This post is a part of my “Out of the Kitchen” weekly column at The Progressive Playbook in which various news and pop culture items will be examined through a feminist lens.
This woman looks harmless and normal enough, doesn't she? But she's hiding a really sinister plan. She's the face of everything telling you you're not good enough.
Ok, ok! In reality, I have no idea who this woman is. And I kind of feel really, really bad for her because her image is being used in a shitty way, whether she agreed to it or not. Marie Claire has up a new "Virtrual Weight Loss Tool." I think it's appropriate here to invoke a HUGE trigger warning on that link for weight related issues as well as the rest of this post.
As the site says, "What would you look like if you lost 10 lbs? Give your body an instant makeover with this virtual weight loss tool."
Also, when you first arrive at the page, the biggest, boldest letters at the top loudly delcare: "YOU...but better."
Apparently Marie Claire's website hosts a whole section of "beauty and fitness tips" under the heading "YOU...but better." Some of the topics include:
- Total body tune ups.
- Dieting tips and recipes.
- New beauty products that will change your life.
- The latest fitness crazes.
I think it's time here for me to let out a huuuuuge SIGH because, I'm over this stuff, y'all! You see, Marie Claire is just another voice in the chorus telling women over and over: You, just as you are, is not good enough. You are not good enough. You need to change.
I've written before about the dangerous messages that girls and women are sent about their bodies, looks, and food. This toxic combination is not some abstract concept. It is a daily reality that almost all of us struggle with at some point. As I've mentioned before, I work in direct service with young women. Today I learned at a staff training that disordered eating is becoming extremely prevalent. (Note: I say disordered eating as opposed to eating disorders, because I mean that many more girls, who do not have diagnosable eating disorders, are exhibiting eating behaviors which are increasingly problematic.)
The psychologist who was training us explained that she feels that there is no way to deny that our media and culture are to blame for the increase she sees in her practice. She mentioned, specifically, the unrealistic ideal of beauty portrayed by magazines, movies, and television. Over and over we are inundated with fakeness--created images which perpetuate the myth that some women are "perfect" and encourage girls to compare themselves to these "perfect" women, all in the name of selling products. Don't have clear skin like her? Buy our acne product! Don't have a butt like her? Buy our toning shoes. Don't have abs like her? Take this weight loss supplement.
It's no secret that girls face pressure to be perfect. All too often, the girls who feel these pressures most strongly end up engaging in variety of self destructive behaviors, one of which is disordered eating. Interestingly, the psychologist today shared that in her experience, many of the girls who she treats say they don't like other girls and they lack female friendships. I couldn't help but wonder if another result of the pressure to be perfect is alienation from other girls--young women who could have provided much needed empathy and support. It makes the quest for perfection all the more scary and lonely.
Let it be known, I am not against self-improvement. I think that there is power and beauty in continuous learning and self-reflection. However, the message that you can always be better when it comes to weight and looks has devastating effects on girls and women. Unfortunately, companies like Marie Claire are waiting to prey on female insecurities. It's up to those of us who have gained the ability to critically consume media to impart the lessons we've learned to young people. For example, if you don't like the messages sent by a magazine, don't buy it OR the products that sponsor the publication.
Maybe this is me just being idealistic (which I'm not known for!) but someday, we just might see a more diverse, realistic beauty ideal, which is representative of many more people. Or at least they can stop telling us we're not good enough.