For centuries, our society has very purposefully shaped women’s minds and identities, but now we have proceeded by shaping their individual body shapes as well. The way women think about themselves is formed by the manipulative marketing they are subjected to, creating feelings of internalized negative self-worth and an increased feeling of ease in oppressing the other women around them. Women seem to be constantly at both internal and external battles with problems like size and fat shaming.
After reading an article titled ‘Hold That Nose’, I began wondering if plastic surgery is actually cool or still bizarre as I’d originally thought. Does it increase women’s self confidence or do they just believe it does because it helps them conform to society? Why is our society encouraging Jewish women to feel like part of their body is unacceptable in contrast to other women? Ultimately, in this modern day era, we are still de-valuing other cultures and contributing to racism, but we are doing so through culturally appropriated experiences like plastic surgery. Not to mention, this type of surgery has now become an issue of class due to the high financial costs involved in Jewish women’s pursuits of supposed beauty.
No matter what, it seems that a woman’s value weighs equally on her physical appearance as it does on her skills or life achievements. This subtle truth influences women in regards to most job applications, politics, Hollywood- but especially our own views of who we are in the world, which is what incessantly perpetuates it all.
Over the last few weeks, I’ve been an active participant in exploratory workshops addressing and attempting to decode the oppression of women. We’ve addressed issues surrounding romantic relationships, relationships with our parents or friends and with society as a whole. However, what has interested me the most within this journey has been discovering how critical and ruthless women are when it comes to genuinely loving themselves. Reading ‘Love Your Fat Self’ highlighted everything that the workshops were also uncovering. It said, “But every time I get dressed I think about how other people will see my body…” This is the thought that woman seem to be facing of all ages and of all sizes and even within our supposed advanced modern day. So much of women’s mental energy is consumed with their appearances; it is as though woman are perpetually losing at their own internal battles.
It said, “If you have fat in your head, then you are fat. If you believe you are unattractive, you will experience the world as an unattractive woman. If you hound yourself about everything you put in your mouth, you won’t enjoy eating. Regardless of the number on the scale, if the number inside your head is large, insurmountable, and loaded with meaning, then you will feel weighed down by its implications.” The fact that fat shaming and size discrimination is still a prevalent topic within the media and within our personal homes and minds is unbelievable. Our culture assumes overweight people are lazy and unhealthy without any evidence and things like dieting pretend to focus on health when, really, it’s just there reinforcing the idea that being skinny is better.
Capitalism influences this body shame by encouraging women to feel bad about themselves if they can’t fit in smaller sized clothing. It tells women that they should be able to fit in size zero jeans and look like the supermodels that are being showcased on runways, even if that isn’t their body type naturally. What kind of metaphor does this leave us to consider? Zero equates to nothing. Trying to be a size double zero basically means society is trying to convince women that they are nothing. This, in turn, filters subtlety into the way women have viewed themselves for generations. Capitalism is still prospering by this acceptance because women want to buy clothing with tags that state they are smaller sized and therefore they spend more money in places like Wal-Mart who take advantage of pricing their clothing differently than other high-end clothing brands. Women will go to great extents in order to feel like they are beautiful, and instead of looking inwards and acknowledging that for themselves or believing other loved ones who tell them so; they look to what is accepted by the media.
How can women begin reclaiming this mental energy that is so focused around body image? How can we shift the focus from skinny to healthy? Being in shape doesn’t determine whether you are healthy or unhealthy and the number on the scale shouldn’t be the main way we are registering what health can be. Our country is unconsciously, yet significantly, in support of eating disorders and unhealthy lifestyles. 35% of people in America have a yo-yo weight issue, meaning they are swinging from being underweight to overweight and back again very quickly. This affects mental health countrywide, yet we ignore that by using words like ‘anorexic’ casually in our vocabularies, perpetuating a serious problem by pretending it’s funny. It was written, “Sometimes I sit on a subway car and look at every woman purposefully and lovingly- as if she were my mother or my best friend. It is breath-taking how beautiful they all are when I see like this.” I feel enraged when I realize how un-empowered myself and many other women in the world feel on a daily basis. I feel like screaming and kicking and smashing away the self-hatred women mirror for other women. Mainly, I feel sad because of all the wasted time that women have spent criticizing each of their own unique bodies instead of feeling free and at ease within them.