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Women's body image Why do we hate ourselves?!
November 7, 1999
2:11 pm
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collegegirl
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I'm researching the causes and effects of females body image problems for a paper I'm writing and I would like some opinions. My personal viewpoint is that female self-loathing is so ingrained into society that it has become a part of our gender role. When we look at it our whole problem with selfesteem and nutrition is mostly self inflicted by our gender, passed from mother to daughter in a vicious cycle of doubt and hate. Does anyone out there have any opinions or info to support this. If you don't agree please let me know I would love to hear other ideas. Thanks y'all!

November 7, 1999
3:56 pm
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kitten
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There are many interesting books out there that will provide information. One view is that as women we are not allowed to fully reach our sexual potential. Patriarchal society has demanded that we remain subserveant. Any group or culture will repress another if they fear that group's power. Thus it is with men. Women are the embodiment of life and death. From our vaginas we bring forth birth and within that same vagina men have orgasms, also known in French as the "little death". In certain cultures women's faces have to be covered because the mouth is representational of the vagina. It is complicated, isn't it. Anyway, women's view of themselves is defined by the culture in which they live. Those in power set the rules. In my own case, I was raised in Europe where women are thought to become more beautiful with age. They are stronger and more self possessed. Even tho' I have problems with my lovability I don't have problems with body image. In fact I teach a class on body image to older women. They seem to feel that as they age they no longer can feel sexual or disirable. We work on improving strength and physical awareness. I have the name of a great video that would help you with your paper, but can't remember the name. When I get to school I will look it up and post it for you. Keep looking and pay attention to what others think about who is the perfect woman. You have to remember that the model the media gives us is really less than 10% of the total population. Good luck.

November 8, 1999
8:05 pm
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collegegirl
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Thank you for the info. I got my hands on some very good books about the subject and many of them had the same opinion as you did. The name of that video would be great and its always good to get an international perspective. Thanks šŸ™‚

November 8, 1999
11:04 pm
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kitten
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It's called "Slim Hopes" by Jean Kilborne...has a lot to do with image and the media...we presented it at school in conjunction with NOW. There were one or two statements made that are incorrect, but other than that it is a pretty good video. She also has a video called...I think..."Killing Me Softly". Haven't seen it but heard it is great! Goodluck!

November 9, 1999
7:56 am
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everblue
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hi collegegirl,

I lived for two years with a roommate who was anorexic. We were best of friends but she took to lying so much about her eating habits (after she had told me the situation) that it drove us apart. I became angry that she wanted sympathy but couldn't bother to tell me the truth, and she became paranoid that I would tell other people because her parents always called me to check up on her.

Anyway, I think that fashion magazines have SO MUCH to do with the body image women think they have to acheive. From early teen years, magazines are telling girls they should be thin, wear makeup, dress certain ways and act certain ways. But the main thing is always to be thin. In those same magazines girls are shown "what they can get" if they are thin (boys, friends, popularity, and later on in older women's mags it's a better job, more pay, a husband...) and image after image of pretty women who appear to be happy only because they look good. Not only does this drill it into women's heads that they must look a certain way, but it ends up convincing boys (thus men) that women are only attractive who look like that. So then men continue to reinforce the idea that the magazines started, by paying attention only to thin, attractive women. Of course there are exceptions but I am very sure that this is the general effect of these horrible magazines. I am 5'7", 135 lbs and I can't even look at these things in the checkout line (they are HARD TO AVOID THOUGH!) - because they make me feel fat and worthless. I'm not unattractive, but when I look at them and I see that I don't weigh 110 lbs, and I can't afford to wear the makeup or dress that way, I feel awful about myself and it takes quite a bit of thought to snap out of it... My boyfriend often makes it worse just by looking at the mags in line - I can't help but feel like he wants a woman like that. If I feel this way I can't imagine how my heavyset friends feel, yet they still look at the mags to find ways to "fix" themselves.

Also, just a statistic I recently read (sorry I don't remember where) - just 3 years after television was introduced to Fiji, the rate of anorexia there went from 3% to 15%. Interesting.

Good luck with your search.

-everblue

November 9, 1999
11:05 am
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Cici
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I always thought body image was based largely on the first teacher you have: your mother. My mother was a beautiful woman, but very unconsicous of her beauty. She also grew up in a country that valued money and workability over physical attributes, during wartime no less (Vietnam). So while I was growing up, physciality was no emphasized. My mother always made it clear that your mind is more important than your body or face.

In adolescence, ithnk everyone suffers from self-doubt. But as I grew up, I easily lost those feelings and now have no shame about my self-image. Neither do my older sisters. My middle sister (hugely pregnant right now) accepts her body come what may.

So I have this feeling that it's not society so much as the model you are presented with that affectes your self-image. A close friend grew up with a mother obsessed with weight. She was on diets starting at age 11. Now, she is obsessive herself. Hmm....

November 9, 1999
11:29 am
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J. C.
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Interesting topic. I believe we discussed this a little on the 'men, women, and sex(?)' thread on the social board and the 'obsessed with looks' on this board. At the top of the board select 'entire history' to find the thread. Same on the Social support board.

~JC

November 9, 1999
1:52 pm
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daizy
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Society is brain washed when they look at magazines, movies, tv....blah, blah, blah...the list goes on.

Lets start with this. We all want to be liked and loved. Some of us think that in order to acheive this, we must look a certain way - only to later find that looks won't get you love. Anyhow, we see images of other women from magazines, tv, actresses, so on and so forth and we want to be tall, thin, long hair, short hair, dark complected, light complected....so on and so forth. Then we read the magazines and tabloids and see how they "dog" an actress for gaining a whopping 5-10lbs. and we think, gee, if they think thats bad, then look at me.
Then you go to the stores to buy clothes. Realizing they make certain sizes and you must conform your body to a particular size - which can really suck at times. Thank god, Levi's is coming out with a new, made to fit thing.
I too am guilty of days when I feel my looks could be better, then I must kick myself and realize that no one is perfect and in the end, no one will love me because of my physical features.
Too bad that many men and women don't realize that many magazines do touch up work on their photos - such as airbrushing the pictures to make the models look slimer, removing any blemishes they may have - so when you look at the finished product, your really not seeing the model as her true self.
Fashion trends come and go. If you take a look back at centries ago when they painted women who were opposite of what you see now, and to them that was beautiful (I think it was as well).
Look at Marilyn Monroe, she was of course beautiful, but when you look at todays models and actresses - they are a bit thinner. Look at the model, Twiggy, she was a "stick" - that girl needed to eat more, LOL!
So as you see, fashion comes and goes, but we are who we are.

November 9, 1999
3:21 pm
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everblue
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Bravo, Daizy! I agree! We all need to learn to love ourselves for who we are, and be whatever is best for us, not what is best according to society.

Cici - you have some good points too, but in today's society so many people don't have the benefit of a strong mother figure... kids have working parents, and parents that are just as influenced by the wrong ideals as their children are. My own mother has a great outlook on her image, as do my grandmother and aunts, so I know that for me personally at least, it is the constant bombardment of how I "should" look that digs at my self-confidence, at least when it comes to my looks. Thank God there are people around me who can offer a reality check. All we can do is continue to live the right way and avoid the things that make us feel inadequate as much as possible. I know that if I ever have a daughter, she will be exposed to that sort of thing as little as possible until she's had time to develop a good sense of her own self-worth.

November 9, 1999
3:45 pm
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Snow
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I have to agree with Cici. My mother is a thin, beautiful woman. She has had constant termoil with both her weight and growing older. I have found that I, too, have problems dealing with my weight and now getting older. I know all the stuff that I'm supposed to know. Like, people should love you for what's inside and all that. My problem is that I don't like myself on the outside and I don't know what to do about it. I don't know how to get my beliefs out of my head. I really really want to be Ally McBeal skinny. I know it's too skinny, but that doesn't matter to me. I just don't know what to do. How do you change the beliefs that you grew up with?

November 9, 1999
4:49 pm
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Helen
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Hi everyone, the school I go to has a sort of silent code that states you have to wear this to be accepted or you have to be thin or you have to be pretty. What a load of trash!!! Appearances are only skin deep and what is going to matter in your future life is not what you look like but what you are on the inside. Why do we worry ourselves with all this fasting and make-up, one day I'd like to move to a country that believes in just living, not stressing. I have nothing to be proud of - I constantly worry about my looks, I have acne and am pale and out of shape. I need to drumm it into my mind sometimes that these things are not important.

November 10, 1999
1:06 am
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daizy
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Snow, sometimes things are not possible. Unless your Alley's twin sister, the chances of you ever looking like her are slim to none - sorry the truth is harsh. However if your in the spirit of getting into shape, then by all means go for it. I don't know why people make such an ordeal out of diet and exercise - that is it - nothing more. There are no secret pills, magic machines...it's all done with will power.
Snow, consider you out come. Wanting to be someone or look like someone you can't or just wanting to get into shape - it's really your call, but I can tell you that the first option will only cause you more stress. Why don't you just be you.

November 10, 1999
10:33 am
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J. C.
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Marilyn Monroe was a size 12. I should be proud to be the same size, but it's hard when I was a size 6 only 2 1/2 years ago...before my second pregnancy. Anyways...society has burned it in us that girls are suppose to be pretty and boys are suppose to do well. When approached by family and friends while growing up little girls hear, "what a pretty dress you are wearing," or "your hair is so pretty," "you are such a pretty girl" "pretty, pretty ,pretty." Little boys hear, "way to go...way to hustle out there." or "great catch!" Girls are usually praised on their looks while boys are praised on their accomplishments. This leaves the unspoken message that people will notice and praise us if we look good and boys if they do everything well. We get the idea of what looks good by seeing what others think looks good. After all, we are trying to look good to be noticed and praised by other people, so their opinion of what looks good is what counts. Sometimes, it's way out of line for our own image or limits. I imagine I may never be a size 6 again, but I can be a healthy size 12 (or 10, teehee.) Anyways, this is my opinion. You are more than welcome to use any of this in your homework, college girl.

~JC

November 10, 1999
10:52 am
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Cici
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Did you know that according to her figure ratios, the Barbie of the '80s and '90s is so thin that she wouldn't menstruate? Ack!!!

Everblue: actually, my dad (who was retired) stayed home and took care of me after I turned four, while my mom went to school to become a nurse. I saw her occassionally, but she wasn't a constant figure in my life and to be honest, I'm much closer to Dad. Maybe that's what affected me...appearances aren't as important to men.

But I don't buy beauty magazines, even though I'm feminine and I like cosmetics and trendy clothes. I sort of realized that it's all the same magazine with different models. And I don't own or watch TV, so I don't get bombarded with those "what you should be" images. I find it liberating, I must say (ha ha ha).

November 10, 1999
12:11 pm
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everblue
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Everyone is making such good points! It's really great to see so many women who believe and understand that it's what's inside that counts. Now if we could just convince everybody else! Cici, you sound like you have a great self-image, however it came about. I'm glad there are people like you out there, it leaves me a bit more optimistic about the world, and specifically the fate of us women in it.

November 10, 1999
2:58 pm
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collegegirl
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Thanks for all the input. I agree with everblue; it's great to see women really thinking about these issues. I have found myself re-examining my own life and self-image, and I've seen all of these ideas in play. When I listen to my mother and my beautiful friends berate themselves it makes me feel bad and ugly too. I, like many little girls, have grown up being praised or valued only for external beauty and achievements. As a ballet dancer it is even harder; like Snow, I realize the consequences of negative selfimage and the anorexic lifestyle, but I can't stop feeling like I need to reach that fat-free aesthetic ideal. I suppose with time and maturity perhaps I can learn to override these influences and be comfortable with myself. Thanks and good luck to you all!

November 11, 1999
8:17 am
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Brittainy
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Hi I really understand how you are all feeling. I used to be anorexic (size 6) and felt great about myself because I was so thin. Unfortunately I nearly died because of it. Now I am over weight, due to an operation on my feet, and I really hate myself for becomming this way. I dress in baggy sweatshirts, and hate looking at the sizes because I feel so embarrsed. But it has not changed me as a person. I am still outgoing, kind and generous yet people are always commenting about my size because I used to be so thin. Beauty is only skin deep. It is what is on the inside that counts and people shoud not be judged by what they look like. Take care

November 11, 1999
5:00 pm
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CMS
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Body image is a very important thing in the USA. Growning up in the 70's it was important to fit into Calvin Klein jeans. If you didn't no guy ever looked at you. Now that I am older I believe that the males that were checking out the females in the Calvin Klein jeans only saw a shell. The guys were interested in one thing only. They were shallow. Does any woman want to spend time with a shallow person that views them as an object instead of seeing the wonderful things going on in her brain? Then he would see so much beauty. "It is only with the heart that one can see rightly because what is essential is invisible to the eye".

November 12, 1999
11:12 am
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Cici
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Uh oh. Cici's loopy on cold medicine... šŸ™‚

Whenever my friends berate themselves about how they look, I just want to bonk them over the head with a rubber hose. Really. Boom. I mean, when you think about it, hating yourself is really just doing what society dictates you do!

All those specials on TV, I remember watching New Attitudes on Lifetime when I lived at home and had nothing else to do...all those, dress like this, eat like this, you'd better have a living room decorated in IKEA or Ethan Allen, look-at-how-dirty-your-fridge-is-you-fool stuff. It's insidious! Being exposed to all that injects these random thoughts into your head, like, "I wish I looked like so-an-so" or, "why don't I have Martha Stewart dinner parties." No!

When did we as women stop seeing our personal value in ourselves and start seeing it in things and people and mirrors?!

November 13, 1999
12:14 pm
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Ubermensch
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I'm not sure of an exact date, but I would assume it coincided with the advent of marketing strategies -- who can make money if you have to make products with a variety of designs as vastly unique and individual as the natural spectrum of humans?

I'm no marketing strategist, but I would assume any marketing strategy would begin with turning this problem around on the consumer -- if the jeans don't fit, who's problem is it? The obvious answer is the merchant. I don't think it's coincidence that women (and men, kinda) don't come up with this answer when looking in the changing room mirror.

If the merchant can get the consumer to alter themselves to fit the product, then they save on the bottom line -- less variation means less investment.

But if the merchant understands this sociological principle, then the merchant must also understand the sociological results. And that shows a level of greed and cruelty that is truly staggering.

Anybody a fan of Seuss's "Star-Bellied Sneetches"?

November 15, 1999
8:30 am
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everblue
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Hi Ubermensch,

I love the Sneetches! I think that's one of the best books out there to teach healthy body image, as well as to point out the stupidity of racism.

You have some really good points. I hadn't looked at the marketing industry like that. It's very scary! Is there anybody out there who's not out to make a buck?

-everblue

November 16, 1999
12:14 am
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ruya
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is it just the body size or the general looks. what kind of treatments we subject our skin to! women who have dark shades of hair have an additional burden of getting rid of body hair !! i personally think its a royal pain!! what if the eyebrows are not pencil thin and arched? they look beautiful in their natural state! beauty radiates from inside. the eyes speak of the beauty inside us. we have to learn to communicate at other levels. physical attributes matter so much for communication today. if we looked at the personal inside and communcated with that beauty the outer shell would not be important. there are so many people who are beautiful to look at almost perfectly made, or they forcibly make their physique that way but i would have nothing to do with them.. its true, mother's or rather the female peers during childhood contribute a lot to one's outlook in these matters. generally in the east the attitudes are different..more sensible!

November 20, 1999
1:55 pm
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Ubermensch
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Hello there, Everblue.

Um. I think the vast majority of us are not out to make a buck, and that's why we're all so easily manipulated by those who ARE out to make a buck. I think the Ideal American Woman's Body Image benefits someone. I don't know who...I'm working on that one. We're not all supposed to be Barbie and Ken, but someone seems to think we should be. And every image of sexuality, confidence or stability connected with women comes to us ONLY in Barbie form. I'm no scientist, but after a while this has to have an effect on our society of lost and meandering animals. We have to figure out how to dislodge the "monkey see" from the "monkey do" -- a rule that has proven lucrative for the marketing industry.

I think it's a very organized campaign to take the money of those who aren't out to make a buck, and put it in the hands of those who are out to make a buck. But I believe those who are out to make a buck never considered (or didn't care about) the detramental esteem issues they were inevitably downloading on the masses of people not out to make a buck.

We need to buck the Make A Buck-ers out of our heads.

I worry our culture is too wrapped up in TV, movies and commercial images to accomplish this all-too-simple goal.

Troublemakingly yours,
Ubermensch.

November 20, 1999
2:08 pm
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Ubermensch
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Ruya!

Hello. I hope I don't come off as a downer. I agree with you about the different attitudes in the east. But, of course, leave it to me to worry about the new trade deal we just struck with China, and what effect opening up their markets to a flood of western ideas and IMAGES will have on their attitudes. I wish I could feel otherwise, but I don't think those attitudes, groomed over centuries, stand a chance against an attack of blond, tall, skinny, big-boobed marketing. They're Asian sitting ducks.

Give us 15 years, we'll have them all plastic-surgeried and anorexic. Wasn't it Hitler who wanted everyone to have blond hair and blue eyes? How did America wind up being the machine of this mass production line?

Depressingly yours,
Ubermensch.

November 30, 1999
3:10 am
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louise
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When I think about my own body image I can see a lot of different reasons it is the way it is. Neither of my parents care all that much about people's outsides -- they rarely seem to judge anyone on their appearance. I wasn't raised to dress fashionably, though when I started gaining weight after we moved to the states (I was 8 years ol) I did get comments from them about that. I'm not sure that was so much because of the physical aspects of being overweight as the health aspects. They raised me to use my mind and

However, when, in high school and college, I lost weight, started dressing "right", wearing make-up, and generally paying attention to how I looked... and the overwhelmingly positive response I received from my environment was enough to convince me on some deeper level that a part of my "worth" is connected to my appearance. Truly, the way you look does seem to have an effect on your quality of life.

Nowadays I try to balance that with the thought that though looks do play a role, they are most definitely not the end all and be all of things. They are an aspect of life to be considered, but they should not be the highest on anyone's priority list.

Well, that's my opinion, anyway. I feel compelled to add that I don't read any of those hideous trite and ignorantly simplistic beauty mags, and that I watch only an hour or two of television a week, if that.

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