Waxing, plucking, spray tanning, hair straightening, applying full makeup.
No, it’s not a model preparing for a fashion shoot. Rather, it’s the early morning routine of your average teenage girl getting ready of school.
Gone are the days of waking up 30 mins before the morning bell, throwing on a uniform, eating a rushed breakfast of cereal and toast, a quick brushing of teeth and hair and out the door. In today’s world, the alarm is set for 6am and some serious work is being done in front of the mirror before school work is even considered.
What is the responsibility of parents (usually the mothers) in this battle to conform to a perceived standard of beauty? There’s a cost involved in all the primping and priming. Are you enabling this practice by bearing the cost and thereby sending a message that it’s appropriate? Or perhaps you have resigned yourself that the makeup and appearance battle are not worth the fight when there are so many other issues demanding your attention.
Mother of a teenager, let’s call her Mary, wearily stated to me: “By the time my daughter got to Year 10, I allowed the mascara. I would choose my battles so I turned a blind eye. Ironically the school is vigilant on school uniform but allows the makeup.”
She recalls how her daughter was constantly teased in primary school about her eye brows so she also allowed her to start waxing them in Year 7.
As mothers, we spend our time and money furiously trying to reverse the effects of our own ageing while our daughters are aiming to do the exact opposite. What is perhaps more alarming is the disdain for the body’s natural form and the eagerness to rid oneself of nature’s normal features.
“Pubic hair is disgusting,” claimed the teenage daughter of a colleague. She was in the habit of shaving or waxing off all her pubic hair.
The statistics on girls’ contempt for their bodies bears out the above sentiment. A study in the British Journal of Psychiatry in July 2015 reported on the prevalence of eating disorder behaviours among 14-year olds. Data was collected from over 6000 boys and girls aged 14 years.
Body dissatisfaction, weight and shape concern and the pressure to lose weight were all significantly higher in girls compared with boys. 11.4% of girls reported high weight and shape concern. Almost 20% of girls reported feeling ‘quite a lot of pressure from the media to lose weight’ and almost 40% of girls were dieting in the year prior to the study.