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Friday, August 5, 2016

Inspiration not Outspiration

 
I am really disappointed in the world. But if you read my rants regularly than you already know that.

The issue I am bitching about today pertains to standards of beauty for women. There has never been a point in my lifetime where thin wasn't in.

Growing up, I read all the critiques around the cult of beauty and thinness by the day's feminist writers: Naomi Wolf, Susie Orbach, Susan Bordo, etc.  It was exciting because if felt we were on the cusp on a breakthrough. We weren't.

In contrast, it feels like things have actually gotten worse for women in this regard.  I wrote about this in the Huffington Post a while back.  In the late 1990s, there was a dramatic shrinking that took place among women in Hollywood.  Already lean actresses, even at the time became known as popsicle sticks, because they were so thin, their heads looked disproportionately large (i.e. Calista Flockart and the whole cast of Ally McBeal, and Courtney Cox and Jennifer Aniston from friends, for example).

Now, with the Internet and social media, its even worse!  Its not just images of celebrities we are exposed to, its images of anyone who wants to share photos of themselves.  Showing off one's body used to be referred to as 'thinspiration'.  Inspiring others to be thin?  According to Wikipedia, this is actually pro-anorexia culture. There are some folks who think anorexia and other eating disorders are a 'lifestyle choice' not a mental illness!?!

A few years ago, a new movement cropped up: Fitspiration.  Images of fit bodies to inspire others to be fit?  With it has come a whole slew of meme's, such as "Strong is the new skinny."

When I first heard"Strong is the new skinny", I was thrilled, I thought maybe it was a movement meant to shift the focus from what women's bodies look like, to what they can do.  Soon, though, I discovered fitspiration has just shifted the body ideal for women from impossibly skinny to impossibly thin and ripped.  Oh, and images are not about how much weight a woman can lift or any other physical feat, they are just half naked bodies.  In fact, I am always shocked when I see even legit fitness professionals filling their Instagram account with practically pornographic content of themselves.  At first my only response was 'yuck' because I figured it was just to titillate viewers.  But then I discovered the fitspiration movement has an even more sinister side-effect: it is just as bad as the glorification of skinny for women's/girls body image and self-esteem!

Moreover, many of the associated, so-called motivational messages, are actually shaming.

Research by Bryan Karazsia, and Catherine Benton, from the College of Wooster in Ohio, found that exposure to images of thin athletic bodies is just as detrimental as images of thin bodies to women's body satisfaction!  The problem is that a super lean, ripped body is not easy for most people to achieve.  In fact, it may be just as out of reach as a super thin body.  As the researchers point out, exercise should be done for health reasons/and with sport or physical achievement goals in mind, not to try and attain a particular physique ideal.  The fact that we now have 2 ideal body types for women is hardly much progress compared to when I was a kid, considering that neither of them are realistic for most of us, even with extreme dieting and exercise.  The real solutions is to abolish the idea of an ideal to begin with. Don't worry, I'm not naïve enough to think that will happen any time soon! I just hope things get better before my girls are old enough to really be affected by it.

If you need inspiration, whether its to exercise, eat better, or make any positive change in your life, let it come from within.  Comparing yourself with others is rarely effective or helpful. Especially if you are comparing yourself with social media images. Your goal should always be to achieve the best possible you, not to look like or be like anyone else. 

The weather continues to be obscenely hot here and there is no sign it will end soon. The weekend will most likely involve INDOOR activities like the mall and a movie or two. Have a good one and stay cool!

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