Why do girls compete with each other about who is the prettiest?
The question of competition and appearance reminded me of an essay by Julie Yoo, a Korean-American writer who has spent time documenting the beauty phenomena in South Korean, an area that is heavily influenced by American popular culture. According to her, South Koreans idealize big eyes, a pale clean complexion, a tall slim stature, and petite facial features (2006). It probably doesn't come as a surprise that this disproportionately impacts Korean women.
South Korean men and women are not only forthright about the fact that beauty matters, they're forthright about why it matters. It's widely believed among men and women that good looks increase the odds of landing a better-looking partner and subsequently having better-looking children (Yoo, 2006). Good looks are also believed to result in a more fulfilling lifestyle and more financially gratifying and powerful jobs like those in business and banking sectors (Yoo, 2006).