Scrutinizing My Body Takes All My Time
On a typical day, you might see ads featuring a naked woman’s body tempting viewers to buy an electronic organizer, partially exposed women’s breasts being used to sell fishing line, and a woman’s rear—wearing only a thong—being used to pitch a new running shoe. Meanwhile, on every newsstand, impossibly slim (and digitally airbrushed) cover “girls” adorn a slew of magazines. With each image, you’re hit with a simple, subliminal message: Girls’ and women’s bodies are objects for others to visually consume.
So says Caroline Heldman, Assistant Professor of Politics at Occidental College, in a piece for Ms.
This notion of bodies for consumption leaves us constantly judging ourselves and others. How do we stack up? How do “they”?
Our friends declare someone too fat or too thin; sitcoms quip on body weight or shape; tabloids spot celebrities’ flaws; men bluster about big boobs; Howard Stern picks women apart and Rush Limbaugh insists feminism was established “to allow unattractive women easier access to the mainstream of society.” (Yes, really, Rush and Howard think they are in a position to make unkind remarks about other people’s appearance.)
All this leads women to “self-objectify” so that we see and judge ourselves through others’ eyes, and especially, the male gaze. Women live in “a state of double consciousness … a sense of always looking at oneself through the eyes of others,” says Heldman.
Self-objectifiers constantly “body monitor” – that is, think about how they look to the outside world. And this often leads to depression, lower self-esteem and diminished faith in their abilities.
Any surprise body monitoring distracts women from tasks at hand, whether math exams or throwing a softball? After all, girls have to split their attention between how they look and what they want their bodies to do.
Body monitoring also replaces the question “Who am I?” with “What image should I project?” It becomes difficult to imagine identities that are truly our own.
What to do? Heldman recommends avoiding fashion magazines, since just viewing those so-called “perfect” images makes women feel less attractive.
She also suggests we voice our concerns to companies and boycott their products.
Too often self-worth is based on unattainable body ideals. And with body image so closely tied to self-esteem, girls and women can end up pretty dissatisfied with themselves.
It wasn’t always so. There has been a dramatic increase in poor body image among women since the mid-20th century. Back then, a woman’s sense of self had revolved more around her talents, abilities and contributions. It was more about who she was than what she looked like. Maybe by shifting focus to who we really are we could more easily emerge out of ridiculous and superficial body consciousness.
Posted on March 5, 2012, in body image, feminism, gender, objectification, psychology, sexism, women and tagged body image, culture, feminism, gender, objectification, psychology, sexism, women. Bookmark the permalink. 39 Comments.