Not only does society and the media emphasize the importance of thinness, but they also convey that youthfulness is key to beauty. Cosmetic companies are continuously inventing and advertising products that can help to reverse or delay the unfavorable, natural process we call aging.
Instead of seeing wisdom and loveliness in their wrinkles, many women see ugliness and the inevitable passing of time. How can our culture look down upon something that is so innate to human nature? Growing older is something that should be celebrated, not something that we all try — and fail — to avoid. A 55-year-old woman may not have the traditional beauty of youth, but she is beautiful still. It’s amazing the lengths that people will go to try and look younger.
For example, why not just buy an $180 dollar “Hydra Global Intense Anti-Aging” cream? In the article “America’s Obsession with Youth Explored,” Bridget Webber describes how America’s fixation with youthful appearances must have deeper meanings than just being afraid of getting older and dying. She notes how if people were just afraid of growing old, they wouldn’t try to look 20 years younger every day. Obviously, it is the physical aspects of youth that our society values as beautiful.
When I consider the extremes that females resort to for thinner figures, I can’t help but to think of the extreme importance of looks in today’s culture. It is of the human nature to base first impressions of people on their physical appearance and to be inclined to like those who we find attractive.
Looks are a superficial thing that are determined solely by chance and chance alone. Besides cosmetic surgery, we can only alter our appearances by eating and exercise habits. Some women with eating disorders don’t eat enough and exercise far too much. It is also against human nature to want to go through physical strife such as hunger pains or exerting too much energy, so something must be motivating these women to subject themselves to such circumstances. That something is the insane desire to be skinny and “beautiful.” This paradox between human instincts clearly conveys the mental aspect that must be accounted for in the diagnosis of anorexia nervosa.
People who are suffering from anorexia nervosa can have psychological symptoms very similar to those of depression. They can experience feelings of worthlessness, fatigue and loss of interest, and may even withdraw themselves from their usual social experiences (http://www.mirror-mirror.org/anorexia-and-effect.htm). All these psychological symptoms stem from severely low self-esteem.
I find it quite disturbing that many of our society’s values and norms have pushed so many women to find their own bodies inadequate, and even if they are perfectly healthy and beautiful, they are blind to it. Perfection does not exist, and I wish people would stop pushing themselves too hard to reach it. It is a sad fact that our culture places such great emphasis on something that is completely shallow.
When did the unusually tall, skinny and minimally curved female body become the icon for fashion? Why was this rare and widely unattainable body type chosen to display clothing designer’s newest looks? These garments (or other related clothes by the same designers) would eventually be selling to the entire population of women anyway, so who decided to present these clothes on such an un-average frame?
I remember hearing on America’s Next Top Model that most designers say these size zero girls are simply meant to be walking clothes hangers. They want the focus on their clothing, not so much the woman wearing them. In my eyes, I could see this potentially limiting some sales. Everyday women may not want to wear the things these slim girls wear while confidently strutting down the runway simply because they are intimidated. It would be easy for them to think that just because they will never have a model’s body type, that they wouldn’t look good in those clothes.
I came across a blog written by Sally McGraw, where she argues that the “clothes-hanger” argument still doesn’t rationalize the use of such thin women as models. She asks if something should still be considered clothing if it only looks good on hangers and a small population of women.
Some women, occasionally runway models themselves, can go to extremes to obtain such skinny figures. The general public is very aware of common eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia, which can both result in death if continued over a long period of time, but what other unhealthy methods do women partake in to lose weight?
In an article “From cocaine to eating cotton wool balls, how models stay thin” published in the UK by Bibby Sowray, it is explained how models have used Adderal, speed, cocaine, laxatives, cigarettes and even an injection meant for pregnant women. Many of these drugs suppress the appetite or speed up the metabolism, thus resulting in weight loss. Some of these girls are doing this because the job demands it. Is it right to encourage these body types when such unhealthy habits can be formed in attempt of achieving skinniness?
Having a layer of fat on the body is quite essential to a human’s health. I believe that the modeling industry needs to slightly re-think their “clothes-hanger” approach.