Expectations Made of Women Through Pop Culture

Expectations made of women through pop culture today has become outrageous in my opinion. We have women hurting themselves everyday to make themselves look “prettier”. It’s wrong, and I see no way to argue that it’s even close to acceptable. I think if we took away ads that cause these things, women would learn to accept the way they look and love themselves and their bodies.

Millions of women and young girls are subjected to advertisements everyday that promote hype-awareness of appearance and over-critical views. These advertisements make most women self-aware of their bodies and everything about their personal appearance. They are on the T.V. we watch, in the magazines we read, on the internet, sent to us by mail, and if we disconnect and go outside, the public domain is bombarded with signage portraying “idealized” women. Why are women portrayed in magazine ads and television commercials in this way, and how do these unrealistic expectations contribute to women’s health and image issues?

The health and image issues developed in women happen to be caused by standards set by the public. The ideal woman is caucasian with thick, lustrous straight hair, she has perfect skin, long legs, a perky bust, and a small waist. ‘Ethnic”(dark skinned) women are rarely the seen as an ideal woman in any advertisement. Women, ages 14+, cake on makeup everyday, some even multiple times a day, because they think they need to hide parts of themselves that are “ugly”. Blemishes, freckles, or even the fact that their skin isn’t the color they want it to be.


For years the multi million dollar company Maybelline have had the advertising slogan “Maybe shes born with it, maybe its Maybelline”. These ads tells us that a woman’s natural face should look augmented with make up as if the natural state of a woman’s face should have bronzed contours, powder smooth skin, deep red lips, impossibly long lashes, and smokey mysterious jewel tone eyes.


Here is Aveeno promising “naturally beautiful skin” with its positively radiant line that lightens dark pigmentation on the face. How can it be “naturally beautiful” if it’s making things like blemishes and dark spots “disappear” with chemicals?


Of course there’s also another side too. This is Katherine Webb, 24-year-old beauty queen and Miss Alabama USA, eating a burger from Carl’s Jr. in a stadium dressed in a skimpy skirt, top, and high heels. She’s hot, she’s sexy, it works. So now, not only do we see the expectation that women should look this way, but also that eating fast food will allow women to keep a body like hers. Except there’s no possible way that could happen without regurgitating the food afterwards.


This is a video posted by a group called Global Democracy, it shows what happens during a photo shoot. They put a little make up on a girl, some hair extensions and take some pictures, but it doesn’t stop there. After all the shots are taken, they go in and photoshop her skin, hair, eyes, belly, legs, arms, everything. They make a girl that doesn’t even exist. I’ve always known they use photoshop on models, but I never knew they used it to this extent and probably greater. Because of this video, I’ve found that most women in advertisements, mostly photo advertisements, aren’t even real. They are photoshopped to the point that they are unrecognizable and become a person that doesn’t actually exist. Shouldn’t we be ashamed of ourselves when not even the cover girls in these magazines can live up to the unreasonable standards? These photos are altered to whiten teeth, narrow the waist, enlarge and lift the bust, lengthen the neck and legs, and change their skin tone. I’ve even heard of these same models being told that they aren’t skinny enough when they’re already a size 0. The designers send clothes that are too small for the models to wear, and when they can’t fit in them they’re told to lose more weight and end up eventually starving themselves. So why do we feel the need to change the way women look? Also, why would we subject our children to the same things?

Speaking of subjecting children to these things, think of the show Toddlers and Tiaras. You can’t just blame the mothers for what they do to the young girls in that show or in any beauty pageants. These little girls are subjected everyday to the same advertisements we are as adults. They always want dress up, feel pretty, and pretend to be the idealized women they see in advertisements. They have their mothers, who somehow accept these things as being right, give them tans (through spray and tanning beds), bleach their teeth and hair, even wax their arms, legs, and eyebrows. How is it acceptable to do these things to our children? To make them want to change themselves and see themselves as not pretty enough?

I identify as a woman which means I am scrutinized to every extent. It doesn’t even matter about my nationality because in the U.S, women of any color, are subjected to the scrutiny of pop culture. Everyday I look at myself and see myself as not perfect because pop culture. I won’t  have perfect skin because I have eczema, I will never be tall, and I won’t be skinnier than a 6. But the point is, because of genetics, I will never be the “perfect” woman. I have experienced some of the harsh expectations brought on by pop culture. I have had people tell me that I’m not skinny enough, I’m too short, and even that my skin is too pale. I have been made fun of throughout my life for dandruff, eczema, height, or even the split ends in my hair. Every time I open a magazine I am bombarded with messages about how to lose weight, manage my hair, obscure my own facial features to the point of looking like someone else, and wear expensive clothing in addition to tricks to make a man love me. I see other women being influenced by these same advertisements  every day. Women who go tanning, not because of health problems such as Vitamin D deficiency, but because they don’t think they are dark enough and believe that being tan will make them more attractive. Or the dark skinned women who are told they aren’t good enough because they aren’t white. There’s also the problem with women and young girls trying to make themselves thinner and develop eating disorders because they believe thin is beautiful. I feel that pop culture has caused women to turn to extreme “solutions” to their “ugly problems”.

If we take all of these things into effect, then I think most women would see advertisements as a crime. Causing women to harm themselves to look like someone that doesn’t even exist is wrong, I actually see no way that these advertisements could be right. I think if we took away all of the ads that cause women to want to do these things, women would respect themselves more and not feel the need to wear clothes that barely fit or are overly revealing. They could actually learn to accept the way they look and love themselves and their bodies. So now there’s only one question: When does it all end?

You can’t base your life on other people’s expectations. -Stevie Wonder.


Works Cited

“NEW Shine Seduction Lipgloss Color – Maybelline Picture.” NEW Shine Seduction Lipgloss Color – Maybelline Picture. Stuffpoint, n.d. Web. 02 Mar. 2014.

“Aveeno Positively Radiant TV Spot, ‘Spots’ Featuring Jennifer Aniston Track It.” ISpot.tv. ISpot.tv, n.d. Web. 03 Mar. 2014.

“Digital Manipulation Laid Bare in Video of Model Being Photoshopped.” – Fashion Videos. Telegraph.co.uk, 31 Oct. 2013. Web. 02 Mar. 2014.

Malec, Brett. “Katherine Webb’s Super Sexy Carl’s Jr. Commercial—Get a Behind-the-Scenes Look!” E! Online. E! Online, 26 Sept. 2013. Web. 03 Mar. 2014

Wonder, Stevie. “Expectations Quotes.” BrainyQuote. Xplore, n.d. Web. 05 June 2014.



2 thoughts on “Expectations Made of Women Through Pop Culture

  1. I’ve always enjoyed reading on the topic of how the media pressures women to look a certain way. Advertisements, movies, and television shows constantly making the average woman question herself aesthetically instead of embracing the beauty that is within. I personally have always liked watching the Dove True Beauty commercials because they always show women in different shapes and colors and show them how its okay to be yourself. I like the point that you brought up how there is so much makeup and phototshop applied to the women being photographed in the media that she essentially becomes non existent because she is unrecognizable at that point.

    • Hi Corozco23 and Liznich79!!

      Corozco 23, I totally agree with you. It is so fascinating to see how the media changes women. The fact that Dove True Beauty is pushing past that is wondering, their commercials show such amazing women in all shapes and sizes.

      Liznich79, Your essay was wonderful, you really had passion for your topic, which is great to see that you are not falling for the lies of these advertisements. Your sources were perfect for your essay. Great Work!!

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