Are Women and Girls Pressured To Have “Perfect” Bodies?

November 20, 2017
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Dear Girls Everywhere! You’re not ugly, Society is.

    

    Every day, I see and read about women wanting to look nice or have a certain body. Sadly, it's almost never about them doing it for themselves, it's usually about society or someone else. That to me is pressure. There is not one channel where I don't see skinny girls. I’ve listened to interviews about celebrities having to lose a certain amount of weight to get a role. I see it also all over social media. Social media allows teenagers to compare themselves not only to their peers but also to millions of other teens who are online or posting.  An acquaintance of mine used to post things and would text me and others in a group asking why she wasn't getting a lot of likes, and one of the boys in the group said, “maybe you're not pretty enough.”  It wasn't long until she stopped eating and over-exercised herself.  She also started wearing a lot of make-up and would get a tan every once in while.  The pressures placed on teens to meet a certain look often lead to harmful outcomes. The industry including magazines and tv advertisements doesn't notice that using photoshop makes others dislike and question their own body. Being pressured can lead to girls feeling unattractive and not good about themselves in general. These negative thoughts and feelings about the way they look can wear a girl down. They might not feel very important or valuable. And we girls/women are definitely important and valuable.
Recent research has found that a typical woman has thirteen negative thoughts about themselves during their waking hours.  A number of women confess to having thirty-five to fifty or even hundred hateful thoughts about their own figure each day.  Ann Kearney-Cooke, Ph.D., a Cincinnati psychologist who specializes in body image and helped Glamour design the survey, said, “It's become such an accepted norm to put yourself down that if someone says she likes her body, she’s the odd woman out.” Recently in a  group discussion when one woman said, “I actually feel OK about the way I look,”  another woman scrunched up her face and said, “I have never in my whole life heard anyone say that— and I’m not sure I even believe you.” That's very common.  It’s actually more typical to insult your body than to praise it.
I went around asking women of all ages if girls/women are pressured to have the perfect bodies. One of my teachers said “Yes I believe that women and girls of all ages are pressured to have a “perfect” body. The images that we see of female characters on Tv, whether real or animated, are always thin. Take a look at the Disney princesses or Barbie, for example. And if they aren't thin, they are almost always a source of ridicule, or they're the 'fat friend'.  Lastly, women who've had children are constantly pressured and compared to one another about you ‘got skinny' or 'got their body back' super quick. The supermodel Heidi Klum was lauded for being able to model Victoria's Secret right after giving birth. And women like Jessica Simpson are ridiculed for getting too fat while pregnant.” Her comment gives the perspective from a grown woman's point of view.
There's so much pressure, and yet I don't know where it comes from. I asked my mother, and she said,  “Middle school is a rough time, bodies are changing, hormones are kicking in, and the struggle of fitting in is becoming more prominent. So when a young girl hears the photoshopped model on the cover of Vogue being called flawless, It’s easy for her to then aspire to be a real-life replica of the photoshop. Society spits out magazine covers plastered with teenage “idols” daily. Young girls just need to understand society’s ideal body image is unachievable.” However, this kind of obsession doesn’t end after the teen years for many women. Currently, eighty percent of our women are dissatisfied with their bodies and ten million suffer from eating disorders.
Forty-two percent of first- to third-grade girls want to lose weight, and eighty-one percent of 10-year-olds are afraid of being fat. Being pressured at a young age harmed me emotionally and physically. Back in fourth grade, I was going through the same thing. I was pressured to have the perfect body. I was always bullied and talked about as “fat” and “ugly.” I was always trying to look like others around me and on tv. I hated the way I looked. I complained a lot and even cried myself to sleep at times.
The reason why I stopped listening to rap music is that every single song I heard either talked about drugs use, misogyny, sex, money, and strippers which made it worse instead of helping me. I looked for music that could encourage me through this time. And one day I was in the car and heard a song by Kierra Sheard called Flaws. The song made me look and question some of the things I was doing. She sang about her flaws and how much they separate her from everyone even if they aren't pretty. Other girls question their worth, but I decided to know my own, and not let others take it away from me. I was able to relate to what she went through and desired to have the confidence, that she had through her experience. I soon have a mindset of trying to love myself after spending five years trying to please others and looking for everyone to approve of who I was.  I hated the body I was in for years. Looking back I regret letting myself dislike my body and letting people get to me. Now I'm at the point where I can say like Kimberly Michelle said,“Sticks and Stones won't ever break me and I’m in control.”

I believe that we all could feel good about our bodies If we work on it all together. We can stop photoshopping and also use more curvy girls for advertising, movies, and shows. People, especially young girls/women, should be free of pressure to think a certain way. We all need to learn to want better for ourselves, but at the same time be okay with ourselves. We need to learn not to go against our own feelings for what society wants us to feel.  These pressures exist, and they troubled teenagers all across America.






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