The Onion Gets Real About Beauty Standards

by Oriana Asano

I used to think The Onion was a real magazine when I was younger (…erm), and today the satirical news source came close to proving younger me right. Earlier today, the site published a “news” clip called “Increasing Number of Men Pressured to Accept Realistic Standards of Female Beauty,” and the piece was depressingly accurate. I know the writers are mocking how the beauty ideal controls men’s notions of how the women in their lives should look, but I could totally see some sleazy dude’s magazine writing this exact article with no tongue-in-cheek.

After Dove’s “Real Beauty” campaign, there’s been a slew of terrific, body-positive ad campaigns launched by companies like Nike, Aerie and Seventeen — but this advertising angle is still in the minority. Although body dysmorphia and poor self-esteem are caused by many things, mass media is the number one culprit. Pop culture is the source of our cultural values: what we should look like, what’s cool, what our values and dreams should consist of…so companies effectively feed young women poison when their mass campaigns display only one type of beauty (think white Barbie). This is old news though. The first step to solving a problem is acknowledging that it exists. 

So we’re currently crawling (slowly) towards solving the national image crisis, as models’ body types become more diverse. But The Onion‘s insidious point remains: consumers still seem to be holding their pop icons to impossible standards of beauty. On a drastic end of the spectrum,  take Gabourey Sidibe’s recent Elle cover, in which the actress’ skin was allegedly “whitened” in PhotoShop. On this point, think of the amount of plus-size women — or even women of color — gracing magazine covers. It’s clear that we’ve got a ways to go, diversity-wise.  


I’m sure we all know people who are uncomfortable negotiating “real bodies” on the sides of buildings, attempting to sell them jeans. And there are men who complain that advertising idealizes the male body as well (…boo-hoo). The only overt sexualization of a man I’ve seen was the Kraft Zesty campaign, and that was taken off the air because of all the complaints.

Even though The Onion is fake, this article ought to force a reality check on slightly less than half of our population. And hopefully a check that’s hard to the face. 

Photos courtesy of, The Onion, and New York Magazine

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