The beauty myth and advertisements affect women in many different lights, we know this. One issue that is often not brought to attention is diet culture.
Society is constantly telling women that they need to be smaller, prettier, lean, and that they need to be on a diet. Constantly. In one form or another.
I hate the word diet. Diet implies the word ‘can’t.’ You can’t have that piece of pizza, you can’t have a glass of juice, you can’t eat a muffin with breakfast, and Lord knows that you can’t even think about having a beer while out with friends. It seems like the word diet is yet again enforcing negative ideas. It is yet again forcing women into a box, where they just can’t be enough, can’t ever be skinny enough, can’t ever achieve perfection expected of them.
Diets don’t work, first of all. But more importantly, healthy LIFESTYLES should be promoted instead of ‘diets’, which basically includes starvation, excessive exercise, and ample amounts of time devoted to posting ‘thinspirations’ on Pinterest. A healthy lifestyle applies to ALL WOMEN. It does not promote insecurity, unrealistic expectations, or body-hating. A healthy lifestyle is accessible to all women.
“We have been raised to fear the yes within ourselves, our deepest cravings.” -Audre Lorde
From one of my favorite blogs, Huffington Post. From an article by Jennifer Armstrong about the beauty myth in regards to Naomi Wolf’s book, The Beauty Myth. Here is a quick list of actions that we can take against the beauty myth according to Wolf:
1. We can wear lipstick without feeling guilty. We are not the problem here.
2. We must figure out how to celebrate female culture without mixing it up in the repressive demands of patriarchy. Any ideas, anyone? I think something like Lilith Fair, seriously, was a great start. I went to every one of those things in the ’90s — we need some of that energy again. (No, that attempted revival a few years ago was not quite the same.)
3. “Just as the beauty myth did not really care what women looked like as long as women felt ugly, we must see that it does not matter in the least what women look like as long as we feel beautiful.” We need to figure out how to make ourselves, and all women, feel beautiful.
4. We need to stop, as Wolf says, “debating the symptoms more passionately than the disease.” (Most of us in the feminist blogosphere are guilty of some version of this at some time.) “The real issue has nothing to do with whether women wear makeup or don’t, gain weight or lose it, have surgery or shun it, dress up or down, make our clothing and faces and bodies into works of art or ignore adornment altogether. The real problem is our lack of choice.” Here’s what that means to me: We need to stop being complicit in making beauty compulsory for all women. We need to stop judging all other women’s looks, forever, period. I can think of no reasonable exception to this rule.
5. We need to figure out how to give ourselves, and all women, a strong sense of identity that has nothing to do with our physical appearance. We must embrace the idea that all of us can be sexual and serious. One does not preclude the other.
6. We must ignore anyone who tells us we’re not beautiful as a reflex reaction to not liking what we’re saying. That means you, Internet trolls. We need to speak up against anyone who uses what women look like, wear, or weigh to discredit what they’re saying.
7. We need to tell others about the destructive powers of the Beauty Myth.
8. “Let us refuse forever to blame ourselves and other women for what it, in its great strength, has tried to do.”
9. We must tell our stories. The Internet is great for this.
10. We must try to resist the idea that we must “age youthfully,” that we must embrace the seductive idea that 40 is the new 20, or whatever. I personally don’t want 40 to be the new 20 — that sounds exhausting to me. I want very badly to be cool with my wrinkles and gray hairs. I think older women are beautiful; I really do. I hope I can remember that as I get older and inevitably freak out.
11. We must “look directly at one another, and find alternative images of beauty in a female subculture; seek out the plays, music, films that illuminate women in three dimensions; find the biographies of women, the women’s history, the heroines that in each generation are submerged from view; fill in the terrible, ‘beautiful’ blanks.”
12. This also means we need media literacy, to help ourselves and others see through the images that are fed to us by beauty advertisers. (That means the editorial copy and TV shows that run next to those ads, too.) We have the power, especially with blogging, to speak out against any images that reinforce the Beauty Myth. Women inside mainstream media can help, too, though they’re often hamstrung by those advertisers. Whatever we can sneak into mainstream media is a victory.
13. We must develop and attend to our own sexuality, rather than deriving it from these false images.
14. We must eroticize equality. How? Probably more female-made porn and erotica, for starters.
15. We could stand to see each other naked more. You might resist that locker-room scene, but seeing other women’s bodies, in all their non-standard, non-pornified variations, is a revelation.
16. We need to join with other feminists to fight these battles. We can’t fix any of this alone.
17. We need to hang out with women of all ages. Part of what the Beauty Myth does is to pit us against each other and make us afraid of aging. The more older women you know, the less scary aging gets. And the more younger women you know, the more you’re helping. We need better role models than the ones media handpicks for us.
18. We need to talk about the pitfalls of being “beautiful” as much as we talk about the problems with being deemed “ugly.” This has not historically gone well, of course; remember that woman who wrote about being “too beautiful”? (Summary: Everyone was all, “She’s not all that.”) While our society certainly makes it easier to be “beautiful” and “thin” than what it deems “ugly” and “fat,” women who are regarded as paragons of attractiveness are derided, taken less seriously and treated as empty objects. They’re always accused of getting something they didn’t deserve, and accusing themselves of such. They’re also terrified of losing the advantage they have — of growing older or plumper.
19. We need to stop seeing each other as competition. It’s so rare that we’re actually competing with another woman for, say, the same man. Why do we feel like we need to compare ourselves to every other woman then? I love Wolf’s ideas about going out of our way to compliment other women, flirt with them, celebrate their beauty.
20. We can resist the urge to objectify men as patriarchy has objectified us. That’s a no-win.
21. “A woman wins by giving herself and other women permission — to eat; to be sexual; to age; to wear overalls, a paste tiara, a Balenciaga gown, a second-hand opera cloak, or combat boots; to cover up or to go practically naked; to do whatever we choose in following — or ignoring — our own aesthetic.”
As I am reading through my posts I’m realizing that through I have touched on it I have not fully explained what diet culture is. Diet culture to me is the pressure women receive to conform to society’s standards of beauty through subscribing to habits that are potentially harmful to their health and all consuming. Diet culture tells women they are not good enough as they are and therefore, they need to subscribe to an extreme behavior to attempt to attain an image that is designed to be unattainable. This pursuit is what drives the huge business of beauty and fitness and keeps women away from power because they believe they must fit the beauty norm before they can propel themselves into leadership positions.
Diet culture is a tool of the patriarchy that pits women into competition with each other, nothing is more alienating than competition and without a united…
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