Everyone is familiar with the commercials where a six-foot-something model gloriously tiptoes out from behind a silk curtain buck naked with a seductive smile on her face as her abs twist and her thighs stride forward without the possibility of touching each other. Tis’ the season for luxurious bikini ads, airbrushed waistlines and digitally enhanced thigh gaps. With the frequency these images are appearing, it almost feels like every woman should be tanned, toned and totally ready to hit the beach.
Of course, we all know that’s far from true. How often is a woman with a Victoria Secret body seen lounging by the beach? Seldom to never. Instead, we see the reality that truly defies the incredible power of Photoshop: real soft, round, thin, plump and glorious women with stretch marks and tan lines to match.
There is a disconnect however, between what is fabricated and what is true which affects more than just slimy men. Women desire a body that is nearly impossible to obtain.
According to the Center for Disease Control, the average woman is 5’3, weighs around 166 pounds and has a 37 inch waist. That’s not saying that being outside of those proportions is abnormal. It’s just proving that the average Victoria’s Secret model, who averages 5’9 and 120 pounds, are not only unrealistic but dangerous.
Mild body dysmorphia, a chronic mental illness in which you can’t stop thinking about a flaw that is either minor or imagined caused by body comparison, is common in most women. In a study done by The National Center of Bio Tech Information Latino women are most affected.
Body dysmorphia leads to nearly 20 million women suffering from eating disorders, with 25 percent of college women engaging in binging and purging as a means to control weight gain. Other statistics from the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa prove that anorexia is the deadliest mental disorder and third-most diagnosed in young girls from 14 – 22.
It’s important to remember the majority of women suffering from eating disorders do not seek help from doctors and physicians. This is especially prevalent in women of color. Why? Try to imagine being a women of color living in a city where every ad features skinny white women, where nothing represents you and eating disorders are only discussed in relation to white women. It’s a harsh wake up call to many and the reality of some.
Super models are gorgeous, just as all women are gorgeous. Being thin is their job, and it takes 24/7 upkeep to stay at that level of extreme fitness. For the everyday woman, this isn’t healthy or sensible, but the pressure is still there, and remains around them.
As the conventional “ideal” body is advertised, women are doing irreparable damage to their own in an attempt to get to an unrealistic “goal.” It’s a mental parasite that attaches at birth — to be feminine, to be perfect, to be the man’s “perfect” version of beautiful.
Forget that. If the same amount of effort put into stereotypes was instead directed at providing resources to women who have fallen victim to death, millions of individuals everywhere could improve their quality of life. Then, just maybe, big corporations like Nike, Victoria Secret and Calvin Klein would create realistic advertising for the women that are purchasing their products instead of for the men who look at them.
Skin care product line Dove, began a body positive image campaign in 2004 that is rising in popularity this year due to the amount of attention drawn from plus size models like Ashley Graham being featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated. While the message is clear and the intentions are good millions of women are still ostracized in these campaigns.
“If she is 130 pounds and considered plus size then I must be obese.”
With so many suffering from deadly mental eating disorders, everyone should be more conscious about the lifestyles they claim and promote. When Kate Moss so unashamedly said “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels,” she obviously didn’t have in mind the thousands of young women hospitalized for bulimia nervosa. Or, she had simply never eaten a Sugar Shack Espresso Oreo doughnut. Either way, the concept is just as ludicrous as the continued suffering of women nationwide. Do your part and promote a healthy lifestyle full of good food and active summer days.
To those that are suffering know that you are not alone. Though the struggle may seem endless, love, help and health are only a call or click away. Be strong ladies.
Emily Himes, Contributing Columnist