When unhealthy change comes fast and furious, we see it for what it is but when it comes slow and subtle, particularly if it is seductive, we tend to turn a blind eye to it, until it causes an explosion of sorts.
That is what appears to be happening in the world of teenage girls—the pressures that are staring them in the face daily are causing widespread concerns.
To no direct fault of their own, girls are a part of a values shift in society and when values shift, so do norms, mores. Normalising non-medical cosmetic surgery, for example, even if unintentionally, is a little bit more than a trend. It has fundamental implications for mental and emotional health, as does lowering the bar for when teenagers are given a green light so to speak to engage in sexual activity freely, for example, without reference to emotional and mental health.
Our Wait Awhile research as featured in The Telegraph’s ‘Thousands of girls as young as 13 turn to cosmetic surgery as social media pressures mount,’ alongside The Sunday Times’ recently published ‘Teenagers line up for Botoxjabs to mimic celebrities,’ turns the spotlight on the concern for girls signing up for non-medical cosmetic surgery.
Both pieces, as does our research, begs loads of questions. What does it all mean? Who is to blame? Is this a trend? Over the past few weeks, not only have I been asked these question time and again but also, I have pondered them. And while the answers will hopefully come in insight and debate over the next little while, followed by lasting solutions, rather than in finger pointing and casting blame, we have something to celebrate.
The cat is out of the bag. This is a hidden story that has haunted me for some time now. As a longstanding advocate for providing safe platforms for girls, I have been long concerned about the shifting norms we all face nowadays, and particularly the impact this shift has on teenage girls.
For too long, society has turned a blind eye to the mounting pressures that teenage girls are facing because of our obsession with instant gratification, glamour and glee. It is quite easy to chalk it all up to generational trends and believe that girls, themselves, are setting the trends and leading the way.
But let’s face it, teenage girls, like the rest of us, don’t live in a vacuum. They are not exempt from this chaotic state in which we live.
Actually, there is nothing wrong with any of the above concepts unto themselves—a little instant gratification from time to time can do wonders for self-esteem but when we feel entitled, that is another story. And on beauty, it has to be the most misused and misunderstood word of all times. Okay maybe liberal takes the cake. But the point is this: beauty is a wonderful thing. When thinking of and speaking of creation, itself, beauty sums it up. It is when we set and subscribe to aesthetic standards that isolate and marginalise some and that we simply cannot measure up to that we end up compromising something emotional and mental, which leads to the rise in frustration, unhappiness and all the rest.
It is not bad thing that we are now seeing these stories out in the open, which have often been unknowingly validated, feeding into the continuing shift in our values, which dictate our norms.
So what can we do? See the new direction for what it is and advocate on behalf of and support the most vulnerable groups and communities in society. And aid them in setting the record straight and reclaiming their own sacred space. That is what UIO podcast, inclusive of our Wait Awhile initiative, is all about. Join us and have your say via Disqus, our comments platform or contact me directly here .