Its so easy these days to open a magazine or turn on the TV and roll my eyes at the thin, white, homogeneous portrait of beauty that is portrayed within; so easy that I’ve been doing to for months now without ever stopping to question. Its obvious from previous posts on this blog that body image and the media’s effect on that image is a topic of great importance to me, I really do believe that the people who produce magazines, television, movies, and so on need to ‘step up their game’ and work to truly expand our definition of beauty in society.
Its so easy to point the finger at them and what they can do… I forgot to ask the most important question, what can I do?
The media has a powerful ability in shaping the ideology of society, but that power has its limits. The media cannot think for us and it cannot define us… all of its power comes from enhancing beliefs and ideas that we already accept as a society. Its not productive to expect those within the media to make drastic changes, like including women of all shapes and sizes in fashion magazines, when we, as a society, adopt the mindset that thin = pretty. The magazines are simply giving the public what it expects and accepts.
So (you should all know where this is going by now) if we want to change the media we have to change society, and if we want to change society a pretty good place to start is changing ourselves. I attended a protest today that was organized to speak out against an objectifying “bikini competition” on my college campus today. As I was standing there, surrounded by body-positive posters I had helped to create, I began to think about what I was really protesting.
Yes, I was there because I was deeply unhappy with the fact that my own college was encouraging an event that simply serves to further cement the idea that there is one ideal body type, and that those who don’t fit into that narrow window of acceptability are not worth looking at… but it was more than that. All of this anger and frustration I have been directing outwards at the media, at the Frat boys who organized this, at my school… all of that anger was anger that began with myself and that nagging little voice in the back of my head that has, since I hit puberty, served as a constant reminder that my body “wasn’t good enough.”
We all have that voice; the one that tells us if we were just a little thinner, taller, stronger, prettier, girlier, manlier, softer, curvier…. if we were just different our lives would be so much better… but why? Why do we have that voice? What good does that nagging little voice do for us?
I want to launch a protest. No signs or chanting, just a million people simply putting their foots down and deciding for themselves not to accept it anymore. No more telling ourselves, “I can’t wear that dress, I’m too short for that to look good” or “I’ll go to the beach when I’m thinner” or “I’m such a horrible person, I have no willpower, I’m so FAT.”
Its time for that voice to, “shut up, and sit down,” as my father would say.
Don’t diet (did you know that almost all diets fail, anyways?) just feed your body well and keep it as strong as you can through exercise (it can be as simple as taking a walk!) but do these things because you want to feel good, not because you want to look good. Not everyone’s body is genetically meant to be that thin “ideal” some people are naturally larger, even when they eat “right” and exercise! So, keeping that in mind, resolve to love your body, no matter how it looks, and take care of it well because of that love!
If we all take a stand in our own lives its only a matter of time until we can, slowly but surely, adopt a new way of thinking, a new cultural ideal… and then, and only then, will the media follow.
Challenge! From now on, when something bothers you, the first question you ask should be what can I do to fix this?
In asking this question you will be taking an important first step in conquering apathy… it will remind you of your personal abilities and responsibilities within society and help (hopefully) inspire you to TAKE ACTION to make a change!