On October 16th, men and women grouped together to share poems, music and stories in celebration of Love Your Body Day. The event, hosted by Womyn’s Equality, encouraged its participants to spread awareness about body image issues by wearing signs around campus decked in personalized statements about how they came to appreciate their bodies. Love Your Body Day is a movement that aims to help women develop a stronger sense of self-worth and confidence. The National Organization for Women (NOW), who created the movement, states, “The Love Your Body campaign challenges the message that a woman's value is best measured through her willingness and ability to embody current beauty standards.”
The media often takes the blame for beauty issues with young women. Research from The American Psychological Association (APA) has shown that “Routine objectification and sexualization of women in the media and other cultural institutions can lead to anxiety, shame, self-disgust, undermined confidence and discomfort with one's own body. Research supports that sexualization can lead to eating disorders, low self-esteem and depression -- three of the most common mental health disorders in girls and women.”
In other words, there is clearly a connection between media influence and the mental health and wellness of those who see it. However, is it directly the media’s fault that we have low self-esteem? Or is low self-esteem a product of us not loving ourselves and being vulnerable to the media? Should we confront the problem by demanding the media to change the ways in which they advertise or should we attack it by trying to love ourselves and the diversity of the human form more? Personally, I side with the latter.
I am not an advocate for ads that endorse violence towards women or ads that encourage hatred of any kind toward marginalized groups. Dolce and Gabbana’s infamously banned ad that many thought glorified gang rape made me as uncomfortable as the next person. I also would love to see more ethnic groups and body shapes represented in magazines. The incredibly high occurrence of eating disorders among those in the modeling industry saddens and alarms me. I don’t feel that any person should try to make themselves look like anyone besides themselves. What I am suggesting is a new approach to these issues. In fact, I think that it is imperative that the current approaches are replaced sooner rather than later, considering that they don’t work and do more harm than good.
Attacking those in the entertainment industry preaches hate when we should be preaching love. How are we to love ourselves when we are insulting others? Bitterness only makes contentment harder to obtain. The media will probably not change in response to such tactics anyway because any controversy that they receive is still publicity for them. The media is also often protected by the same rights we have to speak freely and we should take caution before demanding to limit these rights.
True harm comes from the way we lash out at the media. Often, the measures taken insult those who are the faces of the industry and demean others who visibly fit that demographic. It isn’t uncommon to hear demands for “real women” represented in the media. All women are real, regardless of their size. The phrase “real women have curves” depersonalizes thinner women. Even if the images are doctored, a person was still present for the original photo.
My suggestion is that we take the initiative to love ourselves regardless of what third parties have to say. It’s a proactive approach; you have more power to change how you think than you have to change an industry. We should be conditioning others to love themselves and to not feel pressured to look like the models they see every day. I know we’re strong enough to do it. We should adopt personal strategies to enhance our self-worth, not expect that love to come from social change, and educate those we encounter that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes.