Women’s bodies have been commercialized to market all kinds of goods. This has resulted in women’s unrealistic notions of their bodies as well as men’s idealist expectations of them.

Women’s bodies have been commercialized to market all kinds of goods. This has resulted in women’s unrealistic notions of their bodies as well as men’s idealist expectations of them.

One study found that only 30 minutes of TV programming and advertising can change the way a young woman perceives the shape of her body, indicating that body image can be influenced by observing “ideal body shapes”. Jean Kilbourne, a feminist scholar, uses over 160 ads and TV commercials to critique advertising's image of women. In her documentary she arranges for creative and productive dialogue and invites viewers to look at familiar images in a new way that moves and empowers them to take action. She criticizes different company advertisers and the way is they have dehumanized the women in the ads. According to Kilbourne this approach creates a climate in which women’s self-esteem is affected because their body is turned into different objects or being modified/altered. For Kilbourne the ideal image of beauty is more tyrannical than ever. The impact is so severe that even little children are obsessed with their body image. Through advertisements little girls get the message very early hat they must have sexual appeal with flawlessly beauty and impossibly thin.

The ideal images for women's bodies as thin, fit, young and white are present in almost all advertisements from magazines to bus or subway stations, television and internet. Rarely there are images of people of color in natural look in such advertisements unless they are extraordinary made over to look like the white ideal. There is a widespread tendency among blacks and other non-white women for bleaching skins, dyeing hairs for lighter-colored, straitening hairs, using lighter makeup and colored eye-contacts, and going through sever diets to shrink their figures.

Beauty economy

Some studies have found that women and girls who are more frequent readers of fashion magazines have poorer body image (Harrison & Cantor 1997). There is a close like between notions of the ideal body and the economy. Beauty economy is one of the most lucrative economies of the times.  In order to create a market for their product, beauty business attempt to make women feel inadequate about our own bodies. Women are made to believe that their value depends on physical appearance. Feeling insecure about one’s own body is a multi-billion dollar economy Not surprisingly these industries spend millions of dollars promoting beauty ideals that are almost impossible to achieve.

According to Naomi Wolf people tend to spend more time worrying about their body image and fashion than about more significant political, social and even moral and emotional issues. The money spent on cosmetics in the USA can pay for: 


• 2,000 women’s health clinics

• 33,000 battered women’s shelters

• 400,000 four-year university scholarships

• 200,000 vans for safe nighttime transport

• 1 million highly paid child care workers

• 1 million home health aids for the elderly

Whereas the cosmetics market is witnessing an unprecedented boom around the world, Middle Eastern countries more particularly the Persian Gulf nations and Saudi Arabia have the world’s highest consumption rates. According to a study conducted by Epoc Messe Frankfurt, published by Asharq al-Awsat the sales of skin care products in Saudi Arabia were estimated at $397.2 million in 2010 and are expected to reach $502.9 million in 2015 ─ marking a 26 percent increase. The UAE market came second with a 24 percent increase where the cosmetics sales are expected to reach $331.3 million in 2014 compared to $267.4 million in 2011. The United States is the biggest cosmetic market in the world, with total revenue of about 53.70 billion U.S. dollars and employing about 52,512 people in 2011.

Not only are women spending a huge amount of their money on cosmetic products, but they are now taking increasingly surgical measures to change their appearances; a total of $7 billion spent per year on cosmetics just in the USA, to achieve the ideal type. Money spent on cosmetic surgery and non-surgical aesthetic procedures is increasing drastically among all women, including younger women and women of color.

There is a growing tendency among young people for cosmetic surgery as well. According to the American Society for Aesthetic Surgery, in 2008, young people aged 18-24 had the highest approval rating for cosmetic surgery. Based on the results of the survey among young people aged 18 and above, 69% of respondents are in favor of cosmetic surgery, which is a 7% increase from 2006 Cosmetic surgery is increasing among the ranks of minority U.S. women, too. In 2007, almost one-quarter of cosmetic plastic surgery procedures were performed on women of color, comprised of African Americans, Hispanics and Asian Americans; this represents an increase of 13% from the year before.

Appearance-based discrimination in working places

 The economic implications for a better appearance are not just limited to cosmetics and plastics surgeries. There is an appearance-based discrimination in working places as well. Research shows that women who don’t adhere to particular standards of beauty are impacted professionally and financially. “Lookism,”or the prejudice based on physical appearance and attractiveness, is an increasing equal-opportunity problem (Tietje and Cresap, 2005:31). Despite the fact that work productivity has not been scientifically linked with physical attractiveness, one study found that employers believe that good looks contribute to the success of their companies (ibid).

According to an analysis workers with “below average” looks tended to earn about 9% less money than workers who were “above average” in appearance, and that those who were “above average” in appearance tended to make about 5% more money than those who were “average looking” (Armour, 2005).

Discrimination against overweight people in the workplace is a widespread practice. According a research conducted by Forbes “weightbased discrimination consistently affects every aspect of employment, from hiring to firing, promotions, pay allocation, career counseling and discipline” (Forbes, 2008).

According to a survey conducted by the US Employment Law Alliance:

• 39% said employers should have the right to deny employment to someone based on appearance, including weight, clothing, piercing, body art, or hair style.

• 33% said that in their own workplace workers who are physically attractive are more likely to be hired and promoted.

• 33% said workers who are unattractive, overweight, or generally look or dress unconventionally, should be given special government legal protection such as that given persons with disabilities.

• Of the 39% who said employers should have the right to deny employment based on looks, men outnumbered women 46% to 32 %. And whites outnumbered non-whites 41% to 24%.

The workers were also asked if they had any relevant personal experience.

• 16% said that they had been the victim of appearance-based discrimination.

• 38% of those said the discrimination was based on their overall appearance; 31% said it was their weight; and 14% said it was a reaction to their hairstyle.

• A third (33%) of those saying they had been discriminated against said it was for some other reason (US Employment Law Alliance, 2005).

Women appearance has economic consequences in their marriage as well. A Chinese study confirms that the husbands of unappealing women earn about 10% less than those good-looking women. According to the Economist attractive people also have an easier time getting a loan than plain folks, even as they are less likely to pay it back. In America more people say they have felt discriminated against for their appearance than because of their age, race or ethnicity.

Conclusion: Body Project

Putting too much emphasizes on beauty and women’s appearance has led to dehumanization and objectification of female bodies. Women’s body now has turned into a lucrative project that can make a multibillion dollar economy which works with taking women’s self-esteem in order to sell the beauty products. This approach tends to reduce women into sexual objects that have to change and improve constantly in order to have private, social and economic success in their lives. Sexual objectification of woman disregards her personal and intellectual abilities and capabilities as a human being and gives priority to their physical attributes. Often the ideal types that are propagated through the media advertisements are unattainable for most women and consequently this may lead to depression and low self-esteem.

The consequences are severs as even little children are obsessed with their body image. Through advertisements little girls realize that they have to attain a flawless beauty- based on white ideals- in order to achieve success. The amount of time and money spent on make-up and other cosmetics by women all around the world is alarming especially when one considers the current economic problems and more social and economic urgencies that can be fulfilled by such money.


Armour, Stephanie. “Your Appearance, Good or Bad, Can Affect the Size of Your Paycheck.” USA Today. (July 20, 2005).

The Economist. “The economics of good looks The line of beauty Pretty people still get the best deals in the market, from labour to love”. (Aug 27th 2011). “Cosmetics, Beauty Supply and Perfume Stores Industry Overview.”,-beauty-supply,-and-perfume-stores/--ID__294--/free-ind-fr-profile-basic.xhtml

The American Society for Aesthetic Surgery. “New Study Suggests Young Adults More Approving of Cosmetic Surgery.”

American Society of Plastic Surgeons. “Cosmetic Plastic Surgery Procedures for Ethnic Patients Up 13 Percent in 2007.” Percent-in-2007.cfm

Al Arabia News. “Saudi Arabia and UAE top world list in consumption of cosmetics.”

Cory Schulz, “Statistics and Facts on the Cosmetic Industry”

Wolf, N. (1991). The beauty myth. Vintage.

Kilbourne, J., & Cambridge Documentary Films. (1987). Still killing us softly: Advertising's image of women. Cambridge, Mass: Cambridge Documentary Films.

Tietje, Louis, and Cresap, Steven. Journal of Libertarian Studies, Volume 19, No. 2 (31-50). “Is ‘Lookism’ Unjust? The Ethics of Aesthetics and Public Policy Implications.

Harrison, K., & Cantor, J. (March 08, 1998). The Relationship between Media Consumption and Eating Disorders. Journal of Communication, 47, 1, 40-67.

Sex Roles: A Journal of Research (March 1999). “Television situation comedies: female body images and verbal reinforcements.” “Is Your Weight Affecting Your Career?” (May 21, 2008).

comments: Tue Sep 17, 2013 15:25 GMT
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