The one destructive epidemic amongst women that you need to know about
There is an epidemic that is hitting our society, hard. It’s been going on for years now, and it doesn’t get the attention that it needs.
It’s an epidemic that is tearing girls from their dreams, from their progress, and from their self-worth.
It’s hitting our girls, our daughters, our sisters, our friends. I’ve seen it in Mothers, and I’ve seen it in wives, and I’ve definitely seen it in myself.
Consider the friend who refuses to come to yoga class because she feels she doesn’t have the right body to participate, even though it would have done her a world of good, on the inside more than anything.
Think of the sister who is too embarrassed to leave the house as she has “nothing to wear”; nothing that reveals enough, is “sexy” enough, when actually, she’d look great in a paper bag, and she’s the most beautiful girl you know.
Reflect on the Mum who stares in the mirror with the saddest expression, as she tries to smudge out her crows’ feet and hide her grey hairs, even though she should wear them like badges of honour for all she has achieved in her incredible life.
Do these sound familiar to you? Yes. Because they are real, and they are happening all over the world.
Women are feeling worth less and less and less, each and every day.
The saddest thing about this, is that these women have unique talents and abilities, and beautiful things inside of them to offer to the world — they have something special to give — but they are missing out; they are holding back; they are damaging themselves because they don’t believe their physical appearance is up to scratch.
Nobody is exempt from this; we only get one shot at this life, and a lot of women are missing out on theirs because of this one unhealthy, destructive trait, of self-objectification.
I think it is only reasonable that before we can start helping each other out — before we can lose these shackles that have bound us for decades — that we understand what causes this unhealthy obsession with our appearance.
Here are, in my opinion and research, the top three drivers.
A lot of people think that modesty is all about what you wear, and what you look like. But we need to change that conversation from what we look like, to how it makes us feel.
Studies on the epidemic of self-objectification show us that “clothing represents an important contributor to the body and emotional experience of contemporary young women” because body-baring clothing leads to greater states of self-objectification, body shame, body dissatisfaction, and negative mood (the latest study of this kind was just published in May 2012’s Sex Roles academic journal). What this tells us (and what our own experience as girls tells us too) is that when we wear clothing that is revealing, we become very self-aware of the parts that are on show. We self-objectify and are in a near-constant state of adjusting our clothing, fixating on what we look like, and looking at other people looking at us. It’s OK to like being looked at, and even to like attention from others for our looks, but if it’s getting in the way of progress, happiness, and health — as so much research confirms that it is for many — we’ve got to move on to being more than an object to be looked at. Because we are all so much more than that.
But where do the immodest influences come from? Like my husband always likes to remind me, nothing comes from nowhere — it’s either genetics or environment, and in the case of clothing, it’s environment, and more specifically….
On every magazine cover, on every page, on every show, in every store, in every music video and at every award evening we are swamped with these overly perfected, photo-shopped images of who we think we need to be.
How is it fair to compare yourself to anybody else, let alone the media’s portrayal of what they think the perfect woman is? It isn’t.
The media preys on women like us. They know that everyone is a different shape and size, with different talents and abilities and goals and dreams and attributes, yet they choose, again and again to focus on one thing and one thing only; a woman’s outward appearance, and how they think we should all look. How boring would it be if we all looked like Beyoncé? Then Beyoncé wouldn’t be special. Beyoncé has an incredible talent she offers to the world in her voice. How many magazine covers show a picture of her in the studio, mid-power-note in her voice-recording clothes? None. Because we can’t buy Beyoncé’s dreams, but we can buy her clothes, and her makeup, and her body, and they can prey off of our desperate desires to look more like her, not the ones to perform, or act more like her. And they know this, they know it so much, and that’s why they continue to plaster famous women on magazines the way they do.
The world is fixated on our bodies, and so are we. Which leads us on to the third driver:
It’s us. We, the people. We, the people and our obsession with comparing ourselves to each other, and comparing each other to another, and another to ourselves, and it all goes around in a vicious circle of comparison that takes us to a dark place of self-loathing, low self-esteem, and self-objectification.
We’ve heard it before, but now we need to listen: we need to stop comparing. It’s not right, and it’s not fair — to ourselves, and to the people we compare ourselves to.
We need to praise one another for our unique abilities and our special gifts, not slash each other down with visual and physical comparisons of clothing size, face symmetry and sex appeal.
Us girls, we need to have each other’s backs, because a lot of the rest of the world is against us.
Beauty Redefined says this: “When we live “to be looked at,” self-conscious of our bodies, we are left with fewer mental and physical resources to do what can really bring happiness. We perform worse on math tests, logical reasoning tests, athletic performance, have lower sexual assertiveness (including the ability to say “no” when needed), and we are left unfulfilled and unhappy. When we self-objectify, which is the norm today for little girls all the way up to older women, disordered eating and cosmetic surgery procedures increase, we stop raising our hands in class, and we quit pursuits of math and science degrees at greater rates. We experience immense body shame, anxiety and depression, and fixate on our bodies enough that we never get on to the great things we can and should be doing. Girls and women LOSE — and so do the men all around us — when we fixate on bodies.”
Why am I so passionate about this cause? Because I have a dream that all women are confident in who they are and who they choose to be, are able to fully embrace their beautifully unique abilities, and aspire to reveal more of their true value than their bodies to the world.
Self-objectification is one of the biggest obstacles in the way of achieving that dream, and raising awareness here is the first step to making it a reality.