Body Image and Society

January 20, 2017 Health

I am going to tell you a story, you probably all know it. There is a beautiful young woman, who lives with her evil-stepmother and three ugly step-sisters in a little cottage. One day news arrives that the Prince must marry so he throws a ball and everyone in the girl??™s family is invited. But the beautiful young woman can??™t go because her ugly stepsisters are cruel and lock her inside, luckily her fairy godmother finds her and magically sends her to the ball in a beautiful gown and glass slippers and she meets the Prince, they fall in love and after a few mishaps and sad turns the ugly step sisters get what they deserve and the beautiful woman and her Prince live happily ever after.

This fairytale, like all other fairytales, is a harmless story, isn??™t it I used to think so. The harm isn??™t in telling our children that the princess was beautiful; the harm comes when we tell them that she had a good personality. In fairytales the good guy, the nice guy, the innocent princess, the hero, the one we all barrack for, almost always beautiful, like our Cinderella. In fairytales, the bad guy, the one we??™re afraid of, the one who is dangerous, cruel, mean and often stupid, is always ugly.

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The underlying message here is that unattractive people like the three ugly step-sisters are mean, scary and unintelligent-we don??™t like them. Attractive people are nicer and we like them more, that??™s why Cinderella got the Prince right

A Finish study showed that 25% of seven year olds had dieted. An American study showed that over eighty percent of girls aged ten have dieted. Global studies showed that half of all girls aged 13 don??™t like their appearance. By seventeen, my age, 80% of girls are unhappy with their appearance. And this statistic stays consistent with women over 18. And poor body image isn??™t just a problem with girls; the pressure is on young boys and men to be masculine and attractive, like any good Prince Charming should. Right now, men and women, boys and girls that you know, in this country and this community, maybe even you are feeling like you just aren??™t good enough.

Poor body image has always been an issue. Throughout history every culture has had a distinct idea of what is and is not beautiful, sometimes this insecurity was the cause of some serious health issues. The obsession with small feet in Asia causing deformities in women can be compared with the ideal hourglass shape in Europe that cause serious breathing problems from corset use. And in modern times issues like eating disorders, self harm, and depression are resulting from this communal lack of self esteem. This is now a global issue, because unlike in the corset and foot strapping periods women are now constantly bombarded with superficial, unnatural ideals, in magazines, on TV, the internet, on the sides of buses and buildings, I??™ve even seen images on the ground and in the sky. Is there really any wonder that women are actually beginning to believe that super-thin and porcelain ideals are obtainable Or that they should aspire to be like this

Today, the average model weighs 23% less than an average, healthy sized woman. Finally people are beginning to recognise the huge issue that this is, we can see the change with movies like Shrek coming out, but the blame is being pinned straight to the media, and the responsibility being left to advertising agencies, fashion designers, casting directors etc to fix it.

I don??™t disagree with this, yes there should definitely be restrictions on the amount of editing allowed in advertisements and minimum weight standards for models, these changes would definitely make a positive difference, but society also needs to accept part of the blame for bad body image, and take half the responsibility to fix it. Media definitely powers this issue, but they aren??™t the root of the problem because the media caters to our ideas. To what we want and to what we see as beautiful. An unreal image is portrayed as beautiful by the media, because it is perceived by our society as beautiful. Another study revealed the alarming truth that people perceive more attractive people as smarter, friendlier, more confident and more competent, without actually meeting them. Taller men on average are paid more in the same occupations and in court attractive people are found guilty less often than others. Attractive children are more popular, both with classmates and teachers. We can try to tell ourselves that this is the fault of the media, but the truth is that we are all bias.
Infants begin to recognise themselves in mirrors at about two years old. Girls begin to dislike what they see only a few years later. And it??™s no wonder when we traditionally tell our kids fairytales like Cinderella which subtly but powerfully sends them the wrong message about appearances and when the dolls we give our little girls have bodies that literally aren??™t possible for women to achieve.
I am seventeen years old; I wear size 16 jeans and size 14 tops. When I go shopping at the most popular clothing stores for teenagers they don??™t usually stock my size; I have been told that I should lose weight and I do compare myself to other women and girls constantly; not only celebrities, girls in our community. But I am happy with my body. Because after writing this speech and learning so much about this issue I have realised something very important; if you take one thing away from my speech tonight please take this, for it is a forgotten truth and the cure to this disease: The media does not govern your thought; you get to decide the meanings of beauty and the meaning of ugliness. So in my mind, insecurities exist, but unattractive doesn??™t.




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