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). 

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