Friday, January 18, 2008
Beauty and the Myth
For every beauty there is an eye somewhere to see it. For every truth there is an ear somewhere to hear it. For every love there is a heart somewhere to receive it.”
- Ivan Panin (1855-1942)

I'm going to talk primarily about women here, mostly because I don't have a penis.

I know that plenty of men have eating disorders. On men, I will say that in the gay community eating disorders are far more prevalent than among heterosexual men (Int J Eat Disord 2007; 40:218–226). Additionally, originally noted in Reback, et al (1997) and followed up in an article by Halkitis, PN, et al., (Subst Use Misuse, 2005, 40:1331-45), gay men are using an incredibly addictive and dangerous drug for weight control. Though it is not their primary reason for using crystal meth, many will admit to the weight loss being an enormous benefit of a crystal habit. Women are not alone in our agony.

Now, on to women.

Every day we are flooded, overwhelmed with ads telling us how beautiful we could be if we used their product. This undereye cream, that moisturizer, the other diet pill.
  • According to the Center on Media Literacy, the advertising industry is a 100 billion dollar per year business.
  • Depending on whom you believe, the diet industry is a 46 billion to 100 billion dollar a year business.
  • each and every one of us exposed to about 2000 ads per day. About 25% of these ads are for beauty products.
Most of these advertisements are telling us that we can:

"Love the skin you're in" (when you buy and use our product)

"Maybe she's born with it. Maybe it's Maybelline." (and if you're not born with "it" you can have "it" by using our product)

"Feel like a woman (Revlon)" As opposed to what? An hideous monstrosity? A person without makeup? A FTM transgender person? I'm not sure I understand.

Alli - the new OTC diet drug asks in one of their slogans,
"Don't like what you see in the mirror?"
What a question. When asked, approximately ALL U.S. women will say that they don't like what they see in the mirror. Is GlaxoSmithKline telling me that we, each American woman should start taking Alli, loose oily stools and all and our reflection will suddenly greet us more kindly each morning?

I'm more than just fine with wearing a little lipstick (Revlon) and mascara (Maybelline). I do it nearly every day. However, wearing of makeup should not be the thing that assures my femininity, the reason I feel confident when I walk out my front door. It should not be the basis for my spirit or my courage.

Each time we moan at how "sinful" we're being while eating cheese, we're sharing our own body dissatisfaction with those around us. When we think it's okay to pinch at ourselves and complain that we were "bad" today in front of children, even if we think they are "too young to notice", we pass this along to our next generation.

So far, we're doing a great job.

Though anorexia and bulimia have been around for centuries in various forms, girls are starting "diet play" earlier. An Australian researcher has found girls as young as 12 abusing diet products such as shakes and pills. In another article, (Int J Eat Disord. 2003 Mar;33(2):193-204) girls as young as 9 years old were expressing body dissatisfaction not correlated to body size. One Canadian study (CMAJ 2004;170:1559-61) revealed that among girls aged 10-14 in Ontario schools (n=2000) between 1993 and 2003 approximately 30% were dieting.

I remember dieting at 9 years old when I joined a diet program for the first time. I have no idea if I started thinking about diets any earlier than that but it can't have occurred to me one day in my 9th year to just say, "Hey! I think I'll start to diet today.".

The fact of the matter is, we all have something to offer and none of that has anything to do with the circumference of our hips, no matter the number.

I have a number of very sweet online friends. I have never seen most of their faces, much less their bodies. I know that each of them has said something to me that makes me think hard about how I feel about my body. I know that each and every one of them wishes that I would love my body. Wishes that I could see in myself what they see.

I know that I have wished the same for each of them, because all of us suffer from eating disorders. I know that one of them is a professor and at least two of them are in school to become therapists, one is entering law school and one is starting her career in science writing. One has just had a one year AA birthday and another is a graphic designer. None of it matters because we are all telling ourselves, when we are pummeled by stress and overwhelmed with anxiety that all of our problems relate to our physically being here in this world. They are each so beautiful.

I'm more accepting of my body these days. Believe me, I have a long way to go. So far I haven't had the ability to look in the mirror and say, "Hey beautiful!" yet. But that's what I'm aiming for. No matter what I look like.

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Stumble It!


Blogger MonkeyGurrrrrl said...

Pictures or mirrors are not allowed verboten with me. I know it, I realize it, I try to get past it, but I can't. The best I can do is try to raise Wee MonkeyGurl without all the hangups I still carry. She's 9. Unfortunately, I can feel that my influence is waning, while that of media and peers is gaining importance. I fear...

Blogger Heather said...

You are so amazing, Faith. Seriously. Eloquent, well-spoken, intelligent, beautiful. YOU.

Blogger WineGrrl said...

Have I ever told you how much I love this blog?

Blogger dale-harriet said...

Faith - here's another advantage of Advancing Age: I can see how totally ridiculous ALL that beauty advertising really is. (Down side? Exquisite sadness at what's it's telling our girls, are young women - our treasured blogpals whose words make me glad I know how to read, and more). I sometimes wonder what folks in other cultures would think of America if they could watch one day's TV and understand it. We're fat, we're ugly, our skin is terrible, our teeth are awful, our breath foul, our pits redolent. Our feet are scaly and our hair is beneath contempt. And there's another side: my beautiful granddaughter's mother feeds her terrible greasy junkfood and sweets and so on. Get this: it's (omigod I HOPE) unconscious desire to make sure the child isn't prettier than the mother. The child is 11 yrs old. I only wish I had easier access to her. There are great movies to watch while munching carrots and fabulous books to read while sipping icy lemonade...... I fear that we (esp women) DO "live in interesting times". But you? You rock. My favorite landsmon, a mensch. Love you.

Blogger Emily Jolie said...

Wow, what a tribute to the eating disorder community and women all around the globe!

Loved your post, Faith!

with respect and gratitude,


Blogger indianafuji said...

Just wanted to say,
"Hey, Beautiful!"

...mostly because I enjoy your beautiful and thoughtful writing.

Also, because you seem like such a truly lovely person, inside and out. Even though we've only "met" through the innernets, I count you as one of my healthy role models.

It's taken me a long time to realize that negative self-talk doesn't just affect myself when it's uttered out loud.

I want to be a better role model for my sisters, and I thank you for providing me with a healthy view to balance the negativity I see in other media.

Blogger Adnan Ali said...

have you seen the Dove ad campaigns?


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