Friday Food For Thought

First up, thanks to everyone who voted on their favorite muscle groups to work at the gym!  All eight of you (or maybe seven since I can’t recall if I voted or not) made my poll very representative of the blogging population (sarcasm alert!).  Although, based on what my I’ve heard my friends and clients say, it actually might be pretty accurate!  Looks like legs and core tied for first, with back and chest coming in second, and no one liking arm work at all.  Which, like I said, pretty much reflects everything I’ve ever heard when training!

Moving on, though!

Although last Friday’s post also involved food, I’m obviously talking about a different sort here.  I know I talk a lot about body image and staying sane and healthy with it, but today I was clicking around on my favorite blogs and came across a video that does the topic more justice than I can right now.  Leah posted this video of Jean Kilbourne lecturing about images of women in the media, and it reminded me of WHY I choose to write about these topics.  It reminded me why I write about eating disorders and self love and everything else.  I remember seeing other Killing Us Softly videos when I was a Women’s Studies major at Michigan, but this one really struck a chord with me.

So there you have it, folks.

THIS is why I was a Women’s Studies major. THIS is why I want to go back to school for a graduate degree. THIS is why I want to teach about destructive images of women in the media and how we can change them. THIS is why it’s so easy for me to hop up on my feminist soapbox. THIS is why half of my blog is about body image and being healthy but not succumbing to the pressures of someone else’s version of perfect.  Because it is a public health problem. It’s not just us girls being silly and taking things too personally. Although, when I see my fellow women beating themselves up, and even DYING, striving to be some ideal that doesn’t exist, I DO take it personally. But it’s not just our problem. It is the problem of every single person who has any relationship with any woman. It is EVERYONE’S problem.

(That was actually my exact comment on Leah’s blog, but I realized it conveys precisely how I feel about the topic, and I could think of no better words to express my thoughts, so there you go.)

Anyway, you know I love a good discussion, so lay it on me! What do you think? Of the video? Of the topic at hand?  Do you think the media is damaging to the self image of today’s woman?  Do you think it’s a public health issue?  Do you think we can change this?  How?  I know that’s a lot of questions, but SPILL!

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About Heather

My name is Heather, and I moved from a big Midwestern university to a GIGANTIC Midwestern city. I'm working at a gym as a personal trainer, and I work as a freelance writer on the side. Sometimes I pretend to be an adult. I'm also figuring out how to keep my mouth shut every once in a while -- not here, though. How boring would that be?

Posted on September 17, 2010, in advertisements, appearance, awareness, body image, confidence, eating disorders, media, real, tuning in, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. 1. I didn’t vote cuz I don’t weight lift (*wince*). Don’t pummel me with your magnificently tones biceps. I’m working on it…

    2. I waffle about this issue. True, I was impacted by the media as well as the brats at school who helped my self-esteem plummet. BUT. But… big but… How far do we take censorship? Do we ban freedom of the press in order to coddle an already coddled generation? Yes, the pictures feature unreal images of women. Yes, the pictures feature women as objects.

    But where to draw the line? As a fat person who appreciates the fashion industry, I simply see the runway as moving art. Am I art, art like THAT? No. Does that make me unattractive? Also: no. I’m beautiful, in my own unique way.

    Do I think anorexia sucks? Yes. Will I help educate the women of the world about self-acceptance? Yes. Will I force-feed an anorexic? Not unless asked.

    Shoot. I’m rambling now. I guess what I think we should work on is not changing the images but the way we and our children perceive them. Harry Potter is fiction, fun fiction. But we all know what is real and unreal. I believe delineating the differences is important, not changing the content.

  2. 1) Haha, Lori, I promise not to wield my guns on you. Start with your own body weight (like pushups and squats), and it won’t feel like resistance training even though it is!

    2) I do agree that we can’t censor EVERYTHING, but I think advertising has gotten a bit out of hand, and the objectification is out of control for sure. However, I also do agree with you that we also need to find a way to reinforce the idea that these images ARE NOT REAL. Because while Harry Potter is easily identified as fiction, it’s not always so with ads. Until we can get the point across to everyone, men and women alike, that these images are as fabricated as Hogwart’s and Dementors, we might need to meet somewhere in the middle, working on censoring the really appalling stuff and who sees it (impressionable adolescents especially) while also educating people on what is indeed real.

    • I can certainly agree with that. Perhaps a little bit more work into making it a little more obvious that these images are creations of fiction. And I’m all for censoring children to a point; like a rating system or something. Hm…

      Great topic. Good mind meat to chew on.

  3. Hey!:)

    I am on my lunch break at work, so I couldn’t view the video, but as far as body image goes, I think that every young girl should be introduced to Adobe Photoshop and its many ridiculous commercial capabilities–including the program’s awesome ability to add flattering “highlights” and “lowlights” to images in order to make them more appealing.

    Many magazines try to claim that their cover photos haven’t been airbrushed with Photoshop, which is probably true–nothing in the photo has been airbrushed out or smoothed over, the photos have simply been “color corrected” and “enhanced” to look more vibrant so models can look their best, which means the strategic addition of highlights and lowlights in key places on the model’s body.

    Don’t believe me? Go ahead and grab any issue of Shape Magazine, tip it slightly away from you and notice the dark brown lowlights and blazing white highlights on the model of the month that fail to originate from a particular light source. That’s because all of these highlights and lowlights are added and manipulated in a $1,000 Photoshop suite to create flattering “angles” that make celebrities look thinner and more toned than they are in real life. And as someone who works in the Creative industry, I can tell you that every photo you see is manipulated in one way or another–some photos are even shot multiple times at different exposures and composited on top of each other to create a completely new photo of perfection that isn’t achievable in one shot, but that would appear as a single shot to the layperson (thanks, Photoshop!)

    As far as my personal experience with body image goes, I believe that the more satisfied a woman is with her life and herself, the better body image she will have and the more she will respect herself by eating right, working out and being the best version of herself she can possibly be. I also think it helps to not focus on the look of your body, but to focus on what you want to do with your body. So instead of telling myself I need to drop 4 pounds, I like to tell myself that I want to train to run a 5k in fewer than 30 minutes, which will take the weight off and give me a much better sense of accomplishment and self-worth than any number on the scale ever could.

  4. First of all, THANK YOU for posting the video. I watched all four parts and found myself shuddering multiple times. I DO think advertising plays a huge role in how girls and women see ourselves and the way we should and want to be. And it does the same to men, in different ways as Jean mentions.

    I feel that this is BOTH a deeper social problem that marketers respond to AND a problem that advertising continually perpetuates. Not only does advertising sell products, it also makes us think differently if we see an ad for something we already know we like, or perpetuate an idea when we see ads that we like and don’t know why.

    I remember in middle school especially that makeup ads affected me a lot. I saw gorgeous lips and eyes, and desperately wanted to look like that. I quickly learned that the products with ads of beautiful, shiny, luscious lips did not in fact give me lips that looked like that. I decided early on that I would never find a product that gave me those lips unless I put on layers of different products (that would take me countless time and money to uncover) and did nothing but stand still all day. This was one small step to developing my own ideas of feminism in high school, and I started wearing skater pants and refused to wear makeup, and I felt safer and little tougher against judgment. Eventually I actually got a little down and bored because I wasn’t allowing myself to wear, do, and buy the things I LIKED because I was so afraid of being sexualized.

    One thing I like about these videos is that she not only points out issues that we’ve all heard (and many have brushed off..), but also some other insightful ones like how girls are taught early on to be both passive and always smiling. I remember one time walking down the street one night during college, and as it was night and I was by myself, I was intentionally walking quickly with a determined look on my face and clearly not ready to smile at anyone. A random guy, who I had never even seen before, shouted at me from across the street, “girl, why you looking so MEAN?” I don’t even remember if I said anything to him, but I remember feeling SO ANGRY that not only are we women expected to look happy and flirty all the time, but also that men in our society think it is even their business to comment on the appearance or mood of someone they don’t even know. What if I had just found out my boyfriend had cheated on me and I was pissed? Am I still supposed to be smiling just so other men still get to look at a pretty face?

    Basically, I think this is such a deep problem, and a change in images in advertising could have a HUGE impact because even if it doesn’t initially change our fundamental attitudes about right and wrong, it can start by changing our surface attitudes about what images are socially acceptable. And to me, as a believer in the free market (mostly), the purest way to change this is for consumers to begin making statements about what is okay — both by putting our money where our mouths are, as well as by DIRECTLY communicating with companies through letters and phone calls, telling them that we WILL NOT buy their products until they stop projecting disrespectful, detrimental, and disturbing images on the market.

    I could rant on this forever, and you know, in the name of speaking up for ourselves, I’m not going to apologize for how much I’ve said!

  5. And I wanted to add, in response to one of your questions, YES I do think this is a public health issue. Wherever the problem is rooted, whether in advertising or something more complicated, it is leading to people DYING of body image disorders, violence against women, and devaluation of important ideas. Anything else that kills and injures a large number of unrelated people is considered a public health issue.

    …Clearly I feel strongly about these things as well. Power to you Heather for spending so much of your life on tackling these issues, and feel free to quote me on anything.

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