As a young woman, I tend to be dissatisfied with my body on a daily basis. As depressing as that sounds, I think the majority of women feel the same way.
I remember hearing in a Dove commercial a figure like, “97% of women have an I hate my body moment every day.”
I don’t know how they got that number, and why they were using women’s insecurities to make a profit, but it’s always stuck with me.
Why do we all “hate” our bodies? Is it self-inflicted? Has it always been this way? Will I ever truly be satisfied?
There are many theories as to why women have a growing dissatisfaction with their bodies., even with eating disorders having the highest mortality rate of any mental disorder, we still can’t find a way to stop this cycle.
Where did it begin?
If you’ve ever been to a museum and looked at the old glamorous garments worn by women of the past, it’s no secret there were idealized body types even hundreds of years ago. Corsets, bustiers and bustles created curvaceous silhouettes that mimick a woman’s curves by holding in her waist and supporting her breasts.
The understructure of wires, pads, and ties was more important than the actual body under the garment. There’s no evidence that “thin-ness” was particularly desired.
It all really began rolling in the 20th century, there’s a very defined shift towards an increasingly young and increasingly kind of athletic and slender body.
Magazines displayed slender women’s bodies and suddenly an epidemic of eating disorders began in young women. See the connection?
By the 1920s the ‘ideal woman’ was thinnest it had ever been in the US.
Looking back on our history, it’s clear that the media plays a vital role in promoting the “body standard.” But we know all this, don’t we? How many times can we tell ourselves to stop comparing ourselves to Instagram models or magazine supermodels? If turning off my phone would make me love my body, life would be a lot easier.
Culture and Thin-Heritance
It can feel as though women are predisposed to hate their bodies. Although eating disorders aren’t proven to be genetic, there’s evidence to show that a mother’s views about food, dieting practices, and negative attitudes and comments about her body, put her child at high risk of an eating disorder. This is called ‘Thin-Heritance.’
Many homes value external features like thinness, over health and wellbeing. Even the most loving mothers can unintentionally pass down their unhealthy relationship with food, exercise, and their body. It’s a cycle that we are just recognizing now, but it’s so hard to break. So many women struggle to accept their bodies, and how many of these women become mothers?
Body image also stems from cultural messages. My family is very English, and that at times comes with banter and insult fuelled humour. There’s an infamous story in my family about how when I was around 2 years old my grandad made a comment about how I better “lose the tum” before I go into grade school.
In other cultures, it gets far worse than witty remarks. Until recently, many non-American countries, considered a plumper figure to be ideal. However, as access to the internet is becoming more widespread, even in developing countries, girls are beginning to view themselves as fat. In efforts to look more like Western women, young girls are going on diets and developing eating disorders.
The Male Gaze
As a young woman goes through puberty you come to realize that finding a man will not be a problem in life. Existing in a female body automatically puts you on the market, and demand is always high. No matter your rolls, waist size or length of legs.
Women don’t want to be thinner so men will sexualize them. In a world where much of your value comes from your appearance, you come to believe, if you’re going to be an object, might as well try to be a ‘high-value’ one.
Society can make women feel only worth their bodies, the media uses this to their advantage to sell a product.
It works for everyone but women, to have women hate their reflection.
Obesity is a real issue, especially in North America that comes with many risks including, diabetes, hypertension and sleep apnea. But no woman needs to be told they’re fat.
I often see this argument, that obese people need to be told their fat and shamed into weight loss. As if they are living in some magical fairy tale world and don’t already know?
If you find yourself commenting on a stranger’s appearance, it’s obviously not because you care about their health.
Whether you’re obese or fit, you know the feeling of shame. No matter your diet or exercise regime there’s nothing that seems to fill the void of shame women carry in their bodies.
This may not be the happy ending you were looking for, but I’m not old enough nor wise enough to what a life in which you love your body feels like. The negative self-talk is a constant hum in the mind of what Dove claims to be 97% of women.
I don’t think there is a solution, but I think if we look at all the things I’m talking about; history, culture, relationships, and the patriarchy. We can begin to heal and fight back against a cycle. Speaking our truths won’t rid us of insecurity, but it’s important for women to find safety and compassion in a world that profits off our unhappiness.
What I believe is, you don’t need to love your body, but you don’t have to hate it.