Dubai: Three UAE students have launched a magazine ‘Newsstand’, aimed at defying stereotypical beauty standards portrayed by mass media.
Shuchita Bahl, a Grade 12 student at the IB2 GEMS Modern Academy, founder and photographer of the Newsstand magazine, started it along with two of her friends, also from the same grade of the school – Anoushka Kapur, writer and layout creator and Kevin Philip, graphic designer.
In an interview with Gulf News, Bahl said: “This initiative aims to defy the stereotypical beauty standards portrayed by mass media — the notion that all that there is to a woman is her looks and only conventionally ‘beautiful’ women deserve to be on the cover page of a magazine.”
Launching the project
A simple idea of promoting self-love brought about an entire initiative. Bahl teamed up with her friends from the school, all IB2 students from GEMS Modern Academy to get the magazine rolling. “The two-month long project involved photoshoots, interviews of the girls by Shuchita, editing transcripts and layout creation by Anoushka and graphic designing of the covers by Kevin. Once we got the covers ready, Anoushka worked on creating a virtual exhibition for the launch of these cover shoots which is now open for all.”
Women should not be defined for their looks
The 18-year-old student said a woman should not be defined by her looks. “There is so much more to her, like her talents and her ambitions, which makes her the girl she is today and the woman she will turn into tomorrow. Too fat, too thin, too short, too tall, too fair, too dusky; social standards imply that beauty lies in being anything but you! The incessant expectation to look ‘beautiful’ has led to many women facing serious mental health issues: low self-esteem, lack of confidence, depression and anxiety being some common ones.”
Such disparities in ideals of beauty and worth often reflect in the roles women and men are expected to fulfill in a given society, said Bahl. “Women have been conditioned to believe the unrealistic standards of beauty set by society, and their self-worth is so very often decided by others’ perception of them.”
But thanks to Newsstand, the GEMS students are trying to defy this notion by featuring girls across Dubai with various talents. “From karate to dancing, these girls know no boundaries and through this platform, they are all out to make a difference to the society,” she said.
Bahl has partnered with Girl Up GMA, a club focused on women empowerment for her Newsstand project.
Sarup said: “It’s high time we re-evaluate what customers see on our supermarket and library shelves. Periodicals aimed at the female demographic continue to perpetuate stereotypes about women and set an unrealistic beauty standard through photo editing and only featuring celebrities like actresses or models. As fashion and lifestyle magazines, it is understandable that the prime focus might be beauty. However, when you have social reach as big as the names mentioned in this exhibition have, it’s imperative that you use your platform wisely. There is more to girls than just fashion and beauty - but how can we knock down this stereotype when that is the image reflected What are our girls growing up reading? What is being ingrained in their minds? Give our girls inspiring stories to read about and tips on how to succeed. Give them women of all shapes and sizes, in all their natural glory, to see themselves in. Give our girls more.”
Sarup said: “It’s very easy to lose confidence in today’s world. With the advent of social media came forth a lifestyle of comparison, where we’re constantly aware that there is someone prettier, smarter and better than us. Girls and women face this issue a lot — particularly when it comes to their appearance. We launched this project to help girls see how great they are and to help combat issues of low self-esteem and body negativity. Girls - you are beautiful. You are enough. You’re the stars of this initiative and of your own life. Love yourself.”
Phillip explained : “As we have completed our first exhibition with girls of ages 15-17, I am now working on organizing a second exhibition with older women — working mothers, teachers, etc.
“We have tried our best at shedding light on some of these important issues in our society, and we hope that everyone understands the gravity of these issues and their impact on a larger scale. The concept of beauty as portrayed in mass media is not one that is accurate or inclusive, and it’s time we #ChangeOurNewsstands.”