Feminist Sunday: Body Image

feministsundays2Feminist Sundays is a weekly meme created at Books and Reviews. The aim is simply to have a place and a time to talk about feminism and women’s issues. This is a place of tolerance, creativity, discussion, criticism and praise. Remember to keep in mind that everyone is entitled to their own opinion, although healthy discussion is encouraged.

Are you ready for the summer? I certainly am! I can’t wait to have free time, enjoy myself, go out with the puppy and the wonderful Mr.B&R and wear my favourite dresses, show off some skin!

But you know what it is time for? Go to the beach. I personally do not enjoy it very much, but I do go every once in a while. And do you know who – apparently – knows about going to the beach and exposing your body? The cosmetic industry. If you watch TV, you’ll see more ads than ever about super-slimming and reducing creams now than the rest of the year. I do not pay adds special attention, but one of these has made me want to buy the product for a few seconds. The images of Asiatic ballet dancers on a beach showed perfectly sculpted legs – mind you, they are ballet dancers! – moving slowly and being effortlessly lifted by the male dancers. And I want that cream.

Wait… What?! Yes, I did, for a few seconds. Luckily I changed my mind as quickly as possible. So, then it was time I asked myself: “Why would I need to look like the ballet dancers on the ad? Elena, are you Asian and/or do ballet? No! Then, what is happening here?” And do you know what was happening? A little bit of self-hatred that comes after centuries of reification of women’s bodies. The people behind the ad just took advantage of that and created a new need for women, even those with a healthy weight. I did some research and checked out the cream: it costs nearly seventy euros. A little fortune nowadays to reduce your body, and get rid of the bits that we are told we should not like, and above all, we should not have. Women are presented with Asiatic bodies, but not only that, Asiatic, ballet dancer-bodies.

During the same period I thought about this, a lovely lady I follow on Twitter called Rachelle Denton, Twitted these pictures:

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And then I remembered this amazing Tedx talk where model Cameron Russell talks about how the images we are fed are highly constructed and we do not realize it. I find this video extremely interesting because she compares pictures taken the same day: some personal, some modelling. And it is very hard to believe that the young woman in both pictures is the same, but she is. Take a look:

So, maybe we should stop considering the images we are fed as the standard or a representation of real life. Maybe. we could change the types of images we are exposed to. Blogger Brittany Gibbons has an inspiring TEDx talk on how to do that and it is so good, I won’t say anything more about it. Just watch:

So, apart from ranting a bit about the images we are fed, I just wanted to share how frustrating it is to be told your body – YOU! – has things that should not be there. I do not know about you, but I do not want to be told I have to look like a ballet dancer on an ad or any other media-constructed image.

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And this realization makes me happy. Because my career, my salary and my self-esteem do not  – and should never, ever – depend on restricting my body and fighting against genetics, my cultural inheritance and my perfectly healthy body. Women bodies seem to be constructed in two ways that, paradoxically, work together: a lack (why don’t you have that body?) and an excess (why do you have fat/wide hips/breasts/curves?). To back those ideas up, we are constantly exposed to constructed images of other women who had, or seem to have, those bodies. I ask myself, then, how is it we want to live our lives as if they were an ad? Why do we – working women with responsibilities, not enough time and many other problems – want to emulate static icons? Why do we want our lives to be image-perfect? Meanwhile, just remember to remain healthy, ballet dancer or not, because we should never want our lives to be an ad, and therefore, constructed by others. Why don’t we just enjoy our lives as we construct them?

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