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An epidemic of beauty sickness

Renee Engeln | TEDxUConn

Little girls grow up hearing both implicit and explicit messages suggesting that the most important attribute they can strive for is beauty. A media culture that focuses on denigrating women who fail to meet the beauty standard turns women against women and sends men the message that evaluative commentary on appearance is fair game. The chronic focus on beauty directs cognitive, financial, and emotional resources away from other more important goals. Dr. Engeln considers whether there is hope for treating the epidemic of beauty sickness and what it might be like to live in a world where women spend less time in front of the mirror and more time changing the world.

Dr. Engeln is a psychologist and body image researcher at Northwestern University, where she is a Charles Deering McCormick Distinguished University Lecturer. Dr. Engeln’s research focuses on issues surrounding women’s body images, with a particular emphasis on cultural practices that create or enforce the frequently contentious relationship women have with their bodies. She received her doctorate in social psychology from Loyola University Chicago in 2004 and a masters in clinical psychology from Miami University in 1999.