“I don’t want my thighs to touch anymore.”
Hearing those words from Amber, a slim but not skinny person at the weight loss camp on TV’s HUGE, transported me back almost two decades. I was in the audience listening to Naomi Wolf, author of the then newly published The Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty Are Used Against Women.
Her presentation was a watershed event in my life.
I clearly remember the media images she flashed on the screen. One was a marketing ad for the slapstick comedy movie “Airplane”. It was a picture of the back of a woman’s legs, from the top of the thighs down to her calves and then to her feet in a pair of red spike heels. They were the type of legs Amber wanted – Amber and just about every other female who saw the ad at the time. They were slim, well-shaped with no fleshy thighs touching each other. No, they weren’t photoshopped. Worse. They were a man’s legs. Yep, women were drooling over and striving for a man’s legs – an impossible goal.
From then to now
If a character on a present day popular TV show is worrying about her thighs touching, how much change has really occurred in the past 20 years related to (a) media images of women’s beauty and self-worth and (b) media images and money spent by women to look like that image?
The beauty, diet, and cosmetic surgery (including related treatments such as Botox) industries have grown substantially, increasing in sales and profits since Wolf wrote her book. So does knowledge of a Beauty Myth and doctored images create change in people’s behavior?
Need a critical mass & time
Fortunately, there is now a wellspring of mainstream articles and blogs that talk about the unrealistic, negative aspects of the media images of beauty. The Girl Scouts, in partnership with Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty since 2002 added It’s Your Story, Tell It to their website, recognizing the power of “ordinary” girls telling their stories to impact other girls’ lives. They also worked with some heavy hitter models and created a video that recently went viral. .
So change is happening (even if it was slow in coming) related to beauty being equated with Kate Moss thin. It can be seen in the growing number of so-called plus-size models. Eventually, the standard media size of beauty could return to what the western world had in the 50′s, and 60′s when women models and celebrities had curves, flesh, hips and butts. (Sex symbol Marilyn Monroe was a size 14).
When this happens, the messages girls and women unconsciously take in about the need to be super thin will alter. But I worry that the marketing emphasis/message will simply change to something else women (and men) have to do to be good-looking. In fact, it already has.
Three off-the-top-of-my-head examples:
- A 28-year-old daughter of a friend referring to “wrinkles” on her forehead asked “Should I get Botox?”
- A Filipino teenage singer Charice Pempengco says she prepared for her debut on the hit TV show “Glee” by getting Botox and an anti-aging procedure “to look fresh on camera.” She’s 18 years old.
- There’s a billboard on Rt. 22 as I head west with a spherical red/pink design with black letters in the center saying: 32A. Below the optical illusion breast is written “You don’t have to live with this” with the name of a plastic surgeon group.
I wish for an end to one standard of beauty and that every person accepts their self-worth and the unique beauty of her or him self – because you don’t need to be fixed, since you’re not broken. Think of an art gallery lined row upon row with cookie cutter art. It’s boring, nothing interesting to see. Then you turn a corner and discover a room filled with individually made pieces of art, all different, all unique. This is where you choose to spend your time, lingering over each piece noticing its unique shape, color, design and form. Each piece has something different to offer you and the world. And so do you…just the way you are.
What’s your wish?
PS – and I’d love seeing a paradigm shift in our thinking and spending habits so huge that it breaks the back of the industries making profits by telling you and me that our bodies, ourselves, aren’t good enough.