Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The tyranny of ideal body image

The author of Fat is a Feminist Issue, Susie Orbach has just had a new book published.  The title?  "Bodies".

In her book, she describes the focus on "little girls being primed to be teenagers who will dream of new thighs, noses or breasts as they peruse magazines, which display page after page of a look that, only 10 years ago, had the power to evoke horror in us".  

Her book details the pursuit of the ideal body image in men and women.  Women  over recent years have been dismayed at the unstoppable arrogance by photographers/magazine editors to digitally enhance bodies.  Men and women.   Lengthen their legs, so that they seem 6ft 6in tall - even the women;  reduce their waists;  increase their breast sizes both in size and depth;  remove any blemishes or imperfections in hair, face, hands and feet.   Change the shape of the face and their lipline.   Pump up the lips.

We look in the mirror and our reflection tells us that we're nothing like the women in the magazines.  Guilt sets in.  And yet, why should we feel guilty about looking as we do? - we're individuals, not clones of those "picture-book" photos that aren't real in any respect.  Even models and actresses have been known to look at photographs of themselves and to not recognise that the photo is of them!

But Sue doesn't only focus on men and women, she also discusses children and babies.

So it probably doesn't come as any surprise to learn that the same enhancements to photographs are being applied to photos of babies.  "Correct a smile;  remove the gap between front teeth;  straightening out wobbly knees" and ankles.  Perhaps correcting the shape of an ear;  lengthening the hair so that it covers the ear entirely.  A few brush lines on the eyebrows, even a touch of rouge or lipstick on the photograph.   As Susie Orbach says, "... turning little girls** into facsimiles of china dolls."

** and no doubt, little boys too!

Let babies be babies1

So it is with cosmetic surgery too.  Young teenage women are now begging surgeons to correct their noses;  change the shape of their chin;  the length of their ear lobes;  give them more "attractive"pumped up lips;  shorten their forehead;  make a snip here or there on their eyelids.   And will they still be happy with the results in 5, 10, 15 years time - or will they be making regular and ongoing visits to their very own "cosmetician/surgeon" to constantly be made more beautiful?    What is the "ideal" that they're looking for?

Jocelyn Wildenstein

What happened to "natural" looks?  Those looks that we're born with, and grow up with, and which define us as being unique?    Why is there so much dissatisfaction with what we have,  in the pursuit of getting or becoming what we aren't?   Where does it all end?

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