It is no secret that many women have unhealthy relationships with their bodies and, as a result, with the food they choose to eat. An estimated 80% of females in the United States are “dissatisfied with their appearance” and women, as a whole, are ten times more likely to develop an eating disorder than their male counterparts. The question must be asked: why are we so susceptible to these negative thoughts and ideas about ourselves?
The strong and, at times, overwhelming presence of the media in our lives puts enormous pressure on people to look and dress a certain way. The influential power it can have on society was outlined very clearly in ‘MissRepresentation’, and my eyes were opened to the considerable effect it has on my life and the lives of my peers. Having been introduced to this film I am now acutely aware of my reactions to certain images and concepts conveyed to me by the media and social media alike.
Fashion and body image have evolved over the years, and society has followed suit. Women aspire, sometimes unfortunately, to be like those portrayed by the media as “beautiful” and “sexy”. It is unfortunate that we are swayed so dramatically by what we see when there is so much more to beauty. This video accurately depicts the varying definitions of the word throughout the ages. It would appear that we are just living in a time where our perception of the “perfect” body requires a great deal of discipline.
While the “old-school” forms of media are teaching us to aspire to look like celebrities, new forms of social media, such as Instagram, are influencing us to look better than our peers. . People are finding fame on this medium purely by being thin and attractive and having the "perfect bikini body". One girl tells the story of how Instagram negatively impacted her perceptions of her own body and worsened her eating disorder. The website has become a breeding ground for competition amongst women to such an extent that they feel the need to alter images of themselves. The burden has become so great that people edit and photoshop photos, transforming themselves into entirely different people.
This begs me to ask the question: have women been striving all these years to look a certain way so that they appear more sexually attractive, or are they merely doing so in order to outdo other women? On more than one occasion have I seen a fridge magnet or the likes brandishing the phrase:
“Dear God, if you won’t make me skinny then please make my friends fat”.
This suggests that women care less about their own appearance and more about how they are perceived relative to other women.
Women are often thought to be in constant competition with one another. It is rare that they are portrayed celebrating their peers. They are more commonly considered to be envious of others’ achievements. So, is it the case that, in relation to body image, the concern is not about gaining admirers but merely about outshining the rest of the competition?
Regardless of the motivation, the epidemic still exists and requires action. Perhaps if more attention were given to things other than one’s appearance, the issue would become less. Alternatively, if the focus shifted from loathing one’s body to adoring it and providing it with the nutrients it requires, then a healthier body image would be accepted.