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Coping With the Beauty Myth: A Guide for Real Girls by Stefanie Iris Weiss

Reviewed by Sylvia Quigley, Community Health Education Center Volunteer
Coping With the Beauty Myth is one of a series of coping books written for teenagers. Today the beauty myth is seen everywhere: in magazine ads, on TV, in movies, on billboards, and even on city buses. Because teenage girls are bombarded with how to look, what to wear, what makeup to use, etc. it can be difficult to remember that models in ads are retouched; imperfections are erased away. What’s seen is something that doesn’t exist. Rarely, if ever, do real girls fit the image of the fashion model, yet rarely do the magazines feature real girls. For a young woman, it can be hard to remember to be who she is, not what some advertiser/fashion model says she should be. Ads promise girls that they will be more beautiful, more popular, etc. if they use a particular product. No one wants to be unpopular. Fear of being left out or unloved motivates teens to believe these empty promises. The reality is that manufacturers need to sell their products, so they create ads to get us to buy these products. We must remember that “The primary goal of every producer of goods is one thing: profit. They will do whatever it takes to empty your wallet.”
For some teenagers, failure to copy this artificial beauty can lead to disease. Some forms this hurt takes are anorexia, bulimia, self-mutilation, over-eating, drug abuse, etc. How our families relate to themselves and to their female children can also impact the way the body is seen. If, for example, a girl is told over and over again by her father that she is the most beautiful girl in the world, she may come to believe that the only way to achieve acceptance is to be pretty. Or, if the mother is obsessed with how she looks to others, this attitude can be learned by the child.
Unfortunately, the beauty standard can cause teenagers to focus on the wrong issues. Instead of focusing on how others perceive them, they should be focusing on developing skills and interests, and most important: self-esteem. What to do. Spend time learning who you are and what your style is. Fat or skinny; tall or short; who you are IS most important.
The book provides references and a reading list for more information.
Community Health Education Ctr RA777.25 .W45 2000 Non-circulating

To view this title or other health-related books visit the Community Health Education Center (CHEC). The CHEC is located on the ground floor of the VCUHS Gateway Building on the MCV campus.

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