Inroads into the human body mainly that of women, by the beauty industry is more than alarming, with its telltale impacts on health and the very culture of society. Today, highly aggressive beauty industry is making all-out efforts to convince women that their bodies are so inadequate that they need to transform them – from labiaplasties to cheek implants. According to unofficial estimates, the cosmetic sector alone of the beauty industry is worth over US $160 billion a year globally.
The body, for young women, today, is not a shell in which they live in, but an asset to be presented before others and valued-added in any manner you like irrespective of its health hazards, the very survival of the individual. The democratisation of beauty – which encourages everyone from young girls to old women to be obsessed with their appearance – has led women into a vicious trap in which beauty is spuriously linked to a sense of achievement and security.
Newsweek magazine did a beauty breakdown for the average lifetime cost of cosmetic maintenance for an American woman. Over the period that she is a pre-teen, she spends, on an average, a staggering $7,000; and as a teen and in her twenties, $66,000. The spend for the 20 years of her thirties and forties adds up to $158,000, and from 50 onwards, she spends another $218,000 to keep looking ‘beautiful.’!
We live in an era of make-believe and distorted images of women’s body. Billboards and flex boards present an unrealistic kind of visual aesthetics quite contrary to what we see ourselves in the mirror. Every week, we come across hundreds of visually altered images of women. The intensification of these pictures is a prime driver in shaping how we see women and how the women look at themselves. “We experience a gap between what is beamed at us and what we see staring back from the mirror. We don’t experience being victims; instead, we wish to update ourselves, to find in our bodies the modifications that can allow us to join the brand that is today enunciated as femininity,” writes a noted woman columnist.
Of course, the beauty industry couldn’t do it alone – and couldn’t get us to spend so lavishly on its products – without the help of the ‘glamour industries’: the fashion magazines, the diet industry, pharmaceutical and food companies, and the cosmetic surgery industry.