Opinion & Commentary

The Damaging Impact of the Eurocentric Beauty Standard

By Avery Warren ’24

Photo curtesy of Jacob Hult

A virus that manifests itself in the form of subconscious bias and imposes western ideals of beauty upon non-western features: the Eurocentric Beauty Standard. 

During the period of colonization, Europeans implanted this image of “attractiveness” and it has been enrooted in the soil of this world. Through dismantling and plundering entire civilizations, these cultures were practically forced to adopt western concepts. The construct of race has been weaponized against POC (People of Color) to extinguish their progression within society. History has villainized ethnic characteristics and used them to perpetuate racial discrimination. In the United States, generations of institutionalized racism have revoked POC the privilege of social mobility.

The sole purpose of this beauty standard is to feed the unruly fire that is white supremacy. The notion that fair skin, blue eyes, and straight blonde hair are superior and anything else is undesirable. Furthermore, the Eurocentric Beauty Standard is used to suppress and inflict damage to the societal perception of POC. 

In the 1940’s, psychology researchers Kenneth and Mamie Clark fabricated a test that revealed the subconscious bias in children. This series of evaluations was dubbed “The Doll Test” in which children ranging from the ages of three to seven would be asked questions pertaining to a black doll and white doll. The questions were:

  1. Show me the doll that you like best or that you would like to play with.
  2. Show me the doll that is the ‘nice’ doll.
  3. Show me the doll that looks ‘bad.’
  4. Give me the doll that looks like a white child.
  5. Give me the doll that looks like a colored child.
  6. Give me the doll that looks like a Negro child.
  7. Give me the doll that looks like you.

The most negative connotations were associated with the black doll despite the child’s race. A majority of children chose the white doll to play with and considered it a nice doll. Yet when the children were asked to show the researchers which doll resembled them, they would often display signs of apprehension and by Dr. Clarks account “become emotionally upset at having to identify with the doll that they had rejected.” This test has been remodeled in a more modern context but the results still remain the same. The results of “The Doll Test” reveal forms of self-hatred and subconscious bias within children of color that is the direct impact of a Eurocentric Beauty Standard.

Whole industries that are centered around the basis of achieving that coveted western look have been erected. Skin whitening products to rid color from your body, and extensive hair treatments to tame your wild curls, these are all to appease the white ruling class. POCs would be forced to go through these immense efforts – things like natural,kinky hair have been marginalized in the American workplace. Appearance could dictate whether you get that well-paying job or that white picket fence-enclosed home.

We, as humans, have fostered these beliefs because we have been indoctrinated to do so. In American society white supremacy has destabilized the societal dynamics of our country. You turn on the television to almost see exclusively white characters. You go to an art museum and see finely draped illustrations of pale women. You sit in a history class, and learn from a Eurocentric timeline and perspective.

This materializes as a form of self-loathing within minorities. The alienating experience of living among a predominantly white population harms the way you perceive yourself. You want to achieve these unrealistic qualities and you begin to internalize the Eurocentric Beauty Standards. That is because people who look like you are severely underrepresented within our society, that you are inherently unattractive. 

The Frederick Gunn School is a predominantly white community nestled within rural Connecticut. Within our community POC students may endure emotions of isolation and exclusion due to their features. Whether it is overt discrimination or not, in an environment surrounded by white people, minority students begin to espouse this depiction of what beauty is.  

Jannah McFarland (‘22)  has been attending The Frederick Gunn School for four years. When asked how her identity has been impacted by the Eurocentric Beauty Standard, she stated: 

“I don’t really feel comfortable in my skin and my identity. Like, it was never explicit, but just getting compliments with my appearance matched more Eurocentric trends and features and not when I expressed my culture. Even people who weren’t raised in the United States, people within the black community, and even children have reinforced the idea that European features and trends are prettier and more acceptable.”

White supremacy runs rampant through our blood and our consciousness. It lives in the roots of our trees and the air we breathe. In the depths of our minds, we embrace the Eurocentric Beauty Standard. Is it our fault? No, it has been ingrained in our system. Yet, if you fail to recognize it and are willingly ignorant to the perils of minorities: then you are at fault.

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