Unattainable Pinnacle

April 16, 2011
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I am one of the lucky ones. I have never had an eating disorder; I am not fat – nor do I believe I am – and I have never been called fat by anyone who matters; my parents love me unconditionally; and while I am not entirely satisfied with my body, I do not hate it. I do not know many other American girls who can say the same and be telling the truth.

From a very early age we are told that there is something wrong with our bodies, that we need to change in order to be accepted by society. First its weight, then its skin colour – too light, too dark, too thick, too thin, too tan, not tan enough, etc. – and when you hit puberty everything changes and your self-esteem takes a nose dive. Girls who mature earlier on are teased and called whores because – unlike the rest of their prepubescent classmates – they actually have a reason to wear a bra and therefore catch the attention of boys. The poor individuals who physically mature later in life are harassed because they don't have breasts. There is no way to win, because there is absolutely no way to regulate when you will hit puberty, when you will grow breasts, if you will become tall or remain fairly short, if you will develop curves or stay slender.

Each and every body type has its fall-backs, and trust society to exploit every supposed flaw in a way which will make girls feel like they are inadequate. Curvy girls starve themselves in order to emulate the anorexic models that are apparently the epitome of beautiful, not realizing that no matter how much you don't eat, your hips will not disappear. Nor should they need to; eighty years ago curves were everything. Just look at the immortal beauties such as Marilyn Monroe: she was not a stick, she weighed over 120 pounds, and the whole world loved – and still loves – her. Whatever happened to the appreciation of the feminine figure? When did the definition of beauty become so unattainable that even super-models require airbrushing? Because that is really what our definition of beauty is: technological enhancement. No one has the flawless skin seen on the billboards, no one's legs are that long, no one can have breasts that big while weighing under 100 pounds. Yet that minuscule detail is not advertised and therefore girls look at those impossible images and see everything they should be and are not.

This brainwashing of the entire female population begins at a very early age. In clothing stores you see young girls wearing bikinis, stilettos, and literally pounds of make-up. These child models have also been technologically enhanced, making them skinnier than they already are – for 7-10 year olds have a tendency to be lanky since they're normally in the midst of a growth spurt – and giving them features of older, more developed people. Which is how we get eight year olds wearing padded bras, thirteen year old mothers, and toddlers in high heels. Child beauty pageants do not exactly help the cause because while they talk about giving girls confidence, there is a gigantic price to be paid for that confidence. Confidence through beauty as opposed to beauty through confidence. This instills in girls the constant horror of not fitting into society's standards of beauty, which leads them to give up more and more in the name of beauty. First it may be chocolate, then starch of any kind, and eventually they give up food in general. They coat on make-up in order to disguise any perceived blemishes that may take away from their status as beautiful in the eyes of society.

Of course, celebrities do not tend to help the problem. Popular gossip and fashion magazines run numerous articles on how one star lost fifty pounds in just one month using this new diet, or how an actress or singer gained ten pounds and look at those thighs! Then there are the things some celebrities – who are supposed to be good role-models for the younger generations – say, such as “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels” and “You don’t feel cute, you feel disgusting. You’re getting fat.” How can girls be happy when they're being bombarded on all sides by the message 'you aren't good enough as you are, you have to change'? Will society not stop until everyone has some sort of eating disorder as opposed to just 10-15% of the American population (90% of whom are female)?

As young girls and teenagers are exposed to the message that to be beautiful they have to be something other than what they were meant to be by nature, society itself starts to descend into an abyss with no apparent bottom. What will happen when the majority of the country's females have absolutely no self-esteem due to the repeated message that they aren't good enough? Not everyone can go cry in a hole, nor can everyone jump off a bridge (though enough teenagers commit suicide to be quite concerning). So how will we fix it? A wise woman once said, “Advertising companies will never willingly change, because demeaning us is profitable for them.” But just passing a law or two regulating what can and cannot be put in commercials will not solve the whole problem, because while it has been enhanced by advertising, that is not the root of the whole thing. Society and its definition of beautiful is. While perfection is so far out of human reach nothing can be accomplished. Therefore, society itself must change. Yes, I realize that it is one thing to say “Change!” and quite another to actually put that change into motion, but I refuse to believe that it is impossible. It took hundreds of years, but eventually slavery was outlawed and women got the vote, so this too must be possible. After all, it only took a couple decades to change the definition into something so minuscule that it cannot be reached without the help of computers, therefore we must be able to reverse that process. Perhaps, one day, we will look at people with bodies like Marilyn Monroe and Jennifer Hudson and think to ourselves, “God, they're beautiful.” Hopefully, on that same day, we will look at others such as Liv Tyler and Natalie Portman and also think, “God, they're beautiful.” Short, tall, curvy, slender, dark, light, big-chested, flat-chested, and everything in between. We are all beautiful, and the only one whose opinion should matter is our own.

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