Beauty is a learned concept and the cultural norm of beauty changes over time. At the turn of the century, the leading sex symbol, Lillian Russell, weighed over 200 pounds. Marilyn Monroe would be considered “overweight” today. The media, advertisers, and the diet industry tend to set the standard of beauty in today’s society. We must remember that they are selling us dissatisfaction with our bodies in order to make a profit.
Medical reasons aside (life threatening morbid obesity or weight related ailments like Diabetes and heart disease) when it comes to body image, we are almost brainwashed into believing that we are not happy unless we are slim and therefore aesthetically pleasing or physically desirable to the opposite sex. For some being thin, fit, and beautiful is synonymous with love, success, and power. Physical beauty holds the promise of eternal happiness.
Many people believe the rest of their lives would automatically fall into place if they could only reach a certain weight or have their nose changed. For many of us, being too far away from the ideal is a scary proposition. How is the ideal body image shaped? One needs only to look at any fashion magazine, TV program, movie or music video to see the glamorization of emaciated human beings. Both the media and advertisers shape, reinforce, and put forward an image that bears little resemblance to the reality of our lives.
These groups reinforce beauty and body image stereotypes because beauty sells. For example we have been silenced by those who pedal the common line that thin women are more attractive, they must be, and there aren’t any fat women on TV. Many women starve themselves into a different body shape and find that, to their amazement, they are still the same person, and they have not become happier, more worthy of love or respect. Many of them have developed eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. The truth is that there is no perfect body.
It has been said that beauty is in the eye of the beholder and that certainly applies here. You cannot measure anything of value by weight or dress size. Women’s magazines play an important role in the process of socialization. Before the world was told that being fat was wrong, women were praised for their voluptuous bodies. Full breasts and large hips were considered sexy and men chose women with these body types because they were ideal for child bearing. Women are the only creatures that are forced to have a slender figure.
Artists throughout history, however, have upheld the previous idea that women of all shapes and sizes are beautiful and to be admired. Advertisers create images that dictate cultural trends indicative of the time. The grim truth is that attaining the slender body of today is not realistic for most women. Only five percent of women can achieve the ideal fashion model form. Fashion and show business are filled with a tiny unrepresentative sample of thin women and thin women with artificial breasts.
This is absolutely absurd as the real world is full of much more variety of shapes and sizes and better, more beautiful real women. When talking about natural and normal female body shapes, that usually concerns the matter of fat. Women look at toned thin women and think that they are better women, because they have striven to look like that. I worry when I see people running litigious to claim this food was bad for me or that cigarette was bad for me. I think it robs us. The time has come for us to stop the dieting that has become a life-long, life-draining preoccupation.
Dieting has turned millions of us into food junkies, driven compulsive eaters who grow fatter every year. Being naturally or wanting to be slim is not a crime, what is, is punishing others who aren’t slim and choose not to be. There is nothing wrong with someone wanting to lose a little weight for whatever the reason what is wrong believing that slim is all there is and that you can’t be happy unless you are. The achievement and maintenance of thinness and beauty is a major female pastime.
This endeavour consumes an enormous portion of the females’ time, energy and money, leaving her little time for other activities and/or important life issues. But, we as women play a major role in perpetuating our culture’s ridiculous ideals by buying into the image with the purchase of the magazines, diet books, beauty books and designer clothes thrust upon us, rather than developing an acceptable, personal idealized image of our own. By refusing to take that responsibility, we indeed perpetuate our own lives of dissatisfaction and self-hatred, and this need not be so.