For most women in the Western world, the importance of being thin is drip fed to us from infancy.
We are surrounded by “need-to-lose-weight” conversations as our mothers converse over coffee. We are mesmerized by billboards that sport slim, synthetic bodies as we gaze out of car windows in traffic jams. Articles on dieting shout to our minds from the shelf of the newsagents as we linger to buy sweets. By the time young girls develop into adulthood, they are well and truly conditioned. They’re groomed. They’ve internalised the hypnotic image of the slim, petite figure and a large proportion of their focus and aspiration will pour into this futile quest for the rest of their lives.
The preoccupation with being thin eats up talented, intelligent, capable women.
Almost every woman I know suffers from body dissatisfaction. They may not admit it, but almost every female I know is in a perpetual battle with their physical form. Some diet occasionally but think about dieting frequently. Others have serious eating disorders, suffer from depression, exercise far too much or opt for sugary. One of my closest friends from childhood wound up in a clinic for people with eating disorders as she could no longer walk down her road without collapsing. Her teeth rotted because she lived on boiled sweets. It wasn’t pretty. Another local girl – and this really breaks my heart – died of heart failure due to anorexia. She had long dark hair and stunning eyes. She was a talented violinist and Irish Dancer. She was 23 when she died.
Why are women and girls – as young three, four and five (yes I know it’s crazy!) – expressing this compulsion to diet and get smaller?
Why are we having to live in this constant, guarded deprivation, battling the very bodies that we live in?
Why is being “beautiful” synonymous with self acceptance?
In January of this year, the ugly truth about “beauty” was bought to Westminster, London. In Jo Swinson’s speech she clearly highlights the issues that are effecting the self esteem of so many women today. Following this day, a discussion was held at Portcullis House during which prominent activists and feminist writers talked about how idealised imagery of the female body in advertising is effecting women and children – an event organised by the Lib Dems for their Real Women campaign. The party also outlined a number of steps that could be taken to tackle the pressure that so many women feel to be thin. One step was that advertisers should declare the extent to which images of women have been airbrushed and altered. This way, when Cheryl Cole is advertising L’Oreal shampoo with hair extensions, we know what we’re actually buying … and comparing ourselves to.
Do you feel the pressure to stay young, thin and flawless?
How does this impact your life, your activities, the things you will and won’t do?
Are you a parent who is worried about the impact your negative body image is having on your daughters – or even sons?
I passionately believe that the more we talk about this subject and bring it to the surface, the weaker the “beauty grip” will become. I’d love to know what you have to say.