Will we ever love our bodies?
Will we ever love our bodies?
For some it is a mild dislike, for others it a deep-seated hatred; the stretch marks, the cellulite that you just can't seem to budge or the fear of "fat" that can only be kept at bay with constant calorie counting.
No matter who anyone is and despite all their accomplishments - do a little digging and you will find a complicated tale of shape, weight, mirrors and make-up.
In 1996 Dove launched its Real Beauty Campaign; however, its 2014 survey has come up with these disturbing figures: 41% of women in the UK are unhappy with their weight and shape, this figure is up from the 36% in 2004. A staggering only 4% of women worldwide would describe themselves as beautiful, not only this but 1 in 5 women under 20 has considered cosmetic surgery.
In response to this survey there has been an explosion of awareness-raising groups such as the international initiative Endangered Bodies who's aim is to "challenge our devastating acceptance of body hatred as normal". There is also a UK wide Campaign for Body Confidence. The issue has even become a political issue, thanks to the All Party Parliamentary Group, Body Image. But despite women's individuality and successes in many areas of society- many still struggle with their reflection in the mirror. An example of this is Dr Rebecca Chicot, who has three children, a PhD and co- founded The Essential Parent Company. She states that despite having dedicated her life to academia and although she considers herself to be an intellectual, she knows that most of the images she sees on a daily basis of women are not real, however, she is still bothered that she does not look like them.
Psychologist Laura Papdopoulos stated that "in our hyper-visual world, this way we see ourselves now is validated and expressed through body image. This world expects a lot of young professional women, so what better way to indicate that you're perfect than to display a body you have successfully 'controlled'?"
Abigail Tazzyman, from the Centre for Women's Studies at the University of York, has researched how much our appearance outweighs other aspects of our lives. She interviewed 30 UK women, aged 18-25, and she found that “appearance is held up as the most valued attribute of a women and as the critical factor which defines their worth, irrespective of their other achievements or attributes, it is appearance they’re ultimately judged on by society.”
This suggests bad news for the future, as younger generations are being increasingly influenced to view their bodies as abnormal. However, according to many studies the way we interact with images is changing, according to these studies we see on average, 5,000 photo-shopped images a week! A study in 1995 by Harvard Medical School found that of teenage girls in Fiji, three years after television was introduced on the island, 74% of girls described themselves as “too big or fat”. This was due to the perception of the ideal body that television gave the girls.
Wanting to achieve a beauty ideal is unfortunately nothing new as humans we are hardwired to seek approval and today’s society tells women that approval will only come by being slim and young. The only difference now it that the ‘body project’ is never finished, as the body goalposts keep moving – thinner, tighter, younger- and so as women, we keep chasing.
Personally, this is a horrible realisation as, as women we should be supporting one another and breaking these barriers. 10 years after the Harvard Medical School study it is disheartening to know that these views have not changed and if anything have got worse.
Nina is in her Honours year at The University of Strathclyde in Glasgow studying History. She loves keeping fit and healthy at the gym and singing to her hearts content. Because of Nina's love of all things history related, she has a passion for reading, writing and researching. Nina is the Editor-in-Chief for an online magazine for female students at Strathclyde called Her Campus Strath and wants to continue her passion for writing after graduation.