For those of you who are unfamiliar with The Critical Theory by Max Horkheimer of the Frankfurt School , it is basically the idea that seeks to “liberate human beings from the circumstances that enslave them” (Max Horkheimer). Horkheimer defends the idea that our cultural industry sets the norm in society without taking into account the well-being of the people and that media helps perpetuate these ideas.
As a young woman in 2017 I cannot help but agree with this statement. How many times have you not scrolled down your Instagram feed and seen Instagram « models » wearing amazing outfits , amazing makeup, hair extensions, eyelashes and wished deep down that you too could look like them? The absolute worst is scrolling through your Facebook feed and seeing all these women with perfect bodies, promoting protein shakes and eating avocado toast for lunch and maybe a quinoa bowl for dinner while you remember that you have not been to the gym months, that last night you had yet another cheeky Nando’s and then you fall into this spiral of comparing yourself and wishing you looked different.
This is exactly what Horkheimer meant! The media, especially social media , has a way of formatting us to think that this is the norm. Even though we hear all these annoying phrases like « Comparison is the thief of joy » or « we are all beautiful our size doesn’t define you », your self-worth and your ideal is constantly being pressured to conform to the norm that society has built. This pressure is constantly exercised in every media resulting to the masses, in this case women trying and conform to “one look” thus sometimes making them to loose their individuality and accept themselves for who they are.
Makeup and looking good is something that a lot women take to heart. In this generation, beauty tutorials are accessible to everyone and anyone can be a makeup artist. This has lead to a sort of homogenization of beauty and its perception within our society.
The “Instagram baddie” trend has many girls conforming to one look and is the perfect reflexion of how social media has appropriated a field that normally should be a form of self expression personal to everyone. If you are not familiar with the Insta-baddie look, here is a video that a friend and I made a couple of months ago representing the “standard” look you will find girls wearing on social media.
(skip to the end to see the before and after)
Another example of beauty standardization is demonstrated by makeup brands that are not inclusive to all skin colours. Tanned, glowy and airbrushed skin seem to be what is considered beautiful leaving many women struggling to find makeup that suits their skin. Recently , pop icon Rihanna launched her own beauty line with an astonishing range of 40 shades of foundation therefore catering to a larger spectrum of skin types. The out-poor of reviews and response on YouTube and other social platforms has been just mind blowing! Many women finally feel connected to a brand that advertises Asian, Caucasian, Black, Albino, fair skinned, olive toned and more women making other brands realize that the cultural agenda is real and that many are being “oppressed” in a sense. Initiatives like these truly are a form of liberation of the masses from the norm that society had imposed and that social media has helped support .