August 25, 2008 – Is it okay when six year old girls idolize Britney Spears or Paris Hilton? Or teenagers consider liposuction and plastic surgery to alter their looks? How about when girls trash-talk based on physical attributes and appearance?
Well, the YWCA wanted answers and they just released a new report revealing the impact of idealized, airbrushed beauty and body image obsession on the economic well-being, health and interpersonal relationships of American women and girls.
The report, Beauty at Any Cost, shows alarming new trends and money spent on cosmetic surgery alterations, including dramatic increases among young women, and other serious health risks.
Standards perpetuated by a youth-obsessed media culture literally send thousands of messages, 24 hours a day. “We believe that the obsession with idealized beauty and body image is a lifelong burden that takes a terrible toll on all young girls and women in this country,” said YWCA USA CEO, Dr. Lorraine Cole.
Some highlights of the Beauty at Any Cost report:
- Americans fork over nearly $7 billion a year to cosmetics, beauty supply and perfume stores, and nearly 11.7 million cosmetic surgical and nonsurgical procedures were performed — an almost 500% increase in such procedures from 1997.
- If women put the average amount of money they spent on monthly manicure-pedicures ($50) into an interest-bearing retirement account every year for 10 years, they would have almost $10,000 saved.
- Over half of teenage girls use unhealthy weight control behaviors such as skipping meals, fasting, smoking cigarettes, vomiting and taking laxatives.
- Forty percent of newly diagnosed cases of eating disorders are in girls 15 to 19 years old, but symptoms can occur as young as kindergarten. Girls who spent the most time and effort on their appearance suffered “the greatest loss of confidence.”
- In the U.S., cosmetics are not subject to testing by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Individual companies are responsible for substantiating the safety of their products.
“We felt the problem had reached such a crisis proportion that we needed to speak up and draw a line in the sand that this must stop,” said Nancy Loving, director of communications for YWCA USA who added that the group will use the report as a jumping-off point for educational programs in its 300 locations in the U.S.
To help raise awareness and start a national conversation about these issues, the YWCA USA has teamed up with documentary filmmaker Darryl Roberts to become the distribution partner of his new documentary film, “America the Beautiful.” The film provides an in-depth look and critical analysis of the harm inflicted by beauty obsession on young women and girls.
What do you think? Does America have an unhealthy obsession with being beautiful?