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Filter features: the phenomenon of “Instagram face”

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About a year ago I turned to my friends and asked, “Has anyone else noticed that every girl on Instagram is morphing into the same person?” At the time, I was referring to ‘influencers’ and models on Instagram undergoing similar surgical enhancements, until one was barely distinguishable from another. It wasn’t until a couple of months ago, when reading an article in The New Yorker, that I found out that this trend had a name: ‘Instagram face’. 

Instagram face is defined as: when one has cosmetic surgery to achieve, “an overly tan skin tone, a South Asian influence with the brows and eye shape, an African-American influence with the lips, a Caucasian influence with the nose, a cheek structure that is predominantly Native American and Middle Eastern.” In short, an appearance which is more ‘Instagram-friendly’. 

If you are unfamiliar with Instagram and the culture surrounding it, this may strike you as ridiculously dystopian. To me, it seems an inevitable side effect of an app upon which, by curating a certain feed and posting the right pictures, people have been able to garner attention and create an audience, completely based on the way they look. However, by creating a platform where users are dependent on engagement and likes, whilst the content they post is just pictures of themselves, Instagram has turned women’s features into marketable assets. And if a certain feature is not performing well, or fitting into an aesthetic, it can be easily changed. Enter: cosmetic surgery. 

Since 2000, cosmetic procedures have increased by 132%, with almost 15.5 million procedures being performed worldwide in 2016. Yet, what is perhaps even more startling is the age at which surgery is now being contemplated. No longer are these procedures something that rich women who are 40+ consider, when they wish to slow down the aging process. Today, 51% of women aged 16-29 would consider getting cosmetic enhancements. According to the results of a poll by WhatClinic.com, 42% of web traffic to lip augmentation pages were from visitors aged 18-24. 

It may seem unfair to pin this shift solely on Instagram, especially when technological advancements since 2000 have made it easier to access cosmetic surgery. Hyaluronic acid fillers, used for lip filler procedures, last between 6-15 months and if injected by a professional, are considered low risk. When pondering this, I spoke to other teenage girls, between 15 and 18 years old, about whether they think Instagram is the reason cosmetic surgery is becoming increasingly normalised. It seemed to be generally acknowledged that Instagram has had a detrimental effect on young women’s self-esteem. 

Two of the girls I spoke to have, at age 17, already seriously contemplated surgery on their nose, lips and body. For them, getting lip fillers in the future was likely. I asked how they thought Instagram has played into this. “It’s definitely made women feel less confident… because it’s so easy to compare yourself”. The fact there are so many “really, really pretty girls who are just famous for being pretty” is disheartening, because, while beauty icons in previous decades were women in magazines, who were obviously edited, girls on Instagram are “everyday people… but gorgeous”.

Then there are the filters. The pressure of checking the ‘Instagram face’ boxes – the high cheekbones, big lips, long lashes shading cat-like eyes- has only been exacerbated by filters. Whilst Instagram recently banned ‘cosmetic surgery filters’, the ban only seemed to apply to filters which explicitly mentioned surgery. Instagram and Snapchat both house dozens of filters which alter face shape, lip size and lash length. The worst ones, according to one girl I spoke with, are those that subtly make such changes: you only notice your face looked different (i.e. better) when the filter is removed. Your natural, normal face seems comparatively disappointing and distorted, leaving you, she said, with the thought “I need surgery to look like that.” Another said that, “filters have influenced how I see myself”, adding that each filter has the potential to bring with it a new insecurity. So, the reaction elicited from filters which clear your complexion? “I need to sort my skin out”. Those which give bigger lips? “They make me want to get lip fillers… I can see how I would look with them.” 

The impact that Instagram has on women does not simply end when you close the app. It is becoming increasingly clear that the culture surrounding it is a big part of the reason cosmetic surgery is working its way into the routine of so many women. But, if you look carefully, you can see that the ‘Instagram face’ is a trend just as malleable and fleeting as any fashion trend or makeup technique. 

In 2018, just three years after revealing she had had lip fillers at age 17 (resulting in Google searches for lip fillers peaking globally, and one London clinic reporting a 70% rise in enquiries), Kylie Jenner informed a fan “I took all my filler out”, apparently favouring a more natural look. So, when ‘Instagram Face’ becomes unfashionable for good, and different features become more desirable, are women expected to go back to their surgeon and ask for their faces to be reassembled?  To have something surgically enhanced or reduced- in a potentially painful or harmful procedure- is not the same thing as changing the technique for doing your eyeliner. The problem with turning women’s features into fads, is that faces cannot be taken off at the end of the day.

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

Health

Monkeypox: Something To Be ‘Concerned About’ Says Biden

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On Sunday, President Joe Biden, in his first public comments on the disease, said that recent cases of monkeypox that have been identified in Europe and the United States were something “to be concerned about. It is a concern in that if it were to spread it would be consequential.”

During the President’s first trip to Asia he was asked about the disease as he spoke to reporters at Osan Air Base in South Korea – “They haven’t told me the level of exposure yet but it is something that everybody should be concerned about,” Biden said. As for the vaccine, Jake Sullivan, Biden’s national security adviser, told reporters that the United States has a supply of “vaccine that is relevant to treating monkeypox. We have vaccines available to be deployed for that purpose,” he said. 

Monkeypox is a virus that originates in wild animals like rodents and primates, and occasionally jumps to people. Most human cases have been in central and west Africa, where the disease is endemic. 

According to CDC’s website, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Monkeypox was first discovered in 1958 when two outbreaks of a pox-like disease occurred in colonies of monkeys kept for research, hence the name ‘monkeypox.’ The first human case of monkeypox was recorded in 1970 in the Democratic Republic of Congo during a period of intensified effort to eliminate smallpox. Since then monkeypox has been reported in humans in other central and western African countries.

A detailed investigation of the outbreak in Europe, including determining who the first patients were, is now critical, says Shabir Mahdi, a professor of vaccinology at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg.

“We need to really understand how this first started and why the virus is now gaining traction. In Africa, there have been very controlled and infrequent outbreaks of monkeypox. If that’s now changing, we really need to understand why.”

WHO reports about 3,000 monkeypox cases a year in Nigeria. Oyewale Tomori, a virologist who formerly headed the Nigerian Academy of Science, said that outbreaks are usually in rural areas when people have close contact with infected rats and squirrels.

Monkeypox typically causes fever, chills, rash and lesions on the face or genitals. Luckily, to date, no one has died in the outbreak. The estimation by WHO suggests that the disease is fatal for up to one in 10 people. The infection typically lasts two to four weeks and usually clears up on its own.

Britain’s Health Security Agency reported 11 new monkeypox cases on Friday, saying “a notable proportion” of the infections in the U.K. and Europe have been in young men with no history of travel to Africa and who were gay, bisexual or had sex with men.

Dr Susan Hopkins, the Chief Medical Adviser for the U.K.’s Health Security Agency stated that “the evidence suggests that there may be transmission of the monkeypox virus in the community, spread by close contact. We are particularly urging men who are gay and bisexual to be aware of any unusual rashes or lesions and to contact a sexual health service without delay.”

Monkeypox spreads when someone comes into close contact with another person, animal or material infected with the virus. The virus can enter the body through broken skin, the respiratory tract or through the eyes, nose and mouth. Monkeypox is not generally considered a sexually transmitted disease, though it can be passed on during sex. Health authorities stress that we are not on the brink of a serious outbreak and the risks to the general public remain very low.

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Health

Oklahoma’s Anti-Abortion Bill: The Newest Development in the United States’ Abortion Controversy

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This Thursday, Oklahoma legislators passed what many have deemed as the most restrictive bill banning abortions in the U.S. The bill prohibits all abortions, except those that are required to save the mother’s life or are the result of rape/incest. The draft law is likely to be ratified by the state governor, Kevin Stitt, and further limit abortion access in the state.

Oklahoma’s measure has garnered national attention for a multitude of reasons. For one, the bill bans abortions immediately after fertilization; this is in stark contrast to pro-abortion laws across the U.S., which permit abortions up to 24 weeks of pregnancy. In September 2021, Texas passed a similarly restrictive abortion law, but even that measure enables abortions up to six weeks of pregnancy. Moreover, the Oklahoma measure comes right after the recent Supreme Court leak draft, which shows that the majority of the court is in favor of overturning the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling. If Roe v. Wade is overturned — which could happen as soon as late June or early July — many U.S. states (including Oklahoma) stand poised to immediately prohibit access to abortions. 
Oklahoma’s bill, along with the SCOTUS leak, highlights how abortion rights in the U.S. are contingent upon the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling and subject to change suddenly. Indeed, the recent discussions surrounding abortion shed light on the American judicial system and how volatile landmark rulings can be. Looking ahead, Americans must see whether or not the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade. If so, abortion laws across the country will change drastically, and Americans will have to familiarize themselves with dozens of new laws and restrictions. If not, the legal systems of the U.S. will have been examined and questioned nonetheless.

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Daily Brief

A Monkeypox Outbreak has Been Detected in Europe, Canada, and Now the US

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  • There is a monkeypox outbreak in Europe and North America, with 8 reported cases in England, 20 in Portugal, a few in Canada, and one case in the US. What’s concerning is that the virus is possibly spreading throughout the community undetected and no one knows exactly where and how people are acquiring the infection.
  • Monkeypox can cause fever, body aches, enlarged lymph nodes, and eventually painful and fluid-filled blisters called “pox” on the face and extremities. Although monkeypox can be deadly, the version of monkeypox currently in England is milder, with a fatality rate of 1%, and can usually resolve in  2-4 weeks. 
  • Person-to-person transmission is very uncommon, as it requires one to have close contact with bodily fluids, such as saliva or pus from lesions, and is more commonly transmitted from animals in Africa and then imported to other countries. However, 7 of the 8 cases in the UK did not involve recent travel to Africa, nor had they had contact with the 1 patient who had traveled to Nigeria. The one patient in Massachusetts hadn’t traveled to any countries that had an outbreak, but had traveled to Canada. 
  • Much evidence is suggesting that the disease is being transmitted through a new route, sexual contact, and particularly men who are gay or bisexual have been warned to be aware of any rashes or lesions, and to contact health service immediatley. 
  • Monkeypox is closely related to smallpox but isn’t as transmissible between people. The smallpox vaccine, which was approved in 2019 by the FDA, is about 85% effective, and after the world eradicated smallpox, countries stopped vaccinating children, and so now there’s a growing population of people who don’t have immunity to monkeypox, which means an outbreak could now involve dozens of people instead of just 1-2 cases. This virus can become more transmissible and there is a possible chance of a global threat, like COVID-19.

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All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Health

Baby Formula Shortage: White House Announces it Will Try to Increase the Supply of Formula, But No Quick Relief in Sight

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After a voluntary recall of several lines of powdered formula in February, the country’s largest manufacturer of infant formula, Abbott Nutrition had to close its plant in Sturgis, Michigan, USA because of concerns about bacterial contamination after four infants became sick – of whom two died. 

The shortage has the potential to impact many children across the country. Only about a quarter of infants born in the U.S. in 2017 were fed exclusively through breastfeeding in their first six months, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported.

On Thursday, The White House said it had taken steps to address the shortage, “including working with other infant formula manufacturers to increase production, expediting the import of infant formula from abroad, and calling on both online and in-store retailers to establish purchasing limits to prevent the possibility of hoarding.” 

The White House announced additional steps it will take to solve the issue of baby formula shortage. Listing Mexico, Chile, Ireland and the Netherlands as the key sources of such imports, the administration said that in the coming days, the Food and Drug Administration will announce that the United States will begin importing more formula from these countries.

The President said that had they been “better mind readers,” they could have acted on the shortage earlier. Margaret Brennan from CBS pressed Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg about the ongoing baby formula shortage on Sunday quoting President Biden’s comments from May 13 – “I know the president said more action is coming, but this has been ongoing for months. There were supply chain issues already, then you have issues with this one plant, Abbott. Whistleblower in September, February the recall. It’s May, why has it taken so long and why did the president on Friday seem to say it was new information to him?” 

Buttegieg replied that America was a “capitalist country” and that “the government does not make baby formula, nor should it. Companies make formula.”

“This issue has been compounded by supply chain challenges, product recalls and historic inflation,” Datasembly CEO Ben Reich said in a statement. 

White House says they’re unsure when parents could see relief. For the past three months, Chloe Banks and her husband have been struggling to buy formula for their 11-month-old son, Teddy. “It’s incredibly stressful,” she told NPR. “It’s endless, where you don’t know where your next can of formula is going to come from.”

Perhaps, the benefits of breastfeeding need to be encouraged – albeit it’s a mother’s personal choice to do so, and in many cases formula remains the only option to feed the baby, but the long-term health benefits must be emphasized for those that are capable. The government should incentivize breastfeeding, especially at the current moment whilst facing a national shortage crisis on baby formula. 

“Breastfeeding provides unmatched health benefits for babies and mothers. It is the clinical gold standard for infant feeding and nutrition, with breast milk uniquely tailored to meet the health needs of a growing baby. We must do more to create supportive and safe environments for mothers who choose to breastfeed.”

Dr. Ruth Petersen, director of CDC’s Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity –

While Spain allows women medical leave who experience severe menstrual pain, in the United States women face a lot of stress returning back to work due to short-term maternity leave. The added burden on new mothers to go back into the workforce without fully bonding with their baby and the lack of healing from postpartum disorders, makes for a very regressive society – whereas European countries offer long-term maternity leave with medical benefits and mental health support. This shows how the American government is light years behind Europe’s maternity care. If a European country can progress into understanding the many challenges women face due to menstrual pain, then surely, the American government can perhaps get out of its capitalist mindset and start looking into more holistic approaches in bringing change to women’s health. 

Alas, that might take another era to resolve as right now we’re unfortunately trying to retrieve baby formula to help our babies survive.

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Daily Brief

North Korea Utilizes Military During Covid-19 Outbreak

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  • A Covid wave is hitting North Korea, with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un calling on the military to respond to the country’s first outbreak.
  • There are more than one million cases reported and the death toll at 50, but many believe the true number to be much greater.
  • Kim criticized public health officials for “irresponsible work” and poor “organizing and executing,” and ordered the military to ensure the adequate supply of medicines in pharmacies after visiting pharmacies in the capital and commenting on their short supply.
  • North Korea has a large unvaccinated population and lacks adequate testing equipment, and has also rejected vaccines offered by the U.N.-backed Covax distribution program, leading to dire consequences if the virus is not slowed.
  • South Korea and China have offered to provide resources and medical help, but it is unclear whether the offer will be accepted.

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Health

Spain’s New Law to Allow Medical Leave for Women with Severe Menstrual Pain

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As a step in the right direction for women’s rights, Spain has proposed new legislation that would allow women with severe menstrual pain to take 3 – 5 days of medical leave each month. The bill is not intended to benefit women with mild menstrual symptoms and a doctor’s note is required to receive the medical leave days. If the bill is approved, Spain would become the first European country to offer menstrual leave. 

The Spanish government’s move towards women’s health reform contrasts starkly with current “War on Abortion” rhetoric in the US. Compared to European countries, many of which allow at least 1 year of maternity leave, average maternity leave in the United States is only 12 unpaid weeks for both the birth of a child and postpartum health and childcare. Framed against widespread disregard for women’s health in several leading nations, Spain’s take on women’s menstrual and reproductive care is a breath of fresh air which could encourage more countries to improve societal, economic, and political systems surrounding women’s health. 

This proposal is part of a much wider set of reforms surrounding reproductive health in Spain. Other measures in the reforms include abolishing the “tampon tax” and allowing girls aged 16 – 17 to have an abortion without permission from their parents. 

Politicians have warned that the draft bill, which was leaked to the media, has not yet been completed. News reports have projected that the reforms will be presented to the Spanish government’s cabinet early next week. 

Spain’s approach to treating menstruation as a health condition benefits women by opening the door to wider reforms in women’s health. If menstruation is categorized as a personal issue or private matter to be handled solely by women, the public will remain ill-informed of women’s health needs and women will remain subjected to biased economic, medical, and societal treatment. Taxing necessary hygiene products such as tampons and pads puts a strain on poor households and obstructs widespread availability and use of such health commodities. Similarly, restricting abortion forces women to turn to unsafe abortion methods rather than actually decreasing abortion rates. It is both unethical and unfair to continue ignoring women’s health needs and expecting women to work through menstrual pain while restricting female bodily autonomy through political means. Laws should encourage freedom and make life easier for all citizens rather than oppressing sections of society and creating economic benefit from health conditions like menstruation and Spain’s reform laws are definitely a step in the right direction to make this change.

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

Saira Shah
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Saira is a Muslim American with a passion for writing, economics, and justice.  With a background as a UC Berkeley graduate with a bachelors in economics allows her to quantitatively analyze critical developments from around the globe as well as their long term impacts on financial systems and social welfare. She is dedicated to reporting in an investigative, honest and compassionate manner to give voice to those who need it most.

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