Women long to break free. They’d love to wear whatever they want to, and break away from whatever societal code that restricts them to skirts or to saris or any other form of clothing that keeps them all covered up. But is the bikini, really as liberalising as they think.
An article on BBC caught my eye recently.
Half of the women questioned said there was “lots they would change” about their bodies – and more than 10% “hated” what they looked like.
When one takes a look at Fashion TV today, one is bound to see runways full of ultra-thin pre-pubescent models flaunting the latest impossible-to-wear fashions along with their ever so ‘sexy’ bones. Honestly, whenever i look at them I have an urge to sit them down and give them a good Sri Lankan rice and curry. But having these models in such glamorous shows, with the world’s most famous designers does have an impact on how people begin to view beauty. Such an impact was recognised in fact, and at one point culminated in a ban on overly thin runway models in Madrid last year.
Taking America as an example, most women would love to be models. But consider that the average American woman is about 5’4” tall and weighs 140 pounds while the average American model is 5’11” tall and weighs 117 pounds. Most fashion models are thinner than 98% of American women. The only thing this is good for is the dieting industry, which is approximately a 40 billion dollar business. They get ‘fat’ by telling you that you will become ‘thin’. In 2003, Teen magazine reported that 35 per cent of girls 6 to 12 years old have been on at least one diet, and that 50 to 70 per cent of normal weight girls believe they are overweight. Whatever happened to being happy with what you are. I struggle to comprehend how a 6 year old girl would want to diet. To me, the equation is simple. 6 year old = ice cream.
The blame for this immense shift in the value system for beauty lies largely with the media and entertainment industry. Anyone who reads comics or manga could tell you how the female figure is exaggerated to the most unreal proportions. Video games have female characters with bodies that defy physics (and i am not referring to their super powers either). Women’s bodies are used to sell anything from cars, to car washing liquids, from men’s razors to men’s briefs. Advertising campaigns use women mercilessly. The end result is at times more derogative than attractive. Take a look at these offensive adds for instance. Media has been so consistent with regards to the sexualisation of women that women themselves have started believing these thin (pun intended) concepts of beauty.
Britney Spears, dressed as a raunchy school girl singing out, ‘Hit me Baby One More Time’, Christina Aguilera went from being a ‘Genie in a Bottle’ to bing just plain ‘Dirty’, and Paris Hilton, need i even talk about her! Going commando had a completely different meaning when i was younger, mostly involving guns and camouflage. All of this spells big trouble for parents with teenage girls.
“We have ample evidence to conclude that sexualisation has negative effects in a variety of domains, including cognitive functioning, physical and mental health, and healthy sexual development.” said Dr Eileen Zurbriggen, chair of the group and associate professor of psychology at the University of California, Santa Cruz.
What ever happened to healthy pursuits, like playing ‘pittu’ with the boys under the tamarind tree at school? Now it is Myspace and American Idol. Whatever happened to gorging on raw mango and salt, and the occasional ice cream? Now that extra pound has become scarier than a mid-term exam.
The teenage world revolves around sex. And to be on the top, you have to ooze the most sexuality. Beauty is who you are, not what you look like. What does it matter if you have a chest that would make Lara Croft jealous, but have the conversation skill of a chipmunk? Does it make a difference if you can turn all the boy’s heads, but not shift a single heart? Beauty may be only skin deep, but boy have people become thick skinned. It takes media awareness, and individual strength to bring back true beauty. I loved Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty. I doubt any other program had as wide a reach as Dove had.
I tell you all ( women i mean), stop struggling to fit yourself into that narrow concept of beauty (which was probably created by a man anyway), just keep yourself healthy, love yourself and be confident that you are beautiful no matter what anyone tells you.