Friday, June 29, 2007

Women's Issue - Body Image & Eating Disorders


I have had this article for about a year and i had to find it to send it to a young lady in my life who i think will be interested in reading this. Its an old article (from the American perspective) but very simply written. Do you agree with the views expressed?
You don't have to go very far to notice that the ideal for women's bodies at present is a thin, fit, radiantly healthy, young, white woman. Just open a magazine, an advertising supplement to the Times, wait for a bus or subway, or merely walk down the street. The message of what we should look like is everywhere. The inescapable presence of these images shape our images of our own bodies, especially as women.

The media images we see of women offers us the "ideal." These women seem middle or upper-class by virtue of their expensive clothes, and are almost always white. Women seen outside the home are typically "attractive" and occupy jobs where they never seem to have to work. There are hardly any pictures of African American, Asian American or Native American women in advertisements aimed at the "general" population although they may be found if advertisers wish to "target" a group in a specific "ethnic area."
The range of actual body types in the past was no different than today. What has changed is what has been set up as the ideal. Studies have shown that while 25 years ago the average model weighed 8% less than the average American woman, today's model weighs 23% below the national average. The exclusion of so many women from representation is a denial of the wide range of bodies and appearances. Instead of marveling at the assortment of body shapes, we continually compare ourselves with each other. We begin to objectify our own and other women's bodies.
Notions of the ideal body are linked with the economy. There are a wealth of businesses that depend upon the American desire for thinness to survive. In order to create a market for their product, they attempt to make women feel inadequate about our own bodies. Their product or exercise equipment will get us on the way to the "real" us, the thinner, better, more popular us. We are given the message that our value depends on our physical appearance. We are told that we must be sexually attractive to be successful and happy. An ideal weight is presented as a requirement for being sexually attractive.
Unfortunately, limits on "desirable" thinness have not been set. The popular notion is that, as long as a woman isn't "badly" anorexic, being thin is not hazardous. Our standard of normal body size has become so thin that average weight people are considered abnormal. What has actually been proven, however, is that people on both extremes of the continuum (excessively thin or over 100 pounds above the norm) have increased health risks. The majority of those who consider themselves "overweight" are not. The height-weight charts we are familiar with were developed by the Metropolitan Insurance company, by a popular notion of ideal weight instead of a basis on an appraisal of specific health risks. In the conservative "Medical world," height-weight charts are being re-evaluated, some increasing "normal" weights by 20 percent.
Real and Ideal
Our ideal of thinness is influenced by many basic American values. This country prizes things like individuality, self-help, hard work, success, and self-control. We are given the message that if we just work hard enough at dieting and exercise, anything can be accomplished. Women especially are told that their efforts in perfecting their bodies will be rewarded by success in both their professional and personal lives. If we fail at achieving the ideal, we are told we must "try harder." A fat person is seen as lazy or greedy or without self-control."Obviously," we think, she wouldn't be fat if she could just control what she ate or "if she bothered to exercise."
As women enter the "male" world of higher education and employment, we are even more pressured toward perfectionism. We must not only achieve but excel. Some 1970's feminist advice tells us to be self- sufficient; that fulfillment comes from what we provide for ourselves.
While women make a few gains toward economic independence in entering the business world
without a fundamental change in its structure, we are forced to become "Superwomen." We are expected to achieve in the competitive business world while also excelling in traditional domestic roles of "wife" and "mother." Because of this dual expectation we are faced with many contradictory messages. Different characteristics are needed for each role and not living up to the ideal in either can cause feelings of failure and self-hate. We have attempted a sort of "masculinized" female form as a tool of upward mobility, and the need to perfect our bodies has intensified the social tendency to equate women's worth with our bodies. The perfect body is our new status symbol. Weight consciousness has become part of our campaign for upward mobility.
Attempting to enter the basic American search for self-control, individuality and thinness has not, however, brought most women more health and happiness. Instead, we often feel as if we have failed and the blame is laid squarely on our shoulders. But the social requirement that we achieve the "ideal weight" is based on the presumption that we can completely control our body size. In fact, the size and shape of our bodies are as genetically determined as skin and eye color.

18 comments:

azuka said...

It's a crazy world -- a world where women are pressured to look 'good' when what's waiting for them are beer paunches :-D

Favoured Girl said...

Hmmm really insightful article. There are so many pressures on women these days. Success is defined in many ways by the most superficial things like looks, hair colour and weight. And it's so sad. That's why there are many women out there who have a wrong body image. I mean there is nothing wrong in wanting to be fit and healty. But the obsession with being thin is unhealthy.

Naija Vixen said...

Really concise article there...too many pressures,that it has now become second nature to most of us to always think we are not the ideal...great post,have a fab weekend

princess said...

This post seems inspired by all the weight loss talk in blogville, seems like every female wants to lose some weight(i follow,i no go lie). Anyway as long as its for the right reasons(being fit and healthy), i dont think its a bad idea at all.
Nice blog, first timer. Check me out o!

Onada said...

i think every woman has a thing they dont like about their bodies. this is a good article u've posted!

SET said...

PEOPLE NEED TO HAVE SELF ESTEEM, BE COMFORTABLE WITH WHO THEY ARE. WE ALL HAVE CONSCIENCE OF WHO YOU ARE AND WHAT IS BEST FOR YOU. IT IS SAD HOW THE WESTERN WORLD INFLUENCE US O, BE HEALTHY AND BEAUTIFUL.
PRECISE AND ON POINT, I HOPE IT HELPS THAT PERSON.

femme said...

nice and concise. it used to be really bad for us skinny girls in naija untill agbani won. skinny girls in naija were like fat girls in france

Pink-satin said...

sorry this is off topic i just saw the books u are currently reading! how are u finding the jagua nanas daughter book!i read it as a child(imagine)..let me see if i remember the names ...there was jagua nana,Liz papadoupulous(lawyer)with two kids,her married lover and his two wives,sister Hilda & Anne,Tamuono(some chiefs young wife),Tom somebody that owned a hotel,Jagua nana had a brother se?men my brain dey correct o!LAWL

chidi said...

great post...true talk

BlogVille Idols said...

BLOGVILLE IDOL HAS A WINNER GO TO OUR PAGE AND SEE WHO IT IS...PLS DROP US A COMMENT TANX!TANX FOR UR SUPPORt THRU OUT THE SHOW......BLOGVILLE IDOL IS OFFICIALLY OVER

Omodudu said...

Its not easy on us guys too o. do you know what it takes to mantain a six pack.

TaureanMinx said...

I don't believe the size of our bodies are genitical determined...More like the shape and fat distribution...I think if you eat a lot, you gain a lot with a some exceptions as always but thats not the point. I have never seen big bones on skeletons...I do think that being on either extremes is bad for your health, I saw the thinest teenager I have ever seen in my life on the subway yesterday and was wondering if I was the only one that was alarmed at the sight. The acceptable size for a woman is being dictated by these companies that depend on women being thin,fasion magazines and to me its ridiculous. Not only that in the African setting you notice things like boobs and bum size because men notice these things and the women become aware and start judging themselves based on it. I sometimes wish for this or that when it comes to my body...its a reflex action... but after a while one just has to be satisfied with who they are. Why worry, theres so much more to life.

Nyemoni said...

It's official: UZO's missing! Where are you girl?

LondonBuki said...

Hey Uzo... How are you? Where are you?

Hope you are doing ok... x

favoured girl said...

Hey Uzo where are you? It's unusual for you not to update often.

temmy tayo said...

So many pressure on body weight these days.Lovely piece.

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zaiprincesa said...

Very Insightful Post...I think every woman, even the most beautiful women in the world (i would know..lol) have or have had some form of body image issue...
But i think we have to learn to love ourselves as we are...
We are made in His image..if we do not love ourselves, then we r inately criticizing God's work...

Just a thought...:)