10.6.12

The nationwide disorder

If a girl looks in the mirror and says she's happy with how she looks but there's no-one around for her to compare her body to, would she still be happy with it?
A friend of mine tweeted a few nights ago about her weight and how she feels she needs to lose it. Not that this sort of message is uncommon in my Twitter feed, because I follow a lot of women and all women will at some point talk about food, their body shape, and dissatisfaction/guilt about either of the two. But it got me thinking. This girl is tall and slim with an enviable shape. If I had it, I'd be happy with it. But she's not happy with it. And I'm bigger than her. Would she be happy with my figure? And if she's unhappy with hers and it's smaller than mine, how on earth should I respond to my own body?
I've become so conditioned to be dissatisfied with how I look that even the separate observations of friends on their own figures affects me. I block people's weight loss/weight gain stories from my Facebook news feed. I don't avoid the mirrors in my house, but I avoid the mirrors that are my friends when they discuss their own weight. Because if they're unhappy with theirs, shouldn't I be unhappy with mine too, if only to join in with the collective hive mind for the comfort it gives that yes, I have admitted I'm unhappy, and now thankfully I'm not alone. I don't want that mirror to crack, that pane of glass to shatter around me that was the only thing keeping the fears out. Now, far less toxic to me are the magazines with their ridiculed diet plans than the everyday people damning or discussing these diets. In other words, this sh*t just got real. It jumped off the glossy pages and into our lives. 
This revelation times itself nicely with a report in the Guardian about the changing attitude to body image, body awareness and self-perception, hitting home early on with the revelation that children as young as five are already starting to dislike how they look. If the article is to be believed, it seems to be prescriptive in society to be deeply unhappy with how we look. Several articles have been written recently for the New Statesman as part of their Men's Identity series which dissect how this issue is just as prevalent among men as women, and how we are reaching crisis point at a point in the war between accepting that our culture is promoting both an impossible standard of beauty and an unhealthy relationship both with food and with our own body as the norm and trying to understand why we are still one of the fattest nations in the world. 
The problem seems to lie in the fact that across all platforms there is no middle ground. In the media, there are either beautiful thin model-like women or there are the unhealthy, overweight spongers demonised on the Jeremy Kyle sofa. We are so familiar with both the extremes that we've completely forgotten about the massive grey area that is a healthy weight, 18-24 on the BMI scale (interesting that those numbers reflect the age at which these issues will supposedly plague us the most). 
The Guardian article, and any other article dealing with weight, makes for difficult reading for any young woman. Because we are all vulnerable. But crucially, we are all different. If my beautifully slim friend had my body she'd be as unhappy with it as much as she is unhappy with her own, simply because a) it is hers and b) there is always something wrong with us. We spent so long manipulating our perception of our bodies to fit with rapidly changing fashions (corsets now come in and out with the seasons, hemlines fluctuate monthly - at least our previous generations had a fighting chance at adapting to less rapidly changing styles) and to fit with the role models the tabloids hate on one day and celebrate the next, that the chances of us ever accepting it become slimmer and slimmer with every billboard, editorial, window display or glamorous tv show that we're exposed to. With all this, it's no surprise that women are finding it hard to accept that our own bodies are the only ones that are important, and that they will never be perfect in our eyes as long as our viewpoint is so distorted. 

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