This semester in my English class, we are writing a semester long paper about our field of study. Mine happens to be social work; specializing in eating disorders. After only a week of researching for this paper, I have already dug up some pretty fascinating stuff. Body image, eating disorders and the media has particularly stood out to me.
“Every society has a way of torturing its women, whether by binding their feet or by sticking them into whalebone corsets. What contemporary American culture has come up with is designer jeans.”
—Joel Yager, M.D.
Something I didn't realize until now is, societies throughout history have all had varying expectations on what a woman's body should look like. Those with money seem to be able to keep up with the current trends, leaving the rest of us feeling inadequate and worthless.
A few the most fascinating examples throughout history include:
-Women were expected to be fertile and physically strong in colonial times due to harsh living environments. In order to survive women could not be weak or thin; it was considered unattractive at the time.
-During 19th century times women were expected to have a tiny waste and a large bust line. If a man could put his hands around a woman's waste, she was considered desirable. Also during this time, there was a large emphasis place on fragility and daintiness. Women went as far as having ribs removed to reduce the size of their wastes and corsets were popular among women with money.
-In the 20th century, women began the feminist movement; pants and short hair became trendy. During this period, boyish and curveless figures became the new big thing.
-During the second world war, things change drastically once again. Women went back to work and started playing sports, which led to a stronger, fuller body type.
-Once again, during the 1960s and 1970s, ideals shifted to focus on stick thin supermodels like Twiggy.
In today's world, messages about body image are just as confusing as ever when. Twenty five years ago, for example, supermodels were 8% thinner than the average women, but in today's world supermodels are 23% thinner. While stick thin models are valued in the fashion industry, celebrities have slowly begun to fight against that ideal. I find it difficult to keep up. Also, those with endless amounts of cash can invest in plastic surgery, personal trainers, and airbrushing to help their appearance seem "perfect." More often than not, the bodies we see in magazines are not real.
The obesity epidemic in our country is also at an all time high. How can today's world have such drastic weight problems? I think the ideal to look a certain way has unintentionally caused binge eating disorders and emotional eating problems, leading to obesity. Again, it goes back to the money issue; those who are better off can afford the healthier lifestyles and it seems unfair.
The first toy I remember playing with was a Barbie doll. Talk about unrealistic proportions.
So, although it might be confusing and at times frustrating to constantly be given different weight standards to abide by, I think it's really important to realize that they are unrealistic. Everyday I have a choice to be happy and healthy at a weight that is appropriate for my body, or I can make myself sick and try to fit a forever changing mold.
I think my choice is pretty clear these days.