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Is There “Diversity” in A Lookism Society?


January 27, 2024

By Momo Muraki





There is no standard definition of "beauty." If it is truly so, you can define it whatever you like. But have you ever adjusted yourself to other people’s standards of beauty? In recent years, lookism, “prejudice or discrimination based on physical appearance,” has prevailed in Japan due to the spread of social media. Lookism has affected not only young people's appearance but also their minds.


Japanese Diversity and Lack of Confidence in Appearance


According to the Global Survey on Girls' Beauty and Self-esteem (2017) published in Unilever's Dove beauty care brand, Japanese people are the least confident about their appearance in the world. Japanese teenage girls, at least 93%, indicated a lack of confidence in their appearance. The second largest cohort was Chinese girls, with 65%, indicating that Japanese teenage girls are more self-conscious than other countries. Japanese teenage girls also felt pressure to be beautiful (48%), saying they had given up something they wanted because of their low confidence in appearance. There is a possibility that awareness of beauty may influence the individual life choices of Japanese girls.


Social Media Accelerated Lookism


People can now easily send images of themselves on their smartphones, and showing themselves to others has become an everyday occurrence, and many people have a specific beauty value to get "likes" on social media.


The spread of social media has also created several “influencers.” Influencers are those who actively post messages in a specific field and have many followers. Recently, there are many beauty-related accounts (biyo-aka) that carry cosmetics reviews, diet information, and other aesthetic matters. According to a survey conducted by the beauty media MimiTV, 68.5% of respondents have purchased products based on information from these accounts. This proves that social media is an important marketing tool for businesses. In addition, on social media, more people seek to get a lot of "likes" and followers by using “manipulated” images of their faces. The fact that this beauty standard has affected not only oneself, but the judgment of others, which may lead to unconscious discrimination.


Increase Young Orthopedic Patient


As I mentioned above, Japanese teenage girls tend to care about their appearance. Moreover, orthopedic patients have increased more than before, and it is accelerated by covid pandemic. The number of plastic surgery patients has increased due to the wearing of masks and restrictions on going out of the house, which have made it possible for patients to hide the downtime after plastic surgery. In addition, according to a survey by the Tokyo Isea Clinic, about 90% of Japanese women were in favor of plastic surgery, which showed the Japanese perception of plastic surgery was changing. This may be due to decreased psychological anxiety about plastic surgery, such as seeing the downtime process of plastic surgery on social media. However, plastic surgery has been said to be addictive. And over-dependence on plastic surgery is often related to a mental illness called "disfigurement phobia.” It refers to a condition in which a person becomes extremely preoccupied with his or her own appearance and believes himself or herself to be "ugly," even though others do not feel like that. It interferes with his or her daily life. Ironically, plastic surgery is supposed to be a way to make oneself look good or to eliminate inferior complexes, but it may be the first step toward mental illness. 


The concept of "lookism" has traditionally been rooted in Japanese people due to the importance of conformity with others. It has intensified by the development of the Internet and social media. On the other hand, now at the time of respecting “diversity.” How does Japanese society foster the beauty standard by cruising down lookism?


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