Monday, March 17, 2014

Women, media, and the "thigh gap" (by anon)

One thing in today's society that I'm getting extremely fed up with is emphasis on bodies - particularly women's bodies. Women, although once considered property, have earned the status of "individual person" through the power of feminism. Feminism, in short, is the idea that women are free to pursue whatever life they want and are no longer restricted to filling particular societal roles as previously defined by men. Sadly, although I would like to believe that this is how things really are - that women really are free - I continue to see women being objectified and valued not for their inner beauty, intellect, hard work, or heart, but for the aesthetic quality of their bodies.

Surely, I am focusing on a sliver of society - which is the part of society that creates standards or models for what women are supposed to look like, which are found in popular magazines, television series, movies, advertisements, and so on. I do not want to ignore the large number of women in this country who are past all of this - I know there are plenty of women who don't feel obligated to adhere to these kinds of standards and who appreciate themselves, and are equally appreciated by others in society, for WHO they are - not what their bodies are. With that said, there are still a LOT of women, particularly young women, who are being greatly influenced by this sliver of society that I'm talking about, and the effects are quite damaging.

To clarify, I myself identify as a woman. When I am faced with media that shows women as thin, large breasted, and perfectly clear skinned, I try to reason to myself that these images are not realistic. Often pictures are photo-shopped or women on TV are loaded with make up. Also, I try to remind myself that an aesthetically pleasing outward appearance has nothing to do with genuine human goodness, and it is especially not required for human goodness. However, severing the link between body image and self-worth is much easier said than done, and I think this is especially so for a woman.

Recently, I saw a youtube video in which a woman (tall, thin, well-endowed, with a "thigh-gap") explained that every woman, regardless of genetics, is capable of achieving a thigh-gap and that the thigh-gap is actually what mother nature intended, and that it was indicative of a high level of good health and fitness. I was both angry and sad after watching this video. For one, the message that a thigh-gap is only what mother nature intended, and is possible despite any genetic predispositions, is entirely unverified/unproven, and is therefore inappropriate coming from someone who supposedly is out to "help" women. And two, prompting women to aspire to have their thighs not touch when their feet are together, especially while under the guise of promoting general health and fitness, is disgusting and infuriating.

The point I am trying to make here is that it's good to advocate health and physical fitness, but when the motivation is the need for a preferred outward appearance as defined by society, there emerges a problem. Exercise and healthy eating are to be enjoyed and freely integrated into one's lifestyle, not forced or regimented for the purposes of obtaining a perfect, aesthetically pleasing body. From my experience, falling short of the goal of achieving a specific kind of body (which supposedly every woman should have according to most social media) usually results in feelings of guilt, anger, frustration, depression, anxiety, insecurity, and/or hopelessness.

What I'd like to see promoted, and what I think should permeate society is the idea of a healthy mind which research shows can be obtained through a healthy diet and regular physical exercise. Positive bodily changes will follow from this, but these are merely a byproduct, and NOT the end goal. Thus, I ask everyone, wherever and whenever one can, to dispel the myth of the ideal body as shown in social media, and point out the fact that bodily appearance should always be second to the healthy maintenance of a happy heart and a strong mind.

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