It’s disgusting. We are a society obsessed with how we look and it’s awful. Women are so concerned that their box gaps (y’know, that space between your thighs) aren’t big enough, their waists small enough, their foreheads tight enough and curls loose enough. Many of these women are mothers and their overt obsession with perfection does. Not. Stop.
I’m not placing all the blame for this on mothers – but they can contribute to the problem. I’m blaming everyone, I’m blaming all of us. This is everyone’s fault and we’re all responsible.
We’re basking in the masses and masses of overly sexualised, highly objectified media. Everything has to be sexy. Even cooking shows refer to the contestant’s meals as seeeexy. We are providing an environment for our youth that says one thing – you want to make it, you gotta be sexy.
At an eating disorder conference earlier this week CEO of eating disorders charity The Butterfly Foundation, Christine Morgan, said that children as young as seven were being hospitalised for anorexia nervosa and bulimia. She said that the $644 million-a-year weight-loss industry, fad diets like paleo and raw food and media portrayal of the so-called ‘ideal’ body image were contributing to an eating disorder epidemic affecting millions.
‘We’re living in such a toxic culture at the moment,’ she told the conference.
And what is the ideal? What is sexy? What is beauty? It’s an ever-changing ideal, where you either fit the mould or you don’t. It’s a facade; the unattainable. It is what marketers rely on to get product moving off shelves and we’re buying into it. But it’s not just the adults who are suffering from warped body image any more. It’s the little ones as well.
Children should not be worrying about being thin or being sexy. They shouldn’t be terrified of being ugly. They shouldn’t be looking into a mirror with disgust and fear. But this world that we’ve created and the ideas we’ve brought in to are poisoning their minds, their innocence.
I remember the first time I heard a child talking about being on a diet. I was visiting my uncle and his friend had come over with his wife and naturally petite daughters. The girls were absolutely precious – as well spoken, polite and as pragmatic as a 6 and 9 year old girls can be. They were fit. Their mother was showing us videos of the 9 year old doing her black-belt-karate moves. She was on fire. My aunt brought out some tea and cookies. Now, I don’t think children should be raised to see cookies as an eat-always-food. But the 9 year old was adamant that she wouldn’t have any…because she was on a diet. A diet! She didn’t want to get ugly. She was rubbing the non-existent fat on her tummy, telling us that she was already chubby.
At 9 years old she had already decided that she was going to be on a diet. She had already lost sight of how beautiful and athletic she was. She wanted to be skinny, be beautiful and couldn’t see that she already was. Something in hearing that chipped away at my soul. It would’ve been fine if she said she wanted to be fit. Or to be healthy. Or that cookies are bad for your teeth. But… she was concerned with being ugly, and that is not okay. Her mother didn’t bat an eyelid. That is even more not okay.
What bothers me is the fact that us grown ups are running around with a warped perception of ourselves and hating our bodies within earshot of our children. I’ve seen plenty of mothers complaining to each other about the way they look in front of their girls. And don’t get me wrong, it’s not just the girls. Boys are also holding themselves to ridiculously unattainable standards; trying out protein powders and ‘bulking-up.’
We forget that the children are there, but they are. We forget that they’re seeing the same billboards, but they are. We think they’re not watching the same tv shows, but they are. We forget that they know how to access things on the internet, but they do. We are teaching them that they are not good enough, teaching them to hate themselves.
I don’t know what the solution is. I’m not telling anyone to go and do some skinny-bashing to make it better – that is also unacceptable. I don’t know how I can convince people to love themselves. I mean, sure, there are plenty of times where I’ve looked in the mirror and told my fat-arse it needs to disappear. But my concern is my health, not that I’m an ugly. If the worst thing someone has to say about me is that I’m fat, then I’m doing a damn good job.
I don’t know what to tell you, society, what to say to you. What I do know is that seven year olds suffering from bulimia and anorexia is NOT okay. Children are just as influenced by these unattainable standards, if not moreso. We need to be able to explain to them that the images they’re seeing in the media aren’t what a real person will ever look like. They need to be reminded that these images are just manipulations of an artist on a computer to make us want to buy into something.
And the rest of us need to be reminded too.
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