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Women, body image, models and the such

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The recrudescence in the last couple of days of videos such as “Killing us Softly” (which you can find below) makes me happy in that the discourse surrounding the ridiculous unrealistic expectations with regard to women’s bodies is yet again at the forefront of my discussions with many of my girlfriends.

However, I’m also bothered by a parallel discourse that seems to be emerging, one that is based on the same focus as the one about extreme thinness and, interestingly enough, is expressed through body size: that of culinary indulgence and lack of physical exercise. While I admire women for being comfortable in their bodies, I find it alarming that more and more of them have simply let go of all concerns with regards to their health. They don’t exercise and they eat copiously, developing boy sizes and shapes correlated with major health problems.

Perhaps if the body wasn’t seen as either a reflection of one’s beauty, or as a way to indulge in our lower natures, but rather as a vehicle for our souls to develop its higher nature, we would be able to strike that healthy middle, where body shape and size wouldn’t matter as much as is health and efficiency in making the world a better place.

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9 thoughts on “Women, body image, models and the such

  1. I woke up this morning and watched the video. It was very good. I also read the post that was over it. Somehow I think that the over eating goes beyond the issue of body image. For example, I used to eat a lot because when I was younger we didn’t have enough food, and whoever was favored among my siblings would get the best part of the meal. The adults in my life would also control the amount of food that I would eat to the last morsel. Once I got out from under all of that eating, was about how much control I had to do what I wanted with my life. If I felt like eating, I could eat, and I could eat whatever I wanted to. I didn’t always make the best choices. I also ate to mask emotional discomfort.
    When I was in my teens,yes, I didn’t want to conform to the magazines’ idea of who I should be and even now I still rebel. Then, I held on to that principle because I didn’t want to feel bad that I didn’t look or act like the people around me and for the most part I felt like an outsider.
    One thing I would love to see on your blog is the idea of women needing to shave their bodies to be beautiful. I wasn’t raised to or taught how to shave my legs when I was younger, and I don’t like doing it either. I recall in grade 8 that I wore shorts and my legs weren’t shaved and some of the girls started to point and mock me. I wore shorts in gym after that. Even now, if I wear shorts or skirts without shaving my legs, I get stares.

  2. Helllo friend! Thank you for your comment. I think you are right – overeating is so intimately connected with emotions, which are themselves placed inside a certain context that is, itself, quite complex, that one cannot simplify it to a mere linear relation. Your personal experience is a perfect example of that – thank you for sharing! I’d love to hear more about your reflections on your relationship with food at the different stages you described.

    As for your suggestion, I quite like it – the idea of grooming as an outer expression of humans’ inner nobility versus an obsession that puts such a burden on so many people. I admire you for doing what you have decided is right rather than blindly following everyone else!

  3. Hey Sahar-joon!

    Interesting video. Leads one to ask question. I recently recalled seeing a Jenny Craig commercial where we see a before and after picture of a full figured women. I commented, nonchalantly to my wife, that I thought the “full figured” version looked better than the Jenny Craig version! 😉

    I think this “look” that models have is so far beyond what most straight men find attractive. I would even go so far as to suggest that the fashion industry isn’t all that interested in women, but in pre-pubescent girls or boys by what they do to women. This then leads to a more interesting set of question which I suppose we should leave for another time.

    D-

  4. Mister D, as always you have an interesting thought to share here with everyone – thank you <3

    The question is actually interesting – full figured women, who are active and eat healthy (not the ones that have a diet of Oreos and Coke and chips!) look amazing to me, too – they have a glow to them, they are happy and they look fab.

    I think that the social construct around the fashion industry has unfortunately become quite unhealthy. I haven't figured out how to express this clearly, so please forgive me – but I have the impression that one bad decision led to another and that these decisions were further enhanced by an obsession with selling, selling and selling more – which needed to have people hooked on buying, which in part is related to creating an impossible standard to achieve.

    So it would mean that there are many negative social forces acting together to create this problem.

    Thoughts?

  5. Well, I think the problem isn’t a “fashion industry” problem. It’s a “materialism” problem. I think that the presenter in the video hit the nail on the head when she said we turn women into “things”. Unfortunately, I don’t think she really understands the depth of the problem. It isn’t that the “fashion industry” turns women (or men) into “things” solely for the purpose of selling us stuff. It’s that our culture—the ethos of our civilization—is one in which sex, beauty and physical appearance have no deeper meaning than the satisfaction we get from the acts themselves.

    In other words, the body image we see in advertising isn’t the result of bad decisions, but reflects, in a sense, of the bankruptcy of our culture. Beauty has no deeper meaning than a blemish free skin. Sex has no deeper meaning than the physical pleasure one derives from it. Physical appearance has not deeper meaning than looking good so as to attract a hot looking member of the opposite sex.

    In other words, change the culture and you change the manifestations of that culture.

    Alternately, I think one big problem with certain areas of human activity is that they tend to be dominated by “abnormal” people. I mean this in the sense that since most straight male and females are too busy work and raising families (the majority of the population) they don’t necessarily have time to get into less concrete fields of endeavour like the fashion industry or political activism or show business. So these fields tend to be dominated by people who don’t represent the majority. The people who dominate these fields end up creating a culture and ethos in that particular field that most resemble their inner reality.

    I’m sure that if more “normal” women had the time to be involved in the fashion industry, the images you would see would present a very different picture. Probably one which emphasized motherhood and its beauty; that women come in all shapes and sizes, beauty would be redefined etc.

    D-

  6. Mr. D’s comment, saying “I would even go so far as to suggest that the fashion industry isn’t all that interested in women, but in pre-pubescent girls or boys by what they do to women.” very much hit the nail on the head. If you think about it, which group is the easiest to influence and “snare”? it’s definitely not the older, more mature youth/adults who have already been able to define and model their life according to their thoughts, desires and experiences – rather you go after the younger ones who are still unsure about their life, their role in the world and where they belong. If you manage to sell them a concept and image in which they feel at home, you’ll have them with you for a long time. And once you have one, he/she will be able to talk to and influence his/her friends, and from there on you go…

  7. Hey Sahar!
    I definately benefitted from reading this. At our Book 5 session on Saturday we were talking about different material things/practices that deter JYs (and others) from their higher nature. I don’t remember whether we specifically talked about the beauty industry, but it’s definately important to give them, as the Universal House of Justice said in the Ridvan 2010 letter, “the tools needed to combat the forces that would rob them of their true identity as noble beings and to work for the common good”. If JYs and youth don’t know that their is something more out there for them, a higher purpose, then it’s hard for them to disregard the pulls of a materialistic world.

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