Sunday Feminist Discussion

Sunday Feminist Discussion (26.2.23) summary – Body Image

Body image is often related too quickly to weight, but body issues can also be linked to skin issues, hair, body hair, skin color, sexual orientation, or age. In our patriarchal society, women are used to defining their worth around the male gaze and beauty standards that keep changing over time, making it appear impossible to meet society’s standards. For instance, we observed that people in straight relationships, especially women, are hyperfocused on their appearance, which can be traced back to the male gaze phenomenon. 

We first talked about the relationship between weight and health. While health concerns concerning obesity were raised, others argued that many use this argument to justify fatphobia. A double standard concerning weight was mentioned, where during pregnancy, more weight is okay because you’re carrying life. Still, you need to ‘get back in shape’ as soon as possible, which tells much about society. Because society is very concerned with outer appearances, society believes this false causal relationship that being pretty equals being healthy. However, the appearance of a person does not necessarily tell you anything about their health. While there’s no denying that in terms of eating disorders, for instance, not eating is very harmful, it is not addressed the same way as being fat. In the end, it is essential to remember that being in a different shape than society’s ideal picture doesn’t mean you’re less of a person. 

In the same way, it is essential to talk about the impact of social media, which can be harmful and beneficial simultaneously. For starters, social media reflects society and the standards attached to it. These standards, which are impossible to meet and keep changing, can be very harmful to teenagers and everybody using social media, scrolling through their Instagram feed, thinking this is what a normal body should always look like. Consequently, sometimes it feels like your body is not yours, that the way you see it depends on the interpretation that everybody has of it, whether they ‘approve’ it or not. This kind of behavior can affect your self-esteem and lead to body monitoring, which means always thinking about your body in space and how it can look to others. In this way, social media can be very harmful. However, we have seen over the past few years the emergence of the body positivity movement, pushing people to accept their body the way it is because all bodies are good and beautiful; the way we use words when describing our bodies is impactful. Perhaps a rethinking is useful, where we no longer talk about ‘flaws’ that we may have, but rather the different and unique features we all have.

Overall, the main question would be, what is beautiful? What does this word mean? Everybody has a different relationship with this word, so it is essential to deconstruct some patterns and try to think without society’s eyes. It feels like beauty often acts like a currency, in terms of relationships or even jobs, for instance, as you would have to fit into certain norms to access certain things. And therefore, the way you look can become an obsession for many people, especially in your teenage years when the body is naturally changing a lot. Moreover, family influence can have a lot of importance; whether it is a toxic environment or not, it will always have an impact because the parental figure is essential. Many of us have grown up in a toxic environment, making remarks about our bodies or what we eat. Therefore it is necessary to break this toxic cycle and teach the new generation to love their bodies the way it is.

Additionally, it is crucial to talk about this issue within the trans community as well. Indeed, this specific issue is called body dysphoria. As a trans person, it can lead to trying to cover up your body because it is important to be seen as your gender, depending on the type of clothes you wear, or simply your hair to be seen as a man or woman.

Age also became an exciting part of our discussion. Indeed, there’s no denying that older women disappeared from any form of representation; at some point, they are no longer portrayed in advertising, tv shows, and movies. For instance, Meryl Streep (the one and only) talked about how, at a certain age, she only got offers for specific roles, only witches (!). In contrast, George Clooney and Brad Pitt are still on screen as they were in their twenties and are playing key roles while being much older. In the same way, older women are less respected than men in general. Again, it relates to the expectation of women being ‘young and fertile’ to achieve ‘their role’ in society. And after that, it seems like they are not needed anymore.

Women’s bodies also feel like an economic argument for capitalist society. Beauty standards are often used as commercial strategies to get you to spend more money (hair salons, pink tax….). 

Society tells us how we should feel about our weight, hair, sexual orientation, or skin color. We need to learn how to deconstruct these patterns and look for a new way to define our worth without looking at ourselves through society’s eyes. It is about building a new relationship with your body. Moreover, it is also about not defining your worth only upon how you look but instead looking at the things you achieve daily. In the same way, we could also try to address this to other people by complimenting their ideas and actions rather than the way they look. 

Throughout our discussion, people came up with a few solutions on how to deal with possible body issues;

  • Accept it first; love it after
  • Trying to manage the way you feel about yourself
  • Be compassionate about yourself and your body
  • Choosing what you want to be for yourself
  • Choosing which features you want to focus on
  • Make sure to follow good role models
  • Relearn your patterns, react, and speak up

Podcasts do go further on the subject:

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