Happy Love Your Body Day!
For the past 16 years the National Organization for Women (NOW) Foundation has celebrated Love Your Body Day in mid-October. The purpose of this day is pretty simple, promoting positive body image for all women (and men)!
Last year for Love Your Body Day NOW had a survey concerning how the media portrays women. Reading through it reminded me of all the ridiculous things that happened in 2012.
The first question was: What was the worst body image-related incident or trend from the past year? Some of the top results included: the fuss over Olympic gymnast Gabby Douglas’s hair (13%), weight-based bashing of women Olympic athletes (16%), the obsession with Jessica Simpson’s pregnancy weight (11%), and the continued exploitation of young girls, like in “Toddlers and Tiaras” and fashion magazines (43%).
While “Toddlers and Tiaras” continues to elicit strong reactions for and against, what really stood out to me was the discussion of female Olympians physical appearances. It isn’t uncommon to discuss various physical aspects of Olympians. For example I remember much analysis of Michael Phelps and how is body type attributed to his success in the pool. There isn’t anything inherently wrong with this. The problem is when bodies are discussed in the negative. For the most part male athlete’s bodies are discussed in a positive light, how their physique helps them to succeed and win gold medals. Their exercise and practice regimen is discussed and occasionally their diet is talked about. However, when diets and exercised are the topic it is usually to marvel at the many hours spent practicing and the 1000s of calories they have to consume in order to maintain their strength. The same cannot be said about discussions of female athletes. While it has been over a year now I can still recall commentators discussing how so and so may be “too thick” and how much more competitive she could be if she lost some weight. Why is it that male athletes are praised for being muscular but women are expected to be remain thin? How can the average woman love their body if an elite athlete is told they have things to improve? With these messages how can I love my body? How can you love your body? Do you remember the ridiculous discussions of Gabby Douglas’ hair? This girl had just done amazing things and taken home the gold but that isn’t nearly as important as how she chose to wear her hair. Who cares?
Another question in the survey asked: What action would make the most impact in promoting positive body image? Here are the results:
Magazines and advertisers should stop using Photoshop to create unrealistic images of women (25%)
Advertisers should stop selling products by trying to convince women that there’s something wrong with everything about them (21%)
We all need to see more successful, smart, powerful women in the media, particularly on shows where men dominate, like the Sunday political shows (19%)
TV and movies need to hire a broader range of women actors, not just ones who look like models (13%)
The fashion industry should use more diverse models — not just one or two token plus-size models and women of color (10%)
Stop using words like fat and ugly, especially in front of girls (5%)
Women should stop spending money on “beauty” products and cosmetic procedures (3%)
While the first five answers would make a huge difference it is the last two that may cause greater changes. I believe women are their own worst enemies. Why do we feel it is OK to criticize other women? What right do we have to call other women fat or their hair ugly? Why would a company change their policies if what they are currently doing is working? There is a market for beauty products and procedures that “correct our faults”. If women could learn to love their body as it is the market wouldn’t exist.
So today on Love Your Body Day I challenge you to compliment yourself. Instead of picking a part your body find the things you love about it. While you are at it, compliment other women around you! The change in the way women view their bodies begins with us!
I will start… I love my hair, I think I have great hair! There was a time when I wished I had sleek, straight hair like my friends but now I love that I have some body and texture. I gave up on trying to fight it and embraced my waves! I also love my legs. They allowed me to walk all over Europe and discover amazing things. I appreciate my legs because for a time there was a possibility I would eventually be in a wheelchair and no longer be able to walk. I have had both hips replaced, and many, many surgeries. I have huge scars. My scars may not be “beautiful” to the rest of the world, but to me they mean I can walk and that is way more important than traditional beauty to me.