If beauty is only skin deep, it is becoming an increasingly serious issue for teenage girls nonetheless.
According to a survey released yesterday, Taiwanese teenage girls are relatively sensitive about their appearance, with nearly half having low self-esteem and up to 40 percent saying they would like to have plastic surgery.
The survey was conducted by the Dove Self Esteem Fund (part of the Unilever corporation, which markets Dove cosmetics and toiletries) as a prelude to a "self-esteem building" project for teenage girls to be launched next month under the supervision of the Teacher Chang Foundation, a local counseling organization.
About 5,700 women and girls worldwide were interviewed for the survey, 300 of whom were Taiwanese girls.
The survey found that all of the Taiwanese interviewees wanted to be "taller and skinnier" like models on TV. The dominant influence on girls, however, was said to come from not the media but mothers, teachers and peer groups, who inculcate a frequently inflexible standard of beauty.
Taiwanese respondents aged between 11 and 14 said that looking "pretty" would influence their peer relationships, school grades and even their teachers' attitudes toward them.
"Appearance is very important. An ugly girl in my class is bullied by others. Our teachers also treat her badly. She has lots of pimples, big front teeth and she wears big glasses," one teenager was quoted as saying in an interview with the researchers.
Two percent of Taiwanese girls said they had tried cosmetic surgery to make themselves look prettier. In contrast, no teenage Korean girls were reported to have had operations, despite South Korea having a reputation for higher rates of cosmetic surgery.
Taiwanese girls on average begin worrying about how they look at 14, the survey said, adding that mothers and peers have the biggest influence on their perception of self and beauty.
Chen Kuan-yu (
"Beauty is important, but beauty is a diverse concept. Little girls shouldn't lose their confidence because they don't fit a single profile of beauty," said Chang Te-chung (張德聰), president of the Mental Health Association.
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