Jul 6, 2011

Do I Look Fat In This?

Its funny (not funny haha, but youknow) how girls everywhere have some variant of a body image issue. Too fat. Too thin. Too dark. Too pale. Big ass. Small boobs. You know the drill.

Country specific culture usually determines the dominant body image issue women usually subscribe to. But the overall problem of a negative body image is a universal phenomenon I’ve noticed. The fashion industry, popular culture and women themselves, form the terrible triad influencing women about an idealised (probably non-existent) body type that women should aspire to.

Australian women (like most women from Westernised societies) are chiefly concerned with weight issues and fat talk. Secondary issues of course include aspirations for the perfect breasts, the perfect face or the perfect tan.

Best market for: Anything that promises weight loss without any hard work. Not surprising that Jenny Craig started here. Plastic surgery too is booming. 

A common matrimonial ad for a bride in India includes “fair/ slim/ convent educated”. Fair of course really means less dark than the next best applicant. It’s not a post-colonial hangover like some people seem to think. Indians don’t want to be white as in Caucasian. They want to be fair-skinned like many North Indians are.  In ancient times, the North Indians were the ruling upper class who dominated the darker-skinned Indians. The definition of beautiful was an upper class woman so obviously an ordinary woman wanted to look like her fair-skinned counterpart. The upper class has gone but the obsession with fair skin is going nowhere.

Weight related negativity is also gaining increasing amounts of traction.

Best market for: Fairness creams. Quick fix weight loss is also a burgeoning market.

Have you heard of medical tourism? Latin American countries like Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia, Mexico and a few others are hotspots for cosmetic surgery tourism. Colombian women are known for their love of cosmetic surgery. Think there’s a body image issue hidden there somewhere?

Best market for: Cosmetic surgery. Duh.  

Even Chinese women of yore weren’t free of the guilt. Women with large feet were unacceptable because they weren’t feminine. Cue foot-binding practices. Cruel and painful yes. But we women, we do anything for fashion and to look like the “ideal” woman who isn’t.

Best market for: Feminine footwear – especially size 5 and under.

And then are teenage girls. They are being bombarded by a variety of sources that tell them what “perfect” is. When an adult woman struggles with societal pressure on how she should look; what chance does a teenage girl have of coming out unscathed? A teenage girl worries about every part of her body and that is being fully exploited of course.

Best market for: Guilt tripping.

If you’re expecting a lecture on how “society” needs to stop making it so hard for women to be the way they are – it’s not happening. Society is made up you and me.

*This post is part of the NaBloPoMo challenge for July 2011.


Jennifer Doherty said...

I'm not 100% sure that body image hangups are universal, because I'm reluctant to say that about anything at all...But they are certainly pervasive, and certainly a big issue in Australia.  I've been through them myself.

I was a skinny teenager.  It wasn't until I was in my late teens that I stopped growing up and started growing out.  My sis, who has been fat for much longer than me, calls me a fatty-come-lately.  But I still remember sitting in the changing rooms at the school pool, and overhearing another girl tell a group of girls in an authoritative voice, "If your upper thighs touch, that means you're fat."  I looked down at my thighs, which had touched for as long as I could remember.  I was a size 10 and 15 years old and had recently been told by a boy that my legs were my best feature.  But I still, at that moment, hated my thighs.

I've been through a very rollercoaster, love-hate relationship with my body.  Through discovering the Fat Acceptance community, I finally feel I am in a place now where I'm comfortable in my body, where I'm happy to treat it well and to give it what it wants, where I'm comfortable eating biscuits at my desk at work, where I can proudly keep a mug with the caption "A balanced diet is a piece of cake in each hand" on my desk.  That doesn't mean I don't still have bad days.  That doesn't mean I don't still have days where I feel like my body is letting me down.  What it does mean is that I can accept those feelings, and move on, and love my body even more tomorrow.

It really deeply saddens me that people (mostly women, but not exclusively) feel the need to torture themselves in the name of beauty.

R.Bit said...

wow that upper thigh comment reminds me of how conscious I used to be about my thighs too for the same reason!