Body image has been on my mind a lot this week, thanks to three of the lovely bloggers I follow posting various articles related to it (all on April 18th, weird, did something happen to make them all think about it?)
Female body image has always been a weird one for me, in that it truly has never affected me and I’ve always wondered why. True, I have a body which conforms fairly closely to that which is currently perceived as beautiful, but I have met plenty of gorgeous women who weren’t as comfortable in their own skin. True, I have paranoias, but they are all centred around people’s perceptions of me mentally rather than physically – I’m an introvert, and a bit of a weird one, I have a tendency to externalise my inner monologue (including talking out-loud to inanimate objects – like saying ‘thank you’ to ATMs and vending machines – at least I’ll be ahead when machines inevitably become sentient… anyway, I digress) when I see people looking at me, I never think ‘I bet they’re thinking my shoulders are huge’, I think ‘I bet they wonder why I’m standing on my own not talking to anyone’. I obviously don’t enjoy being told I’m ugly, I once stupidly posted a photo of me on a Facebook group called ‘hot or not’ and got slated – called a ‘Polish lesbian’ among other things, it shook my confidence a little but my partner helped my shake it off and everything was fine again.
I know my beautiful Mum and many other women suffer from both these paranoia but regarding body image specifically, I wonder the following:
- Are women conditioned to complain about their bodies, and do it just as a social bonding exercise?
- Are some women just pretending to have image concerns to fit in with others for whom the concern is genuine?
- To what extent are we societally conditioned to dislike our bodies, no matter the shape?
I would love to get a dialogue going on these issues. I feel like my own experience of body image was conditioned by one simple factor – having no female friends as a teenager, only male ones. This is me, and my mates, aged 16:
(I’m the one in the middle who is a girl)
Thus, I never compared my developing body to friends’ bodies, I was surrounded by a group of three gay guys who were perfect gentlemen, and five straight guys who all fancied me, now that’s how to build a positive body image. And it has stayed with me into adulthood. But I have been drawn into body complaint discussions, this weird form of female bonding I’m entirely uncomfortable with where you sate your flaws, and all the other females counter by telling you either it isn’t a flaw, or you have some other redeeming quality. Now, I know what my body flaws are, they just don’t bother me. I have a fairly large, slightly wonky nose and big shoulders which look terrible in strapless or halter dresses – so I don’t wear them, problem avoided. I also have fairly asymetrical boobs, it makes bra-buying a pain, but never mind. I hate having to complain about my body to fit in. I worry I’ll give myself body issues by this act. I remember this documentary being particularly revealing.
Me on holiday in Cornwall, and a face stock picture I have featured on my deviantArt stock profile
So are we societally conditioned to have body issues? We’re certainly programmed by our culture, so we in the West consider child labour and slavery to be wrong, but this wasn’t always so. Body image has changed, this was once considered the most beautiful shape:
And now this is closer to the media image of beauty:
Anyway, I’ve rambled enough. Please read these wonderful articles which inspired this article regarding body image.
Lovely Lindsay of Shrimp Salad Circus looks at the new Dove advert examining our self perceptions and perceptions of us by others (I do wonder what part modesty played in the self-described drawings, even I’d be hard pressed to use adjectives like ‘great’ and ‘lovely’ in describing myself for fear of appearing arrogant – another societal conditioning maybe?)
Sweet Sarah Ann Noel reviews her difficult relationship with food. I do wonder to what extent my body non-issues are related to a very good relationship with food – liking healthy products, not gaining weight easily etc.
Please comment, agree, disagree, argue, share stories. I’m fascinated by this issue and would love to hear more perspectives on it.