Is pressure to conform to the media ideal of beauty stifling female ambition?

Last week the Everyday Sexism Project received a letter from a 15 year old girl, amongst other things she wrote: ‘successful women are only considered a success if they are successful AND hot….’

She continued: ‘I feel like there’s no point in doing anything because I’ll just be the ‘fat ugly girl’ regardless of whether I do become a doctor or not.’

In case you think this is an extreme or isolated view, consider research cited by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Body Image that revealed that 13% of girls aged 10-17 would avoid even giving an opinion because of insecurities about the way they look.

We keep hearing in the press that females lack the ambition and drive of their male counterparts but perhaps it’s not that it’s missing; it’s just been smothered by the double standards of a society that tells young women they can have all the same dreams men can, study at any academic institution they wish and aim for any career path they choose, whilst simultaneously inundating them with an onslaught of daily messages that as women they will be judged almost exclusively on the basis of their looks, regardless of success.

The pressure on women and girls to conform to the narrow media ideal of female beauty is overwhelming, and until it is tackled, it will continue to undermine attempts to convince young women like the teenage letter-writer that she really can ‘be whatever I want to be’

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