With the onset of spring, comes that glorious warm weather that makes us all want to be in the sun, particularly by the pool or shore. However, as I’m highly anticipating those wonderful poolside days, I can’t help but feel myself picking at my body and wishing it were thinner, slimmer, more structured than it is. I have never been overweight, but have also never felt satisfied with the way I look. With the frustration level rising, I have to wonder if other women experience this to the same ridiculous level.
I read fashion magazines frequently and have noticed myself comparing my figure to women such as Gisele Bundchen posing proudly in swimsuits for the new Ferragamo campaign. While I know that attaining a body like Gisele’s is virtually impossible (and that’s including some good plastic surgery one can get for example at eliteplasticsurgeryaz.com) I still feel the pressure to get as close to her look as possible. With last month being National Eating Disorder Awareness Month, and seeing the damage that these illnesses can cause one would think women would embrace their natural shapes, casting aside the unrealistic body ideals set for females by the media. But it’s not that easy. Sure, people can assert that eating disorders/ body dismorphia is harmful, a dangerous and destructive lifestyle that is not only painful but deathly. However, does it help that issues like the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition happen to appear at this time of year? Do catalogues like the Victoria’s Secret Swim 2012 help motivate women to make the most of their shape, or encourage insecurity within its client base? These are questions I’ve found myself asking, as I stand sideways in front of the mirror analyzing how much weight I need to keep off this week to feel good about my body. In addition to the severe problem of eating disorders, I see a rise in the desire for cosmetic procedures at this time as well. This year’s cover girl for SI is the busty Kate Upton, who’s blessings up top, combined with a slender waist are surely not granted to every female on this Earth. She has become the new ideal for this summer, the look that will attempt to be replicated by many young women across the country. But why? The answer happens to be quite simple; we’ve been told that’s what beauty looks like. It doesn’t matter that Kate most likely suffers from backaches from having a bountiful chest, or that she is probably on a diet/exercise routine more strict than the schedule for the U.S. Coast Guard Academy’s Swab Summer. The fact is, she looks like a bombshell.Interesting enough, I was talking to a friend the other night who is a huge fan of Christina Hendricks, the actress that plays Joan in the HBO hit series Mad Men. I came across an article from CBS News that discussed her battle in Hollywood with proportions, and it really surprised me. Hendricks confided that she used to be a size 16 when she was modeling in Italy, and it was the happiest she felt about her physique. She revealed she “would take my clothes off in front of the mirror and be like ‘oh, I look like a woman.’ And I felt beautiful, and I never tried to lose it, ’cause I loved it” (Aina Hunter, CBS News). This information came as a complete shock to me, as the last woman I remember being a size 14 and being the world’s most famous sex symbol is Marilyn Monroe. In today’s society, it feels like anything above a 6 is considered “roomy” when the average size for American women is actually a 12! How can the other half of the average size be so incredibly marginalized? It’s seems quite easy when the goal is a sample size of 0-2.
I feel guilty when viewing this conflict from a feminist lens, because I know I’m feeding in to the unrealistic images for women in my effort to slim down. So how do we end the pressure? I believe that health unquestionably comes first. If women are within their healthy range for their height, than let that be enough. If women live a lifestyle that’s not based on depravity, than let that carry on. If women can learn to see themselves as a unique piece of art, custom made for this world, let no person tell her she isn’t beautiful. If a woman loves herself, let her hold on to that value forever.