Sunday, February 27, 2011

Imagining (Beyond) the "Thin" Beauty Ideal

Last week was Eating Disorder Awareness Week, and I wanted to honor that important issue on my blog. 

In my "Imagining (Beyond) the Body" course, we have been talking about society's construction of perfection and the pressures to live up to the thin beauty ideal that only 5% of the population can ever achieve normally. For example, have you ever considered why advertisements geared towards women sell "bite-sized" pieces? Think about it. Women cannot indulge by eating an actual bar of candy because they would never want to become "fat" or "undesirable." Advertisers perpetuate the idea that eating is indulgent (only for women) and cannot be a source of enjoyment because women should always be fretting about their weight. For more information, you can consult Susan Bordo's Unbearable Weight: Feminism, Western Culture, and the Body and Naomi Wolf's The Beauty Myth.

Also, my friend Hillary sent me a great article about "fully embracing the joy of good food" without a gender stereotype:

The author references a commercial for the "Skinny" Pepsi can. I found an ad that I wanted to share. Take a look:

Body image has been a topic of interest for me over the last few years. Here's an excerpt from a paper I wrote last year:

Nineteen years of being subjected to the thin, voluptuous, young, and fit beauty ideal have taught me that it is never enough to be who I am, and I have spent the last few years breaking out of that body image prison. As an acne-ridden insecure teenager, I longed to be those teens on television with perfect looks and petty drama, but as a wiser college student, I have learned it is okay to like myself the way I am. When I look in the mirror, I see myself as beautiful because of my independence, compassion, and intelligence, yet I constantly feel the pressure to dislike something about myself.

My friends tear their bodies and self-esteem down, and I find those insecurities seeping into my self-confidence, slowly chipping away at it. After conversations with them, I wonder: Should I have had that piece of cake or should I be going to the gym once a day like them? It reminds me of a scene in Mean Girls where the “mean girls” are standing in front of a mirror pointing out their body flaws, and the newcomer Cady played by Lindsay Lohan feels that she needs to point out a few and play along. During those moments of self-doubt, I feel immense pressure to look a certain way, and it hits me how much strength it takes to fight those thoughts and see myself as the beautiful person I am. The question is how to build that strength in young girls who are overexposed to a body type only five percent of the female population in our society has (223). 

My Quest for Authenticity

As I get older the more difficult it becomes to stay true to who I am. In my Child Development course, we learned that babies always show their "true" emotions. When they are crying, they are sad, and when they are smiling, they are happy, yet as they become older they learn how they should act in certain situations and begin to modify their behaviors based on other people's perceptions. I think it's sad that we have to do so much pretending in our interactions with others. We live in a world that tells us that fake is beautiful. Plastic surgery, makeup and other enhancements are the only ways to "snag a man." The other day as I was walking back to my dorm I passed two girls and two boys in "going out clothes" laughing and giggling. The girls were being incredibly fake, and it just made me sad and angry that those girls are what men want. But, what about being a genuine person? Shouldn't that matter more than having a perfect appearance that's going to fade eventually? I choose to believe that being authentic and real is more valuable, and I'm on a quest to live those words in practice.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Female, Brunette... Frustrated!

This week I attended a lecture on the transformation of relationship culture from "boy meets girl and asks her out on a date" to "let's meet at a party, hookup and never see each other again." The speaker offered an alternative relationship pathway built on mutual respect, communication, and intimacy where two people get to know each other at their own pace and openly discuss their needs. I loved the talk because it was so relatable and relevant to the conversations I have with my friends all of the time.

Technology has further complicated my relationship confusion. I’m so tired of meeting someone and having my hopes crushed in one click to view their facebook info. That leads to my topic for this post… “Like a Little.” It’s a website where students can post anonymously about some cute guy or girl they viewed across the quad but were too afraid to speak with face to face.

It seems harmless enough, yet my recent visit to the website had me a little worried. A poster wrote something offensive about buying some girl plan b and hoping to see her again. While my friends told me it was probably a joke, I can’t stop thinking about how NOT funny that comment is. It was disrespectful to this young woman, and that is a personal discussion between two people.

It worries me because technology has created another way to remove face-to-face contact. Call me a romantic, but I enjoy engaging in face-to-face conversations. Also, this campus is small, and everyone already knows each other’s business. “Like a little” seems to just be adding to that problem. What happened to simply dating and seeing where it goes?

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Gender Neutral Shoes?

On Sunday, I spent the day with my little sister from the Big Brothers, Big Sisters program at Denison. She is a wonderful, wise, hip young lady. While we were shopping for sneakers, she made an astute observation: “She always buys boys’ shoes because they don’t make cool shoes for girls.” When I asked her why she thought that, she answered, “I guess more girls just like pink and glitter.” Designs for shoes fall into social constructions of what is female and male. A feminine shoe is pink and glittery while a masculine shoe is as my little put it “cooler.” There are more options and better designs for men. This is just one example of how conceptions of gender influence all aspects of life. Even something small such as shoe design and color contributes to gender inequality. This needs to be changed! Maybe my little will start her own company designing cool shoes…