Most of you are probably aware of Karl Lagerfeld’s comment a few months ago regarding Adele:
The thing at the moment is Adele. She is a little too fat, but she has a beautiful face and a divine voice.
Isn’t that what people always say about someone they deem to be overweight…”but she has a pretty face.” Like somehow that makes up for the fat comment. But that isn’t really the point of today’s post. The point is that Adele is not fat, but because she doesn’t look like a supermodel, she is labeled as such.
Another one is Christina Hendricks from Mad Men. She too has been referred to as fat. Boobs, yes, fat, no. And while these fat comments about celebrities might not be commonplace (likely due to the fact that celebrities are under pressure to be uber-thin), spoken or not, they are out there. The statistics vary, but one study found that 50% of fourth grade girls were dieting and 75% considered themselves overweight…and that was in 1986.
“The influences are worse now,” says one researcher, Kerry Cave, a clinical nurse leader at Martin Memorial Medical Center in Stuart, Fla. Earlier this year, in the Journal of Psychosocial Nursing, she chronicled the latest research on “the influences of disordered eating in prepubescent children.” Among the findings: A preoccupation with body image is now showing up in children as young as age five, and it can be exacerbated by our culture’s increased awareness of obesity, which leaves many non-overweight kids stressed about their bodies. This dieting by children can stunt growth and brain development.
I don’t know what the answer is. Maybe we have to start with ourselves. If we don’t love our own bodies, how are we ever going to pass that down to our daughters, sons, nieces, nephews, students, friends (I’m including the male gender as studies are showing that more boys are beginning to diet & have eating disorders)? Being healthy should be the focus. Yo-yo dieting, severely restricting calories, omitting important food groups all have negative impacts on our health, sometimes devastatingly so. This is not healthy. The reality is we are all different. While you can control the quality and quantity of the food you eat and how much you exercise, genetics also play a factor in how you will look. We all look different. Wouldn’t it be boring if we all looked the same?
I also get a bit incensed when women are critiqued for looking “too muscular.” Especially when this is what they mean:
This is Jessica Biel. And yes, in a survey of 2000 women conducted by Leigh Peele, women found her “too” muscular (actually, she was defined as “bulky”). You should read Leigh’s entire post about her survey called “Defining Bulky Once and For All.” She did a follow up blog post titled “Bulky Muscles and Women, Part Deux” where she posted comments made about Kate Goslin’s (and Madonna’s) arms. One comment about Kate was “I always thought Kate was butchy!”
We need to understand that women can look so many different ways, all of them beautiful. One advertiser who I think is doing something to try to make a difference is Dove, with their “Campaign for Real Beauty.” This ad campaign began in September 2004 with women whose appearance was “outside the stereotypical norms of beauty.”
In 2010 Dove began the “Movement for Self-Esteem.”
Dove® has created self-esteem- building, educational programs and activities that encourage, inspire and motivate girls around the world. Dove® has reached over 7 million girls so far with these programs, and set a global goal of reaching 15 million girls by 2015.
And in 2011 Dove released its findings from a large global study, which revealed
…that only 4% of women around the world consider themselves beautiful, and that anxiety about looks begins at an early age. In a study of over 1,200 10-to-17-year-olds, a majority of girls, 72%, said they felt tremendous pressure to be beautiful.
We have a long way to go. So let’s start with ourselves…I will be the first to admit that I need to be more accepting of my own body, and less critical of others. Do we have an obesity problem in this country, of course we do. But we also have a huge body image problem, which is something you and I can do something about.
I will leave you with some additional images, from a book titled “The Athlete” by Howard Schartz and Beverly Ornstein. Maybe you have seen this before. What I love is that all the men and women presented are athletes who have excelled in their particular sport. And they all look different. Enjoy (dibs on Jason Kidd).