A cultural fixation on female thinness is not an obsession about female beauty but an obsession about female obedience. – Naomi Wolf (The Beauty Myth)
First, if you haven’t read The Beauty Myth, please do! It will hopefully change your perspective to think about the beauty industry, the women’s movement, female sexuality (and MANY other things) in a new, and empowered way.
Just think about this quote for a minute, and ask yourself, who are females obeying when they try to obtain the impossible thin-ideal?
And what does it actually mean to obey?
1. To carry out or fulfill the command, order, or instruction of.
By default, obeying involves subservience, compliance, and unquestioning. When you obey something or someone, you inevitably give up a little bit of your own free will or power.
Of course, this is not to say it’s a bad thing to obey. There are laws in place to keep us safe (ie: traffic regulations) and it’s smart to obey these rules for the benefit of ourselves and those around us. But, what about the rules that don’t have our best intentions in mind (ie: the dieting industry)?
Dieting is the most potent political sedative in women’s history…concern with weight leads to “a virtual collapse of self-esteem and sense of effectiveness… [dieting] results in a distinctive personality whose traits are passivity, anxiety and emotionality…women’s advances had begun to give them the opposite traits – high self-esteem, a sense of effectiveness, activity, courage, and clarity of mind – prolonged and periodic calorie restriction is a means to take the teeth out of this revolution. – Naomi Wolf (The Beauty Myth)
The women’s liberation movement struck a chord of fear in the hearts of those in power – those who wanted to keep women subservient to men – quiet, unquestioning, (read: unequal). But when women took to the streets, joined the workforce, and started demanding equality, a new method of silencing took stage (the dieting/beauty industry). As women were presented with more images of the ideal career woman (enter “Twiggy”), the message that their bodies must be contained and regulated was quickly established. And, as Wolf, so eloquently writes, this shift in focus from making strides in the social and political spheres to body control and weight obsession, shut women up. By physically draining them of energy and concentration ability, dieting kept women distracted from the goal of equal treatment and opportunity. And those in power, stayed in power.
If women cannot eat the same food as men, we cannot experience equal status in the community. As long as women are asked to bring a self-denying mentality to the communal table, it will never be round, men and women seated together; but the same traditional hierarchical dais, with a folding table for women at the foot. – Naomi Wolf (The Beauty Myth)
Are you satisfied with this standard? Are you happy that the more and more women advance, the more their bodies are scrutinized? Just think back to how many times you hear about Michele Obama’s appearance vs. her courage, her intellect, her charisma. By focusing on her appearance vs. her valuable ideas, society is essentially saying that the only thing that matters is her body. And, the message is loud and clear to young girls who, as we know, are dieting and expressing body dissatisfaction at horrendously young ages.
It’s time, as women, to reject this dangerous strategy to keep us quiet, anxious, competitive against one another, dissatisfied, and distracted. It’s time to finally say we’re fed up with the message that we’re only as good as our appearance and begin to comfortably grow into our natural bodies (whatever size and shape we’re genetically disposed to be). It’s time to EAT and not feel guilty or ashamed. It’s time to speak our minds and not try to please everyone or avert confrontation. It’s time to teach our daughters that their worth is NOT based on their size, calories consumed, hours spent on the treadmill, or ability to attract men.
Here’s Wolf’s suggestion:
While we cannot directly affect the images, we can drain them of their power. We can turn away from them, look directly at one another, and find alternative images of beauty in a female subculture: seek out plays, music, films that illuminate women in three dimensions; find the biographies of women, the women’s history, the heroines that in each generation are submerged from view; fill in the terrible, “beautiful” blanks. We can lift ourselves and others out of the [beauty] myth – but only if we are really willing to seek out and support and really look at the alternatives.
Are you ready?
What do you need to overcome the myth that you’re only as “good” as your body compares to images of starvation?
What motivates you?
What women inspire you?
Join me in this revolution.