Maybe it’s the coming of the most famous food holiday of the season (see: the endless snapchats I have received in the past two days displaying grandiose palates of delicious, glorious - oh, so glorious - meats, breads, pies, puddings, and garden greens) which only worsens the usual subliminal lurkings of this anathema called body image.
Frankly, this subtle agenda is a curse - for me, it is present everywhere: in the hidden glances girls give to each other’s…thighs, stomachs, plates of food; in the small emphases of low-fat, of the gym, of small complaints of nonexistent ‘bloatedness’; it is present in the way refusal is the first response known to girls when food is offered; it lies in the stark denial with which most women address their insecure body image (Remarks of “No, I don’t restrict myself” as she nibbles on the invisible edge of a potato chip)…which are made all the more passive aggressive by the sociolinguistics of female behavior (a.k.a women’s relationship to language/the way they express themselves…which is obviously a developed trait in many ways coerced by the subtly oppressive gender norms and environment which encase women - but that is a long, rather complex other story…).
Forgive me; I am making many generalities here and obviously not everyone fits into above box, but my point is this: I am so sick of this subtle curse; this ever-present weight (pun intended) of negative body image which, like a rope of oppression hanging on the neck of prisoners, drags us down. It is another facet of social norms which constrict, repress, and makes it harder to breathe in the small, tight space of the first world society. And this negative body image is in many ways like the three insane run-on sentences which make up these paragraphs - tiring, all-encompassing, and making your head spin a little (or a lot, as mine will when I proofread).
I recognize this unhealthy conception of self, and, I repeat the points made by much smarter people before me, it is another form of oppression, lowers general utilitarianism, and hurts gender relations. It is another facet for which women (and men) are unfairly judged, another way in which discrimination and prejudice are perpetuated, and frankly a huge block of unnecessary worry, self-abnegation and despair.
Obviously media plays a huge part in the creation of such norms, but I don’t think it’s the only factor, and I think it’s more complex than a zero sum game of chicken and the egg between media portrayal and the realities of societal influences. Human nature is capable of separating reality from fantasy, and more importantly than the media, which is the initial deceptor, it is simple ignorance and stubborn rejection of this fact which really plague us. The simple act of understanding leads to empathy, and this understanding is readily and easily achievable - what I cannot figure out is why so many deny it, wave it off as a cliche, and deceive themselves into ignoring the very realities of the problem which lie, very shallowly, under the surface. Perhaps it’s egotism, perhaps it is selfishness on the side of the oppressors. Those who refuse to separate from the world of fantasy, who can, but will not bring themselves to feel, to empathize with the others, the multifaceted others on the other side of the equation. I believe that man is able to escape from entrenched social values - we have proven time and time again that our spirit of progressiveness prevails, that we as a whole only wish to move towards a greater egalitarianism and utopia. And so I refuse the oft cited human stubbornness, the impossibility of escaping entrenched values and realities. We have done it countlessly in our evolution, and we can do it many times again in the future.
Body image should be an achievement of the best you - it should be completely subjective and definitely emphasize a preeminence of health before an (ego-driven) goal of achieving a certain physical appearance. Part of the presently incorrect analysis of body image comes from a distortion of beauty - we have molded and changed our original, innate understanding of beauty and are driven to a point of unsatisfiable expectation where reality and media depiction cannot be separated. It’s true that beauty norms shift with every generation and certainly with the changing social atmospheres, but at the very heart of it, our natural conception of beauty is and should be one of attainability. It is one of gentle acceptance; it is multifaceted, both animalistically physical yet very much processed with intellect and rationality with respect to all the sensitivities and delicate features of the human soul. These higher-functioning aspects of beauty, in general, are severely lacking from today’s perception of beauty. Too much emphasis is placed on the physical appearance of both women and men, where it has become a defining judgement point, especially for women, for whom a strong subliminal expectation of beauty and brains are present.
We strive for love and beauty - yet the very things which make this life worth living are too often ropes of confinement and ironically expose the dark and ugly underpinnings of man, and the world it has created for itself. This should not be, and I sincerely hope our future is one where it will not be.