In his post The 6 Most Shockingly Irresponsible "Fitspiration" Photos, Kevin Moore at Reembody Me calls out the current emphasis of American advertising on women being "strong" and "healthy." It's simply another way to peddle a self-loathing desire to be skinny and he skewers several advertisements directed at women. Please, just read it yourself. It's too good for me to try to summarize.
I feel particularly angry about these advertisements because I know I've been effectively programmed by similar ads and right now I'm particularly vulnerable: such images celebrate youth and trimness when I'm pudgy and midde-aged.
I long for a time when women proudly took their places in the older generation, gracefully accepting the end of their child-bearing years and their well-worn bodies. Even today in other cultures women experience increased respect and freedom after menopause. They are seen as wise and trustworthy. Old age is attained, not suffered.
Who knows what went wrong in the United States? Seriously, if anyone knows, please direct me to the answer; I'm sure there are writings on the source of Americans' obsession with youth. My pet theory is that as American women achieved greater levels of legal and financial standing in the U.S. the culture became increasingly critical of the natural curves and folds of the feminine body. As women became socially stronger and more independent in the 1960's and '70's, America's demands on the feminine aesthetic became cruelly exacting and impossible. See Twiggy, Farrah Fawcett, Lindsey Wagner and Mary Tyler Moore. Better yet, don't look at them. Just take my word for it: they were rail thin and redefined "a good figure" as no boobs or hips.
These days aesthetic demands on American women haven't gotten any better. They've gone from super skinny in the 70's to skinny and muscular in this century. Yet we keep jumping through the hoops, learning to dislike our bodies from a very young age and keeping up the self-criticism straight through the time of life when we should be relaxing into our girth, celebrating our accomplishments and setting our sights on goals other than what clothing size we fit into. Finished with dating and mating, we deserve to allow ourselves to look however we look, with a true focus on health rather than appearance.
But self-loathing is powerful and very, very difficult to unearth once it takes root in childhood. I go in and out of periods of not being able to stand what I look like. My recent progress on this front has taken this form: once I realize that I'm sinking into self-hatred, I get angry at myself for it. Yes, that's judging myself for judging myself and it can go several layers deep (add a few more for-judging-myself's).
This is my inner war and I know the true problem isn't that I'm 5 foot 2 inches and weigh 180 pounds. The real problem is that I hated my body even when I weighed 120 pounds, which is to say that I hate my body no matter what I goddamn look like. And I'm sick of it.
I admit that don't actively hate my body every day, but the feeling constantly lurks in the background of whatever I'm doing. If I valued a large salary or a prestigious job or social status or creative achievement, I'm sure I'd beat myself up about those things, but for me my body is the easiest target so that's what I fixate on.
Kevin Moore's post definitely helps. Any critique of the cruel power of American beauty standards helps me feel less stupid for being brainwashed. Images of what we want women to look like in the U.S. really are relentless and unavoidable. As I fight my emotions of self-loathing with emotions of self-love and acceptance, words like Kevin's help me see the insanity of how my country expects me to treat my body. I'm grateful for writers like him because I can use all the support I can get.
|Middle-aged, pudgy woman who's still a decent person. |
Photo by Diane Scott.