IF there was anything to put the precariousness and preciousness of life into perspective, a pandemic might be it.

The thought that a deadly virus might make certain industries hold fire for a minute on their relentless onslaught against women’s self-esteem is a naive thought indeed.

Trapped at home for our own safety and yet home is not a safe space to be when social media and the beauty industry might intrude. For men, video conferencing is a useful way to keep in touch with colleagues and family members, and to carry on with some semblance of normal life.

For women, video conferencing is yet another way they might be made to feel bad about their appearance. “Zoom face” joins a long line of idiocy including the likes of underbum, ab crack and Toblerone tunnel.

Never mind that life is short and unpredictable, women are still encouraged – whether subliminally or overtly – to think their age and appearance are vital issues.

Zoom face is a horror sprung from looking at oneself in motion on a screen and realising one looks older than one had thought. It’s fine, though, because this dread affliction can be fixed with Botox. If you can afford it.

This might seem like a stupid subject unworthy of any serious thought (hint: it is!) and yet... it’s being given serious thought on the likes of BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, where a young woman spoke of her experience being injected with Botox to see if it helped her feel more confident on video calls.

Glasgow Times:

Glamour magazine and Grazia both have carried pieces detailing how women feel awful now they have to see themselves from a variety of angles. There have been, also, reports of Botox clinics experiencing a surge in enquiries from women hoping to look better on camera.

I suppose you can’t curate a Zoom business meeting in the same manner you might trout pout your way through a selfie session then stick a filter on it and so there you are, flaws laid bare.

Were this not depressing enough as a standalone curiosity, the latest Girlguiding Girls Attitudes survey finds a third of girls and young women will not post photos online without using a filter or an app to alter their appearance.

Some 34% of those aged 11 to 21 lacked the confidence to post an unaltered photograph online and said the increased amount of time online during the pandemic had exacerbated the pressure they felt to “improve” their appearance.

In that same age group, 39% said they felt upset that they did not and could not look the same in real life as they did in curated online photographs while a heartbreaking 44% said they would refuse to have their picture taken due to a fear that others would criticise them.

Those findings speak to me quite profoundly, as they will to any woman who thinks back to the pain and uncertainty of teenage years and how a good dose of insecurity peppered so many aspects of life.

I’m only surprised that the percentage of girls feeling this deep discomfort with themselves isn’t higher. It is depressingly heartening that the number of girls willing to post unfiltered pictures is so high.

The young women surveyed speak of being bombarded with images of Instagram perfection, knowing their own bodies will never acquiesce to such glossy perfection.

There seems to be a recognition that these images are unrealistic and yet girls still measure themselves alongside them.

Teenage insecurity would be less concerning if there was certainty that we grow out of it. Yet the women targeted for Zoom face are not young people still working themselves out, they are adult women who, you desperately hope, age would have given better things to think of than how their skin looks in a business meeting.

It would be wonderful to write that things become better as years go by. Largely, they do. The internal frustrations with perceived external flaws lessen. But the external pressures go nowhere.

Jeane Freeman last week, as she announced her resignation, spoke of the toxic and misogynistic online culture that affects women in public life. She spoke of criticism on social media targeting her age and her appearance.

There are no breaks for women when it comes to this nonsense; look at Kate Forbes being lambasted by a newspaper columnist for being “shouty” and “like that scary young girl in The Ring”. Quibbles over content aside, a male politician would not be reduced to a “boy”, nor his emphatic articulation reduced to “shouting”.

Women might be better occupied by more serious things than their frown lines but it’s impossible to dismiss concerns as mere vanity when popular culture still prefers its women young, slim, unlined and pretty.

Zoom face is a nonsense but the insecurity driving it is not. I wish I could, now, offer a certain solution but I can’t, other than to say Botox is not a cure, it is a participation in the perpetuation of the malaise.