Most of the marketing which is aimed at my supposed demographic – women in their twenties – at best irritates me and at worst just plain offends me. (Don’t get me started on how much of a f*ck I do not give about whether a new car has a shoe compartment, iPod connectivity or a “support network.”)
This rant in particular is about magazines and soap companies. You know the ones. The ones who have slender, skinny-fat models in their fashion spreads and most of their ads, but occasionally run a “real beauty” campaign showing over-weight women who haven’t had their cellulite airbrushed away, or who do a “body-image” issue showing “real” unfit women in unflattering underwear. For all the fluffy crap about “loving” yourself or accepting your “flaws,” all I really see is a consolation prize, a way out for under-achievers. “Don’t worry,” is what they’re really saying, “Here are some unflattering pics of out-of-shape women so you can compare yourself to them and feel better about yourselves. We know that you’re not happy with the way your body looks and feels, but it’s okay because not everyone can be perfect. Here are some real women.” (So, the models in your ads and fashion shoots aren’t real? Athletic women aren’t real? Women who are actually happy with their bodies – probably because they don’t put their time and energy into taking on your self-contradicting crap – aren’t real??)
Now at first you may think that this is callous, that I’m drumming up business by attempting to “shame” women into getting all OCD about their diet and exercise. Stick with me for a minute.
You don’t have to love your body. If you really loved and valued your self, would you accept that a body that wasn’t ideal was good enough for you? I don’t mean ideal by magazine standards, ideal by body-building standards, ideal by your trainer’s standards or whatever. I mean by your standards. Whether it be the way that you look and how you feel about that, whether it be chronic health problems, whether it be your performance, or whether it be just a feeling of general malaise and lethargy, if your body is not the way you want it to be, you don’t have to feel good about that! You shouldn’t feel good about that. To ask someone to feel good about having diabetes, or being so underweight that they’ve compromised their fertility, or about running out of breath climbing a flight of stairs, is ludicrous and insulting, and also symptomatic of a society where it seems almost taboo for a woman to harbour ambitions to rise above mediocrity.
Take whatever dissatisfaction or discomfort you feel about your body, and use it as the fuel and drive to make effective changes. Change is uncomfortable. Change is painful. It can be expensive, tiring, scary, isolating, difficult, uncertain. As human beings, it is in our nature to resist change. Even on a cellular level, our bodies constantly strive for homeostasis – stability, not change.
In order for change to occur, the pain of staying the same must be greater than the pain of change.
When you allow yourself to recognise when you have uncomfortable feelings about your body, you give yourself the gift of opportunity to change.
To all the people who still think that I’m being harsh, let me say this: You are a grown-ass woman. If you respect yourself and believe that you deserve to experience the best of everything – including physical health – then you don’t need to be consoled, you don’t need to be told that it’s okay to feel average or even poorly, because the underlying message in all of that is that you can’t do it, so don’t bother trying, just be content with your lot. (Which is remarkably similar to what patriarchal society has long told us about our lot in life in general… hello…)
Consider too that other people treat us the way that we treat ourselves. If you are “settling” for second-best in this most basic part of the human experience – health – what message are you sending to others – your boss, your clients, your lovers, your family, your children, society as a whole – about the way you and women as a demographic deserve to be treated? You need to recognise what you’re unhappy about, identify what you want to change, and then start taking smart, effective action towards those goals on a daily basis. For me to join in the chorus of conciliatory voices who are trying to tell you that you shouldn’t bother with the changes necessary to experience your ideal physical health would be insulting to your innate power as a woman and your worth as an empowered, self-detirmined human being.
What do you think about this issue? Are you, too, offended by the under-achieving, patronising tone of the “love your body” trend? Or do you think I’m being unfair? Leave your comments below!