Beauty Ideals Around the World - Will we ever get our girls to stop obsessing?

Plastic Surgery. Eating Disorders. Beauty Ideals. Fat-Shaming. It’s an American Epidemic. Or…is it?

Photo Courtesy Caitlin Epstein Photography
Model: Savannah Lambert

I thought for so long that the pressure that women face to be thin and beautiful was an American thing, so I decided to hold a little round-table with women who have grown up around the world, in order to dig deeper and see where the problem lies.

Jenny, Esther and Caroline grew up in the Ukraine, Netherlands, and Ireland respectively. They agreed to give insight into what young women in other areas of the world face during their teen years.

Daily Affair: Studies show that 81% of ten year old girls fear being overweight. American women of all ages seem to spend a lot of time disliking themselves. Is it the same in other countries?

Esther/Netherlands: This really depends, on the character and on the friends they have. Some girls really don't seem to care and some really obsess over their looks. Last year I hosted a B-day party at my studio with a bunch of 12 year olds that seemed to be like 18-year olds...they were very concerned with their looks, wanted their eyebrows done, some had highlights and all had their hair done and they all tried to pull of a duck face in the pictures...

Searched Google for Ukranian Beauty - this is what popped up

DA: Do girls tease each other the way they do here?

Jenny/Ukraine: They make fun of each other, in evil manner. Majority of girls on the street will shoot overweight girls with negative glances...and even can say “cow" behind their back, loud enough...

Esther/Netherlands: I've heard that lots of girls are very mean on social media about other girls’ looks.

DA: Is there an expectation that women be thin and beautiful?

Jenny/Ukraine: Oh, yeeees!!!!! It is very expected! If girl is not "standardly" skinny, she doesn't have strength to control her appetite, therefore, cannot control herself in everything.

Esther/Netherlands: In the Netherlands generally looks aren't that important, and neither is being thin. But the younger generations seem to be obsessed with it. Then again, that really depends, lots of young girls don't seem to bother a lot about their looks.. Recently I see a shift in trends: Healthy is the new skinny - they want a healthy lean body instead of just being thin. Also there has been a movement against body shaming, in the Netherlands and also in Belgium.

Caroline/Ireland: Yes, the women do try to be thin. I will say that they are very fashionable over there, whether they have money or not.

Irish Bridal Magazine. I can totally get behind this look!

DA: Do girls wear makeup all of the time or just for special occasions?

Jenny/Ukraine: When girls go to grocery store, or stepping out to waste garbage, they put on make up, even if it is the only time to get out of home today. How do you feel about wearing heels on snow?? the whole day?

Esther/Netherlands: The expectation for the younger girls seems to be: look beautiful, wear expensive clothes and exercise a lot to stay fit. Normally I would say most girls do fix themselves up to go to the store, they mostly do wear make up.

Caroline/Ireland: Women would take a lot of pride in their appearance over there, for example, just going to the salon to have your hair blown out or styled just for the night. The culture of going out would be similar to others where you would be seeking attention. I always felt like plain Jane or under dressed because nights out were the focus of the week.

Kendall Jenner

DA: Is bullying as prevalent as it is here in America?

Jenny/Ukraine: Yep

Esther/Netherlands: I think there is a lot of bullying on social media.

Caroline/Ireland: I’m sure the bullying was just like any place, but maybe a bit more competition within the groups.

DA: Are men inclined to date/marry girls who don’t fit the beauty ideal?

Jenny/Ukraine: Usually not, even if the guy is not cute, low intellectually, poor financially…he won't date nice inside/but big girl…he will hunt for Barbie again and again. But in vein, cause Barbie hunt for rich and cute...or just rich with car.

Esther/Netherlands: Yes they do, but I think the really popular ones care a lot about looks and they will marry the pretty thin girl and not the girl next door.

Caroline/Ireland: Men were very obvious of which women they found attractive.

DA: Are boys respectful to girls or do they tease them?

Jenny/Ukraine: Oh, yes! All boys make evil fun on big girls!

: Yes the boys are mostly respectful to girls. But there have been stories in the media about young teenagers that are very easy going about sexual favors: girls performing sexual favors for a Bacardi Breezer and stuff, but I think that is not a normal thing over here, just some extremes.

Caroline/Ireland: Probably a bit of both. Poking fun or cracking jokes is a big part of their sense of humor!

DA: Are girls prone to starving themselves? Getting plastic surgery? Do girls that don’t fit the ideal image get depressed?

Jenny/Ukraine: All our girls trying to look in everyday life (during studying, working, doing errands) like American stars on their party. Plastic surgery is waaay too expensive... so, depressed, but not starving. Starving is only for skinny ones.

Esther/Netherlands: This also depends on the character and friends they have...I know some models that starve themselves and it does happen but not that much. Plastic surgery is not that common over here, so that doesn’t happen a lot. Depression is more common, they think they are fat, get depressed, eat more and get more depressed...

Caroline/Ireland: I never really saw anyone or heard of anyone with any disorders, but I think the appearance-like disorders focused on amount of make up, accessorizing, clothing choice; almost seemed as if everything was over done.

DA: What about American ideals? Do young girls in your country look at our magazines, or try to emulate our models/actresses?

Jenny/Ukraine: We look at Elle, Glamour, Vogue, Cosmopolitan. We like
Angelina, Beyonce, almost all the most bright ones.

Esther/Netherlands: I don't think they look at a lot of American magazines, as they are not that available over here (or are very expensive), they will read dutch magazines. The young girls I know really like Ariana Grande, Kylie and Kendall Jenner, Rihanna, Beyonce.

Caroline/Ireland: So over there girls have such a “what they see in the movies” mind set of what America is like! They imagine America to be just how it is in the movies. Most ones I heard of were Clueless, American Pie, etc. however, fashion and beauty is perceived way different over there! When I was a teenager it was all about fake tan and bronze-like makeup.

DA: If girls get teased or bullied at school, are the teachers aware?

Jenny/Ukraine: (it happens) usually during breaks, so no teachers hear. And it is shame to say so that you got teased. I was fat til the 5th I know how is it...So, I was fighting with boys physically and never told to my parents

: I really don’t know…

Caroline/Ireland: There is bullying, but I am not sure if the teachers know.


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