. In total, more than 800 billion euros are lost each year in the United States due to unattainable beauty standards.
Because according to this study, constantly seeing beauty ideals is a “public health crisis” that leads to considerable losses due to psychological disorders such as depression or addictions. Quantifying what these evils cost the health system is a way of measuring the extent of the problem.
Models with belly, thighs and cellulite
While it is difficult to transpose these figures to the situation in France, they nevertheless suggest that beauty criteria continue to weigh on our daily lives. However, plus-size or exceptionally beautiful models seem at first glance to be more and more frequent. It is no longer uncommon to see in advertisements for products traditionally intended for women, such as periodic protection or depilatory creams, plus size models or models with cellulite.
When we go around fashion websites, we find a little diversity put forward: often a round or colored woman in the middle of three or four thin models. Finally, in fashion shows, some designers highlight different beauties, such as Ester Manas during Paris Fashion Week last month.
A movement of acceptance of differences
“We are indeed seeing more and more plus size models, it is undoubtedly the influence of the “body positivity” movement (or “body-positive”) born in the United States some time ago”, decrypts Vannina Micheli-Rechtman, psychiatrist specializing in eating disorders and author of the book The new fatal beauties. “Body positivity” is this movement of acceptance of all silhouettes and all types of skin or hair, claimed by personalities such as influencers or American YouTubers.
“It advocates appreciating all body types, promotes better self-esteem, and shows that beauty is fundamentally a social construction, with a history”, underlines Vannina Micheli-Rechtman, who also refers to the ” skin positivity”, highlighting all skin types.
But the images remain idealized
But these movements are not everything, and the occasional presence of plus-size models is not enough to eliminate the standards of beauty that Dove estimated cost billions. “The fact that there are plus-size models is good news. Now, it depends how we represent them. Still, the photos must not be retouched.
Curvy women in advertisements or fashion shows do not always make potential customers happy. “It irritates me the plus size models who do not have a piece of fat that protrudes, flat stomach and mega marked size”, annoys for example a Twitter user. Vannina Micheli-Rechtman, for her part, underlines the fact that in the midst of very thin and very tall women, some of her patients tell her that they “can’t find themselves” in these images: “Where is the middle? The women in between? »
In addition, the psychiatrist is concerned that the advertisements do not indicate when their photos are retouched, despite the law which obliges them to do so since 2017. “The images have consequences on self-esteem, that’s what which I have called the pathologies of the image. For teenagers, it can go as far as triggering eating disorders. And there is also an increase in these disorders in men. »
According to her, it is by “getting out of the ideal body” that we will see a reduction in the psychological problems linked to poor self-esteem. “The conception of beauty goes through the image, it is very important that these images are accurate”.
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