Let’s start here:
Sociologist Beth Eck did a series of interviews attempting to tap into what it felt like for men and women to look at male and female nudes. Her findings were pretty fascinating.
First, she asked men and women to look at naked images of women, including this one of Cindy Crawford:
Women viewing images of female nudes almost inevitably compared themselves to the figure and felt inadequate. Said one women:
…the portrayal of these thin models and I just get depressed… I’m very hard on myself, wanting to be that way.
Women ended up feeling bad whether the model conformed to conventional norms of attractiveness or not. When looking at a heavy set woman, they often responded like this:
I am disgusted by it because she is fat, but I’m also… I need to lose about 10 pounds.
I don’t necessarily find her body that attractive… Her stomach looks like mine.
Now, while I could do some serious feminist theory right now… I’m not gonna. Instead, what I’m gonna do is focus in on the part of this study where, no matter what the women were looking at – a woman they deemed more attractive than themselves or a woman they deemed as less attractive than themselves (as evidenced by their willingness to call said women “disgusting”) – the women still never felt that they were enough.
Do you see how strange that is? A picture of a woman whose body “disgusts” you makes you feel like you need to lose ten pounds? Not to imply by any means that these feelings are “acceptable (?),” but you’d think that looking at the body of someone who disgusts you would make you feel glad to be you… not make you feel even more inadequate.
I mean, really. “I don’t necessarily find her body that attractive… her stomach looks like mine.” You know how the rest of that sentence goes? “I don’t necessarily find her body that attractive… her stomach looks like mine… therefore, I don’t find myself that attractive.”
I could even take it a step further: “I don’t necessarily find her body that attractive… her stomach looks like mine… therefore, I don’t find myself that attractive… unless I’ve bought these products/changed myself these ways/done something else that’d require me to purchase a product, because clearly I couldn’t be beautiful on my own.”
And just to prove that I’m not oblivious to the fact that Cindy Crawford doesn’t necessarily pique the interests of my readership in its entirety? What if I posted this? (Not safe for work.) Feelings of inadequacy can start to surface… that is, if you don’t have a sound sense of body image.
Whenever I write about body image, it’s always crickets. Crickets, as in, that’s all I hear. There’s no loud cacaphony of women willing and able to declare how strong (heh) or how sound their understanding of themselves is. There are no women with suggestions of how women can better accept themselves.
Is it because we don’t know? We don’t have those answers? Perhaps. Perhaps it is.
Self-acceptance isn’t about saying “this is me, and I don’t need to change.” That wouldn’t be true. Self-acceptance is about being happy with who you are now and giving yourself space to grow… because you need to grow. I can love my fat ass and say “I’ll work on it,” without thinking that because my ass is fat, I’m somehow less of a woman or I’m “disgusting.” I can “self-accept” the fact that I have a terrible temper… because I’m still growing away from it. I “self-accept” these things and allow myself to still feel and be beautiful in spite of them. Images and visions of other women don’t make me automatically question myself as a woman.
How does this fit in on a website with weight loss in the title? Simple — a lot of women seek out weight loss because they think it’ll cure whatever inadequacies they think they have… but if your inadequacies don’t even come from a real session of assessing yourself and accepting who you are? Your “inadequacies” will never be addressed. They probably don’t even exist. Might’ve just been something fed to you – “Here, let me show you how perfect you will never be unless you buy my ab roller/hair dye/makeup/other stupid unecessary product.”
I can’t say this enough. Don’t buy into it.