Tuesday, September 18, 2012

the babd and good

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Barbie Doll, by Marge Piercy, demonstrates the need for girls to obtain the perfect body. The girl was born normal and average. She had slightly a larger nose and big thighs. She was also known to be masculine since she had strong arms and back. Because of this, her classmates mocked her and belittled her. Although the girl was intelligent, this mocking and humiliation only destroyed her. With Piercy’s sarcasm, the girl cut off her legs and nose, leading to her suicide. In the casket, she lay pink with a perfect nose made up of putty. At her funeral, her classmates finally said she looked pretty. Sadly, it took the death of her life to be recognized as “pretty” and for her to wear pink, which is portrayed a girly color to wear. With Piercy’s sarcasm and irony, the poem reflects the majority of teens and women today obsessed with obtaining what society thinks is the perfect body. I chose this topic because I am also in the majority.

I grew up with a good family and household. My family always told me I was pretty and beautiful. They always said, “’Eat up!’ ‘You need to eat, you’re losing too much weight’ ‘Boys don’t like really skinny girls..’” Never did they tell me I need to lose weight or that I’m ugly. Neither did the people around me.. But how did I get such a notion that a perfect body is weighing 15 lbs less than I do right now? One way was the media.

Statistics show that media does play a large role in a person’s attitude toward her body. A survey conducted by Harvard researchers, given to 54 fifth through 1th grade girls, found that 67% of frequent readers of fashion magazines are more likely to diet or exercise to lose weight, though only % were overweight. Sixty-nine percent of the girls said pictures in fashion magazines are influenced their idea of a perfect body. When questioned about how media in general affects them, 60% said media influenced their attitudes about body shape ( Imkiede 1). With these statistics, it’s not hard to see how eating disorders have become more and more common. Dr. Feder of the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario treats many patients with eating disorders. He reports that every year “there’s been a greater and greater preponderance of kids with eating disorders.” He says he sees younger and younger patients from 1-18-years-old, and even 8, , and 10-year-olds now. Canadian statistics show that the rate of anorexia in North America has increased by 800% in the last 5 years and the disorder has a 5% to 10% death rate ( Imkiede 1).

Many types of media influence problems such as eating disorders, depression, and negative self images. Fashion magazines are one source for this idea of a “perfect body.” Magazines such as Vogue, In Style, Teen People, People, Elle, Cosmopolitan, Seventeen, and YM all reflect ads and pictures of models with long, lanky, and skinny bodies. But all of these images of perfect bodies are an illusion. The pictures are all airbrushed (Wortman 1). Computers can make bodies look longer, skinnier, and perfect. They can take off any unwanted marks on the skin, pimples, and even fat. So basically, these bodies are utterly unattainable. Also, entertainment media reflect this notion of a perfect image. But, the industry also replaces actors’ bodies with a models’. For example, in Pretty Women, Julia Roberts’ head appears several times on another woman’s body. A body double was used because Julia’s body wasn’t “good enough” ( Imkiede 1). Even a big time celebrity, who makes $0 million per movie, has to hide her body in front of the media. And television shows such as Baywatch reflect long, skinny bodies with large busts. These bodies are virtually unattainable and are achieved through family genes or plastic surgery. Young women grow up with the panic to achieve these bodies and expect more than nature’s reality. They exercise, diet, and many times end up with an eating disorder. The media portrays women with a size 6 or below, while the average American women is between size 1 and 14 ( Wortman 1). Furthermore, athletes are affected by the media, such as figure skaters, gymnast, and especially dancer. I know two ballet dancers who stay utterly thin because of the fact that to hold a career in ballet, only the thinnest are capable.

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Along with the perfect image media portrays, women are so brainwashed that they think this image is what men prefer as well. Even though some men superficially believe that being seen with someone who represents the current images in the media will automatically elevate them to super stud ranking, most men prefer larger women, even if they don’t admit it (Anderson 1).

David, 1, an Art Director from London agrees, “To say that only women who are a size 10 or less are beautiful is a fallacy. I don’t find women who are too thin at all sexy. There’s something strangely unnatural about men who prefer a women with boy-like physiques. To me, there’s nothing more beautiful than a women with ample curves. Who wants to cuddle up to a skeleton at night? I dated one girl who was totally obsessed about her weight, despite my reassurances that she looked far better with a ‘bit of meat’ on her. The relationship did not last because she was always too busy worrying about how she looked and ended up spending more time in front of the mirror than she did with me!” ( Anderson ).

Also, and American Psychologist , Catrin Griffith says we live in a society obsessed by control, thinness, and youth. Therefore fatness is regarded as a loss of control and ultimate failure, particularly since men who are status-driven feel the need to parade a partner who fit’s the current ideal. Subconsciously, however, men are naturally drawn towards women with rounded hips, which is a sign of their ability to carry and nurture their offspring ( Anderson ).

Other men feel the same way and prefer a well-rounded women with good character traits and personality. As Rob, 6, a Royal Air Force pilot points out, “There’s nothing more off-putting than taking a woman out to a nice restaurant and then watching her pick at her food all night, especially when I want to tuck into my food without feeling guilty about the fact that I actually enjoy eating. Generally, if a woman enjoys her food, it’s a sign that she has a good appetite for other things!” ( Anderson ).

Women are supposed to have curves and features men do not. This is why mother nature allowed us to form hips and other curvy features. Also, women who are obsessed with the body can be less sexy to a man because men like woman with a confidant body image. James, 6, a Software Engineer says, “I’m not saying large women aren’t concerned about their appearances, but they are not totally consumed like a lot of model look-a-likes are. Larger women focus more on their personalities and emanate a quality that says, ‘Hey, I’m fun to be with, I know how to enjoy life’ as opposed to their thin counterparts who are often afraid to let themselves go in case they put a hair out of place. There’s something so unbelievably sexy about a voluptuous woman with a larger that life personality. Given the choice of Kate Moss or Kate Winslett, I’d chose Kate Winslett any day” (Anderson ).

It is proven that men do prefer the average women over the model-type body. So why do women still desire the media’s image for a perfect body? One reason is that lyrics in songs also portray this image of the perfect body and how a girl should be. One song titled Barbie Girl by Aqua, has wrong, twisted messages with lyrics like this….

“I’m a Barbie girl, in Barbie world

Life in plastic, it’s fantastic.

You can brush my hair, undress me everywhere.

Imagination, life is your creation.

I’m a blond bimbo girl, in a fantasy world,

Dress me up, make it tight, I’m your dolly.

You’re my doll, rock’n’roll, feel the glamour in pink,

Kiss me here, touch me there, hanky panky.

You can touch, you can play, if you say ‘I’m always yours’…”

Songs like this and many more portray a negative self image and is increasing in today’s society.

Although it is common for women to be unsatisfied with their bodies, body images in men have increased as well. Surveys say that 17% of men are undergoing some sort of diet, and an increasing number of men are undergoing cosmetic surgery. Also, a number of grooming products for men is now immense, and is set to rival the number of different products made just for women ( Ferguson 1).

One in ten anorexics are now male, while 4% of men are bulimic and % binge eaters ( Ferguson 1). Experts say that although this number is far less than women, the number is steadily increasing ( Ferguson 1). But why? As with women, the media plays a large role in men and their negative body image. The men physique is used more in today’s society for advertising. Men become more conscious with their body and also develop problems such as eating disorders, body obsessions and low self esteem. Men are reluctant to reveal their symptoms due to embarrassment and shame, and sufferers can become socially isolated and experience problems at work and school ( Ferguson ). Anorexia involves people who believe they’re too fat. Well men have a similar problem who believe they are too skinny or puny. They believe women want the big, buff physique. This notion leads to men using steroids and other artificial substances harmful to the body in order to obtain a “better” physique.

It is hard to say when this idea of a perfect image in today’s society will fade away. Maybe we will go back to the 40’s and 50’s when women like Betty Grable, Rita Hayworth, and Marilyn Monroe (sizes 1-14) were swooned over ( Ferguson 4). “I think we as a society are pushing young people to grow up awfully quickly and forcing them into precocious positions that they may not be ready for,” Dr. Feder says. “They’re having trouble getting through their adolescent development process for one reason or another. They’re often high-achieving, fairly frightened by the future, and struggle with issues of who they are. Seeing overly skinny models all over the media will not enhance the developing child’s self-esteem, self-worth, or self-image” ( Imkiede ).

Society needs to provide ways to counter-act media’s promotion of eating disorders. I really have no solutions, unfortunately. I have faced eating disorders and negative self-images for the last 10 years. Even though I hear that the perfect body is utterly unattainable, I still strive for it. It so sad, but true for many. When will our society promote positive self images and encourage the actualization of reality? Hopefully, it won’t be too late.

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