The fashion world is a beautiful, fantastical escape, but sometimes a real-life issue yanks us back from our Louboutin wishes and Balmain dreams into the cold, harsh reality at hand. Today’s terrible truth has to deal with pre-teen and teenage girls, their body issues, and their self-esteem. It’s bad enough that teenagers must navigate the tricky waters of growing up around Photoshopped ads and magazine covers crowding them in from all angles, and it seems that impressionable young minds are having a hard time sorting out the real from the fake–and feeling all the worse for it.
Young girls are feeling so bad, in fact, that they’re taking to YouTube–by the hundreds of thousands–to find validation (or humiliation) through posting “Am I pretty or ugly?” videos. Girls who question their appearance due to bullying at school or feelings of inadequacy are posting homemade videos on YouTube asking the general public to rate them on their appearance–the results are as disturbing as you’d think.
In the video below, for instance, a 14-year-old girl laments her confusion over her appearance–saying that her friends tell her she’s beautiful and that they’re jealous of her face, but other kids at school call her ugly. This sad trend of asking an unknown–and potentially cruel–public to judge one’s appearance has been around for a few years now. Early in 2012 one professor at Pace University referred to the practice as a form of “self-mutilation,” akin to cutting and eating disorders. Yet another article from early 2012 says, “This is a self-destructive yet, unconsciously, coping mechanism. They’re trying to feel better, but it’s self destructive and it’s not working.”
One reason that the videos are not proving to be a positive source of appearance affirmation is because of the comments; while some offer positive feedback and love, many are often perverted, rac1st, or just plain mean.
Pretty Or Ugly videos have made a comeback in the news recently thanks to Louise Orwin‘s efforts to try to understand what makes a girl post such a video; she created teenage characters each with their own Pretty Or Ugly video that she posted online. Her findings will be released in a live show called Pretty Ugly in London. One striking bit of her research into the topic comes from the fact that the majority of people commenting on these videos are men over the age of 18. To reiterate: There are hundreds of thousands of nine- to 14-year-old girls posting terribly sad videos of themselves online, only to be torn to shreds by older men. The situation could hardly get more disturbing than that.
As far as the worst part of this video trend, that’s a hard answer to give. We all wish girls would have more self-esteem–but we’ve always wished this. We all wish Internet commentors would get a grip–but we’ve always wished this, too. The solution most likely lies in changing our notions of traditional beauty (kudos to New York for creating an initiative around this issue); but with other recent issues in the news such as diversity on the runway and Melissa McCarthy’s Elle cover, it seems we have a long way to go.