Your eyebrows are ‘on fleek’! Your hair is ‘on point’ – your outfit is ‘peng’ – all expressions and phrases that I have heard girls bandy about this week to compliment one another – the worrying undercurrent of all this ‘flattery’ is a dangerous obsession with appearance. Focusing on how girls look and not what they achieve was one of the alarming highlights of the annual survey of girls’ attitudes published by the Girlguiding association last week.
Social oppression of women is now being exerted not by divisions of labour, or the lack of a vote, but more by a quest for physical perfection and an expectation that women and girls will look and behave in a certain way.
Girls are doing it to themselves and to each other – putting too much emphasis on looking the part – it has always been thus, but now with social media the pressures are even greater and there’s no escape. This morbid fascination with make up, highlighters, contour kits and brushes is adding fuel to the national obsession with judging women on looks not achievements.
Women and girls are exposed to the airbrushed ‘body beautiful’ 24 hours a day via social media and it comes into their home, onto their phones and laptops and is insidiously chipping away at self-confidence and self-esteem. Girls as young as seven say they feel under pressure to be perfect and many feel they fall short.