Friday, May 18, 2007

The Media War on Women

In today's culture, we women are starving ourselves, starving our children and loved ones, gorging ourselves, gorging our children and loved ones, alternating between starving and gorging, purging, obsessing, and all the while hating, pounding and wanting to remove that which makes us female: our bodies, our curves, our pear-shaped selves.

You can be just about whatever you want to be - any dream can be accomplished as long as you pursue it. Most of us live where there are many opportunities, rich with culture and diversity. With all the freedom and prosperity we enjoy women still remain prisoners. "Prisoners", you ask, what do you mean? Women are enslaved to a beauty myth, chained to the false belief that our value is based on our appearance alone.

The images of men and women in ads today do not promote self esteem or positive self image. They're intended to sell products. In the U.S. alone billions of dollars are spent by consumers who pursue the perfect body. The message "thin is in" is sold thousands of times a day through TV, movies, magazines, billboards, newspapers and songs. Advertising conveys the message "You're not O.K. Here's what you need to do to fix what's wrong." Girls and boys believe it and react to it. Western society places a high value upon appearance. Self-worth is enhanced for those who are judged attractive. Those who are deemed unattractive can feel at a disadvantage. The message from the media, fashion and our peers can create a longing- a longing to win the approval of our culture and fit in at any cost. And that can be disastrous to our self esteem.

Approximately 10% of girls and women are suffering from diagnosed eating disorders. Of these at least 150,000 will die as a direct result! How did this problem reach such epidemic proportions? Why are we dieting ourselves to death, literally dying to fit in? When did we become so ashamed of our bodies, when did we learn to hate them so much? While eating disorders claim lives and significantly impact the health and well being of sufferers, as we investigate further an even more disturbing picture emerges. An amazing 80% of women are dissatisfied with their appearance. These numbers are staggering! Surely they cannot be correct! How and why could we have learned such contempt for our bodies and ourselves?

Why are women attacking their bodies? Where did we learn that our self worth is measured by external factors - by numbers on a scale? The answer lies in constant, subtle attacks on our bodies. These attacks wear us down, shake our confidence and esteem. We loose our sense of self, individuality and fall victim to narrow definitions of beauty defined by the media. The media acts as a propaganda machine determined to shake our confidence, remind us we aren't good enough, we haven't made it, that we just simply do not measure up. Why is the media bent on making us feel so down about ourselves? Why do they go to such lengths to make us feel "less than?"

The answer is quite simple - pure economics. The media machine is economically driven as billions are spent on items such as cosmetics, new diets and clothes. This "beautifying" empire is dependent on our disempowerment. They count on us buying into their myths and misrepresentations: "we will never fit it, we can never be happy, thus we can never end the pursuit." Alas, the pursuit is endless, the products are endless, the damage to our self-esteem is endless, and the body hatred created is devastating. The assault is unrelenting! The images are everywhere. How could it all happen, right under our noses? It is a subtle, continuous bombardment of images of beauty, images defined by profiteers, images that are not real, not authentic, and not attainable.

The impact that these images have on women is profound. The financial, social and psychological and physical damages of a woman's lifetime pursuit of thinness are impossible to measure. Gone are the days of cars and vacations as graduation gifts, they have been replaced by cosmetic surgery. "Cosmetic surgery is the fastest growing 'medical' specialty. Depression, despair, depletion of self-esteem, the withering and wasting away of physical, psychological and financial resources are unbelievable. Women and adolescent girls regard size, much like weight, as a definitive element of their identity. Some girls assume there is something wrong with their bodies when they cannot fit consistently into some "standard" size; others will reject a pair of jeans simply because they won't wear a particular size.

How can we begin to make changes? How can we assess our damage report? We must all take a personal inventory of how our lives have been impacted by these images and how we have fallen victim to these lies and misrepresentations of beauty. By examining how these images have impacted our lives we are better equiped to avoid falling victim to these myths. You will learn to measure yourself by intrinsic qualities that are of far greater value and are far more beautiful than any image manufactured on a movie screen.