Eugenie: ‘You can show people your scars’

Skin deep: Princess Eugenie has a scar on her back from surgery she had when she was 12.

Has Princess Eugenie redefined beauty? The royal bride has been praised for showing off her scar with a plunging bridal gown. She hopes her body positive message will inspire others too.

“You can change the way beauty is.”

These are Princess Eugenie’s lasting and uplifting words from her royal wedding on Friday, which balanced ancient tradition with an urgent social message.

It was all about Eugenie’s dress. Embroidered with the York Rose, it gestured to her royal family name which dates back over 600 years. But it was the gown’s plunging back which was truly symbolic.

It exposed a long thin scar: the result of an operation she underwent when she was a child to treat scoliosis — a condition which causes the spine to bend to one side. Surgeons inserted eight-inch titanium rods to straighten her spine, and she was briefly confined to a wheelchair.

But rather than hiding the scar, she chose to show it off: “it’s a lovely way to honour the people who looked after me and a way of standing up for young people who also go through this,” she said.

The Princess also hoped that her actions can address society’s unrealistic beauty standards: “you can show people your scars,” she insists.

From acne to surgical incisions and burns: scars come in many different shapes and sizes, and the impact they have is more than physical.

A 2013 study described how scars can cause “social and psychological distress”. Often, those with scars fear a negative response from others which “may cause timidity, reclusion, and in extreme cases, social phobia,” the paper claims.

Princess Eugenie’s attempt to fight this phobia was widely celebrated. “An important message to young girls and boys,” declared The Telegraph’s Danielle Sheridan. “With the rise of Instagram and social media, children have never been under so much pressure to look perfect. But they should be taught to wear their scars proudly.”

Author and activist Katie Piper also praised the Princess: “this is quite a breakthrough and refreshing in an edited world,” she wrote. “[Eugenie] has helped so many people.”

Piper, the victim of a horrific acid attack, is also changing how scars are perceived with her appearance on this year’s Strictly Come Dancing.

Has Princess Eugenie redefined beauty?

Eu-genius

Of course, some say. With Instagram filters and airbrushed adverts, modern culture pressures young people to subscribe to unattainable beauty ideals. Princess Eugenie is saying the opposite: we must celebrate ourselves, no matter how we look. In fact, it is our “imperfections” that make us who we are.

Not necessarily, others respond. The Princess is admirable, but there is a long way to go. Sadly, many people will go out today and be judged for their appearance, weight or skin colour. Furthermore, the bridal tradition itself still evokes old-fashioned and constricting ideas. Beauty needs a more radical rethink.

You Decide

  1. Has Princess Eugenie redefined beauty?
  2. Do we care too much about royal weddings?

Activities

  1. Using your own words, define the term “beauty”. As a class, discuss the definitions that you come up with. How are they similar or different? As a group, can you agree on a definition that is satisfactory for everyone?
  2. Do some research into the history of royal weddings — pick three to focus on from different time periods. How were each of the weddings different? Did they reflect themes that were important to the society of the time? Do you think they will change much in the future?

Some People Say...

“Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.”

Confucius

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
The wedding of Princess Eugenie and Jack Brooksbank was broadcast live on ITV and was watched by 3.9 million viewers — trebling the channel’s usual audience for the time slot. The wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle was watched by 11.5 million people, while Kate Middleton and Prince William’s nuptials attracted an audience of 26 million.
What do we not know?
There are not precise figures for the number of people who suffer from scarring. However, extensive anecdotal evidence suggests that the emotional and psychological impact of scars can be considerable. Again, it is impossible to measure the precise impact that Eugenie’s statements will make, however the response in the papers and on social media has been overwhelmingly positive.

Word Watch

Royal wedding
Princess Eugenie of York is the granddaughter of Queen Elizabeth II and ninth in line to the throne. She married Jack Brooksbank, a wine merchant and former nightclub manager.
Dress
Designed by Peter Pilotto and Christopher De Vos of British-based label Peter Pilotto.
Family name
The York Rose is the symbol of the House of York. Princess Eugenie’s father is Prince Andrew, Duke of York. The title dates back to 1385.
Condition
It most often develops in children between the ages of 10 and 15. Three to four children in 1,000 require specialist treatment.
Study
“Psychological impact of scars,” by Katlein França and published by Nova Science Publishers.
Social phobia
Otherwise known as social anxiety disorder. It is characterised by anxiety, fear and excessive self-consciousness in social situations.

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