It’s hard for me to think of a time in my life, at least since the age of about eight, when I wasn’t conscious of my body. I never felt at ease with it and even when I was a healthy size and weight I was always dissecting it and thinking, “I wish my thighs were a bit slimmer or my arms more toned.” This is the experience of many women (if not all women in western societies). It seems that from childhood girls are taught to feel unhappy with their bodies and they try to search for “perfection”, but is that ever achievable or even desirable? I love people to be unique and it’s the quirks and imperfections which we can become most fond of.
The Guardian article pointed out that:
Liposuction is booming - and the vast majority of patients are women. What makes them submit to such a violent procedure - especially when it removes only a few pounds of fat?
They do it to try and achieve so called “perfection”. As a surgeon said in the Guardian article:
“If, after dieting and exercise, you haven't achieved what you wanted, and you have some stubborn areas of fat, then you would be a good candidate for liposuction." The maximum amount of fat it is possible to lose from a specific area would be 2-2.5 kg, he adds.
Ironically I’ve spent a lot of my working life around the fashion and media industries. My personal experience can back up the research (and common sense) that tells us that these industries have a lot to answer for in encouraging poor body image among women (especially the young).
So, for instance, late last year, the Mail on Sunday's You magazine ran a survey in which women were asked to assess which part of their body they liked least out of their breasts, thighs, face/neck, bottom, tummy, upper arms, and legs. (The tummy, that long-time foe, romped home with 45.2%.)…
This tendency to pick ourselves apart, put each part of our bodies under the microscope, has been encouraged by celebrity magazines. As a culture, there is plenty of evidence that our body obsessions are making us less and less healthy, with both obesity and eating disorders at an all-time high. And still, in the midst of these two extremes, we remain obsessed with the idea that the human body is perfectible.
Do all cultures seek an ideal of femininity? Why do we as females conform and allow these trends to exist?
In advertising we see that any "imperfections" in the images are airbrushed out. Blemishes, scars, and slight bulges of fat are all erased. What is it in our society that makes us want to rub out imperfections and difference? This sad situation alienates people, and those who may already suffer from low self esteem can be affected so badly that they develop eating disorders and depression.
Maia at Capitalism bad: tree pretty has an interesting piece on body image and hating your body. It seems to me that New Zealand as a society finds it particularly hard to tolerate people who don't fit the mould. Is this one of the reasons why we suffer from one of the world's worst youth suicide rates? Feelings about body are closely related to a woman's sense of self; the body is perceived as acceptable or unacceptable, providing a foundation for self-concept women trying to look their best, it is also a struggle for control, acceptance and success.
I don’t think that we should keep saying it’s ok to be fat when we aren’t happy with it ourselves. I don't buy into what some feminists say that we have to be happy with being fat and by continually saying we are happy with our bodies we will somehow suddenly accept our bodies. I can say I am not happy with my body. I am happy with who I am as a person. I'm not searching for "perfection" in my body just health, so I will continue to loose some weight but I don't have a desire to be skinny or "perfect". I would also like to see women being seen as people and not judged by the way they look.
It is unhealthy to be obese. This is a fact and I don't think we should be afraid to acknowledge that. But, I still disagree with the way that our society makes people feel about themselves and their bodies. What I think we should talk about is the obsession with looking for “perfection” and objectifying and dissecting our bodies. And, I'm worried about women feeling depressed when they can’t live up to an unrealistic body image projected by our society. I’m angry at a media that makes women feel so bad and that motivates them to put their bodies through barbaric surgery so that they can look like Barbie dolls!
We need to shift our society away from the obsession with the material, external, individualised, capitalist model. We need to find ways to make people feel accepted for who they are and connected to their community and wider society. We need to look to more holistic models of being and less dissected and alienated ways of living.
I'm no expert on this topic. I just read an article, got angry at yet more evidence of the insanity of cosmetic surgery and our materialistic society and wrote a blog post about it! Would like to hear other people's ideas on body image + our society + feminism....
Labels: Body Image