What image comes to mind upon hearing that phrase…”the perfect body”? Remember in the 70’s Bo Derek was a “10”, in the 80’s, well I’m not sure what the heck was going on there but a lot of people were into aerobics, jazzercise and fitness gurus. In the last couple of decades things have improved…slightly, slowly. Among my daughters’ generation it is desirable to have “booty”, a nice big juicy butt. This is good because many women carry their weight in their hips, thighs and butt unlike the androgynous teenage boy look that was sold to us in the 60’s and 70’s. But to have a look or body type become “vogue” is precisely the problem. It’s hard enough keeping up with wardrobe style changes (I don’t even bother) but body type changes? Hah. If thin is in, thick is out, if thick is slick thin is out; meanwhile as the trends change we all living in the body genetics gave us.
There has been much to say, written, discussed and filmed to address the impact of the media (especially advertising) on women’s self image. It’s not breaking news that many of us, especially younger women compare ourselves to unrealistic ideal that we see in the media. When I was a teenager and into my early 20’s it didn’t even occur to me that the bouncy curls and wild waves that adorned women’s’ crowns were actually permed, styled, sprayed, teased and otherwise cajoled into looking that way. I honestly thought that was how they looked naturally. My own hair was fine, straight and would not hold a curl no matter how hard I tried. I actually cried one night because my boyfriend was flirting with a “Big Hair” girl. And the worst part was it never occurred to me at the moment that any man shallow enough to choose one woman over another based hair volume was probably not someone I’d want to be with anyway.
Now getting “older” and having sustained a certain amount of wear and tear, I am extremely grateful that I have eradicated the deadly sin of envy from my frame of reference. We are pressured to look a certain way when we are young, and as we age we are pressured to maintain that ideal which isn’t even realistic for a young woman much less a 50 year old who has had babies, fallen off motorcycles, washed hundreds of thousands of dishes and all the other experiences that can affect how we age.
Plastic surgery which began as a quirky trend utilized by celebrities has now become disturbingly commonplace. It’s not only the extremes of actual surgical alteration that is becoming normalized, If a woman resists dying her hair as it grays she is either “so brave” (a phrase often delivered condescendingly) or is simply seen as eccentric. Once again the “old hippie” stereotype is invoked to dismissively invalidate a woman’s conscious, self affirming choice.
On the flip side I would be a hypocrite if I condemned women who do choose to dye their hair, go to the gym to maintain that perfect tone, or even get some “work done”. After all we’re talking about our bodies, our choice; Choice being the key issue. If a woman chooses this route because she can afford it and she does it for herself with self awareness and confidence, I say go to it. After all I have altered my body with tattoos, piercings and the occasional purple or blue hair coloring; but I have also come to appreciate and love the scars, the stretch marks and all the imperfections that each tells a chapter in my story. Does this mean I’m always happy when I look in the mirror? Hell no, I haven’t transcended vanity, I’m only human. But I no longer allow those disappointments (I’m talking to you cellulite) to drive me to making obsessively poor choices including berating myself for not living up to some unrealistic Ideal.
This is a topic I’d like to follow up on, there’s so much more to be said. In the meantime I’d love to hear my readers’ thoughts and experiences with body image: either in comments here or on my Facebook group (see link in sidebar) I’m also including a link to The Now Foundation’s “Love Your Body” campaign. They have some wonderful projects, especially those designed for college age women. I strongly encourage you to check out the link!
Peace…and Love your Body, it is your temple.
© 2011 Nanakoosas Place, by Jennifer Hazard