November 7, 2009

Women and the absurd quest to be perfect

Unlike a lot of women, I have never has an eating disorder. I have never stepped foot inside a gymnasium, never been on the lemon detox diet and everything I know about calories, I learnt from The Biggest Loser. 

Don't get me wrong, I am no stick-figure insect. 

I am a size 12, which basically means that for my height, I am in the healthy weight range, but in terms of how the advertising industry portrays women, I should be booked in for a gastric bypass. 

As women, we have all, at one time or another, felt the pressure to be better, skinnier, more perfect versions of ourselves. We have all glared intensely into the mirror, recoiled at a specific body part and tried with all the power of a Jedi mind trick to vanquish the imperfection away. 

The advertising industry needs us to aspire to these notions of perfection

They need us to despise our own bodies. They want us to want to look like the anorexic models in the commercials, like the airbrushed waifs in the glossy magazines, because thats how they seductively lure us in, thats how they secure our dollar. 

The irony here is that we are not aspiring to images of 'real women' but to images of 12 year old bodies that have been digitally enhanced. So when you think about it, what women everywhere are aspiring to, does not actually exist. 

In reality, that land where most of us live, not one of us is perfect. And so, instead of trying to find ways to change those things about our bodies that we feel so badly about, we need to find ways to accept them. We need to find ways to develop a positive body image and feel absolutely comfortable in our own skin. 

When it comes to beautiful women, there is nothing sexier than a real woman who is comfortable in her own skin. Most men will tell you that it is confidence that attracts them to a woman and not the size of her thighs or her bottom. It is this type of rationale that stops me from wasting hours on the treadmill after devouring a tasty burger, but it is the parasitical advertising industry that keeps me thinking that I should.

How long has this been going on ladies? And isn't it time that we stopped pressuring ourselves to look like the 12 year old girls? I don't know about you but I think that aspiration is kind of creepy. 

One example of a confident, sexy, full figured woman is Grey's Anatomy actress Sara RamirezIn this interview, Getting over myself: I'm a size 12 in a size 0 TownSara talks about being the largest woman at auditions and how she achieved a positive body image in Hollywood. I think she is smoking hot.

This year, Sarah Murdoch appeared on the cover of The Australian Women's Weekly, minus the digital enhancement. The former model and current host of Australia's next top model said she posed for the cover wrinkles and all, 'because women should be able to embrace the beauty of ageing'. 
However, at a media conference, where Sarah was presented with a life-size replica of the cover, she became increasingly uncomfortable and at one point used her entire body to shield the image from reporters (see link above). 

The whole thing reminded me of an episode of How to look good naked, the only difference being that Carson Kressley was not there to lend his love and support. But hang on a minute. Is it possible that someone as confident and gorgeous as our Sarah Murdoch - a supermodel no less, could feel insecure about a few wrinkles around her eyes?  Sadly the answer is yes. 
While the photo shoot was a step in the right direction, the media conference proved that we have a long way to go before we can restore a positive body image for women - supermodels included.  

One of my favourite ladies - Myf Warhurst has launched a column in The Age. In her debut column, Myf talks about what it feels like to be referred to as 'the wide one' on TV. Another example of the media's obsession with women being thin. 

I am sure you all heard about the David Letterman black-mail scandal in which Dave announced on his show, that he had cheated on his long-term partner with a member of his staff. 
This article from Vanity Fair, was written by Nell Scovell, one of the few women ever to write for the Letterman show. I have always liked Letterman, but in this article, Scovell sheds light on the inner workings of the boys club and remembers a hostile, sexually charged atmosphere.  

This piece of trash entitled,Nice dress, shame about the hairy armpits appeared in The Daily Mail. It really has to be seen to be believed. As if women don't have enough crap to think about. 

In January 2007, a slim, attractive young woman died after having liposuction surgery on her buttocks and thighs. Lauren James was only 26 when she went under the knife at the Caufield Cosmetic and Plastic Surgery centre in Melbourne. Her shocking death should serve as a chilling reminder about the absurd pursuit of body perfection. 

This week, Portia De Rossi released a memoir entitled, Unbearable Lightness, about her anorexia. De Rossi first developed an eating disorder, age 12, when the modelling agency accused her bottom of being too big. This article in the L.A times on the book's release is excellent. 

We live in a culture where children as young as six have a negative body image-where one in three women is on a diet at any given time. While we cannot change the insidious nature of advertising, we can begin by changing the way we see ourselves. 
The truth is that the majority of us will never look like Kate Moss or Cindy Crawford, no matter what we wear or how often we work out. 

Personally I would rather be remembered for virtues such as kindness and empathy and for attributes such as intelligence, humour and wit rather than the size of my buttocks, waist and thighs. I accept who I am, flaws and all, and while I do have days when I feel fat and unattractive, I try hard to remind myself that as a woman, I too, have been brainwashed by the media for no less than 38 years! 

And then, as a duty to myself and as a role model for my daughter, I reclaim my power and change the mantra to more positive, accepting, loving affirmations. Yes I am flawed, but I accept who I am and I love who I am, big bum and all! 

Try saying it ladies, at least three times a day, or write it all over your body..... 

I really do love my own body.....My body is beautiful....... I am beautiful. 

Teach it to your daughters when they are young, teach them to reclaim their own bodies, to build their own self worth, before the damage is done. 

It's amazing how good that affirmation can make you feel on a deep core level. Studies have shown that after years of self loathing and body negativity, the damage has impacted our nerves and cells, as well as our thoughts and brain matter. As women, it is time to reclaim our power from the advertising industry and to start empowering ourselves.  Beauty fades, and as a culture, our obsession with it leaves a lot to be desired.  


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Anonymous said...

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teejayhealey said...

Honest and thoughtful