Saturday was a gorgeous day here in Southeast Missouri, so I decided to take a walk up to the library, which is only about 1/2 a mile from my house. I browsed for an hour or so and picked up several books, magazines and movies. One book, Body Outlaws, promised a look at women who were living happily within their bodies, no matter the shape or color; those who believe "self-acceptance is not defeat." I thought surely this book would fit in perfectly with the view I try to bring to my life and to this blog.
Instead, I found essays by women so profoundly obsessed with their bodies and looks that I was aghast and disbelieving.
One woman wrote about her endless despair at her "brown face" and the perceived mystery behind it that seemingly allures and ensnares men. For example, she is sitting in a restaurant crying to a friend about how men always stare at her while a man at a nearby table actually does so. He leaves, comes back and tries to present the woman with earrings he has just purchased for her. She just cowers and is flabbergasted. "Oh, woe is me! I'm so beautiful and mysterious that men want to get to know me. Woe, woe, woe!" (Not an actual quote.)
How about opening up on this guy and letting him know that his actions are creepy and inappropriate? Tell him proudly that your heritage is Indian and the Egyptian earrings he just purchased are not only way out of line, but way off in terms of ethnicity. Tell him to get lost. Have you ever considered that maybe you're just pretty and the ethnicity is part of that? Be happy with your "brown face" and stop your friggin' whining!
Then there's the woman who goes off on Barbie dolls. Sure, we've all met people who found these unnaturally proportioned dolls to reinforce negative stereotypes of women, but this gal took it to a whole other level. She said Barbies "ultimately succeed where Hitler failed" by making people think that blond-haired, blue-eyed women are the ideal. Wow! There is just so much wrong with her thinking that I can't even begin to address it all. Let me just say that she might want to seek some counseling to find out why she feels so insecure when comparing herself to a child's toy.
Then Body Outlaws continued on with essays about big butts, small stature, shaving and many other body image issues. One common theme seemed to be that little girls learn at a young age whether or not they are pretty (read: important), and whether they are or aren't can scar them for life.
Maybe this is my age talking, or maybe it's that I never considered my looks to be my most marketable or lovable trait, or perhaps it's my inability to put up with shallow people, but here goes. Get Over It Already!!!
To me, self-acceptance is not obsessing positively OR negatively about your looks. It's about doing what is best for your health, making yourself as presentable and/or professional as needed for your job and your life, and getting on with things that matter.
In a world with a host of body image problems, Body Outlaws is actually just part of the problem.