I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of the ongoing message that the natural, curvy, womanly body I was born into is unacceptable. I’m tired of being horrified when I hear that five-year old girls already criticize their bodies and think they need to lose weight. I’m tired of the media forcing their limited, unattainable version of beauty on us.
The underweight beauty ideal of today is a complete invention of the media machine. Nature never intended women to look like teenage boys with large breasts, but the relentless media depiction of this body type powerfully
defines it as the ultimate in beauty. Without starvation and plastic surgery, it’s impossible for 99% of women to achieve this ideal. So we learn to dislike our naturally gorgeous bodies and try desperately to change them. The toxic body messages we are deluged with every day cause eating disorders and widespread unhappiness.
53% of 13 year-old girls and 80% of adult women spend every day disliking their bodies. It doesn’t have to be this way. People naturally have all sorts of different body shapes and sizes. We don’t have to let the media continue to define just one type of beauty as the ideal. We don’t have to let them continue to ruin countless lives in their quest for more profits.
In the US, the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) Media Watchdog program is working to change the toxic media message. You can help by joining the free program and monitoring magazines, television, and radio. Keep track of what you see then send your positive and negative findings to NEDA. Every quarter they write at least one letter of praise or protest to companies on behalf of the Watchdogs and post the results on the NEDA Media Watchdog website. Since the inception of the program in 1997, over half the ads they protested have been discontinued. It’s time for the media’s attack on our bodies to stop. The Watchdog program gives us a powerful voice for change.
Refuse to support:
- Ads with a message or image intended to make people feel bad about their body shape or size.
- Promoting thinness as the only acceptable body size.
- Shows or ads that make fun of heavy people or imply that they are inferior or unacceptable.
- Idealizing people who are dieting or starving themselves.
- People shown using food for comfort, stress relief, or companionship.
- Emaciated models or actresses portrayed as the beauty ideal or star of the program.
Celebrate and praise:
- Promoting fitness and exercise solely as ways to get thin rather than ways to get healthy, feel good, and have fun.
- Ads that have people of all sizes and shapes depicted in positive ways.
- People eating healthy, good foods including desserts.
- Celebration of natural diversity and the enjoyment of life.
If you want to take the campaign even further, write your own praise or protest letter to the advertiser or the media outlet and share your views on social media. Ruffle a few feathers and let them know that attacks on our bodies will not be tolerated and that positive diversity is appreciated. Tell them you won’t be buying their products due to the offensive advertising. Be sure to thank companies for positive messages, too. Every little move in the direction of healthy body diversity is great. Thank them for being part of a culture that appreciates health and all kinds of beauty.
Carlana Charles is the visionary and editor-in-chief of FemmePowered. She is a womanist, writer, speaker, story midwife and facilitator of meaningful and engaging conversations. When she is not working in or on FemmePowered, she can be found resting, baking, reading or scribbling furiously in her journal whilst sipping wine or coffee, sometimes both at the same time. She is currently working on her first book and hopes to release it in September 2017.