From modern phenomenon (think: thigh gap and belfies) to traditional channels of objectification (think: cleavage), the pressure on young women not only to conform to a certain standard of beauty, but to be valued entirely on their appearance, has reached a tipping point.
Tired of the gender-specific value system, British performance artist Louise Orwin took to the streets to ask teenage girls to say something positive about themselves. But there was one condition - their entry couldn't be about looks.
The result is the powerful 'I am...' video (see above), where young women shout about their strengths. Whether maths skills or a wicked sense of humour, the Pretty/Ugly project champions a positive image - one that can't be reflected in the mirror.
So far, so simple. Or so you'd think. But, revealingly, Louise says that many of the girls find the task (finding value in something other than appearance) really hard.
"They often find it difficult to think of things to boast about," she tells HuffPost UK Lifestyle. "The exercise aims to get them thinking more positively about themselves - to encourage girls to find worth in personal attributes that aren't linked to the way they look."
Louise says that body image a catch-22 situation for teenage girls - despite being put under enormous pressure to look a certain way, young women are vilified for investing in their appearance or showing a desire to look a certain way.
"I think it's a confusing world out there for teenage girls," she says. "I think this is especially true in the world of teenage sexuality- teenagers are under so much pressure to look and feel sexy, and yet they are told they must remain a-sexual. Just look at Miley..."
Is the digital generation at greater risk of body image anxiety than its predecessors? Louise believes so.
"Many of the teenagers I spoke to admitted to the constant anxiety surrounding de-tagging pictures on Facebook- as soon as they get a notification that they've been tagged, their first thoughts are how to get to that picture to check whether it's OK or not," she explains.
"This is all compounded of course by the social aspect of the web of course too- 'liking', commenting, sharing. We are more free to comment on each other's person lives with all these platforms- and with that comes the constant pressure to maintain our ideal selves online. The way I think of it, is as if this generation are carrying around a mini-me, or an avatar, in their pocket that they are constantly editing, and promoting to make themselves feel better."
What do you think of the project? Let us know in the comments below.
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