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Body Image: Why It’s a Matter of Concern

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By Gunveen Chadha:

When was the last time you appreciated or admired your own body?
An immediate response would be that there is no reason for you to appreciate your own body; it is not a perfect body. Today, our lives revolve around what other people believe or think about us.  It’s no longer that we are concerned with whom we actually are, but it’s an image which we want to portray, even if it is, in reality, a false one.

We are getting obsessed with our appearance. It is the people, it is us who make the society and today we are letting the society shape us. We are letting the society decide things for us rather than making our own individual decisions.

Influence of media on society contributes to the much of a problem that people face of accepting themselves with their natural bodies. Today the models are super thin and skinny and weigh less than the weight they actually should be weighing according to their height and age. When society starts to get influenced by them, everyone starts to crave for a body like that and falls to any extent to achieve it.

Harming ones health in order to get the perfect body is becoming a trend now. Side effects of substances used to attain the body are not considered by most of the people as attaining the body image is of utmost importance. In “Leaky” by Don Kulick and Thais Machando-Borges the mother and the daughter react enthusiastically about a pill that would make them lose fat. Not even once did the thought of the harmful side effects of the pills came into their mind as they were overwhelmed by the fat the pill would make them lose.

The other thing important is how the cost of the pill being a huge amount barely mattered to them. Even if one can’t afford to make the two ends meet, it is important to attain the body image so that the society looks up to them, hence one would spend valuable money on pills even if they needed to get out of their financial comfort zone. Kulick and Machando-Borges reported, “The way that people in Brazil, particularly people in the middle class, cope with this situation is to live their lives as though they personally are First World citizens, even if people around them are not”. This adds to our understanding that it is important for one to affiliate oneself as a part of a group that is the highest class of the society. It is not only important to identify with a group to have an impact on others, but more so to satisfy one’s own ego.

Everyone wants to have the body image that is admired by the society today. In some cultures, getting surgeries done is considered as a social indicator, that the person is rich and wealthy. It is a mode of showing off wealth in the society. Society views it as that they have the wealth to alter the parts of their body to look beautiful, it is a matter of pride, and not one of hiding away in these cultures. Body image or beauty should be empowering us and should not be enslaving. The reality is opposite. Leaky by Kulick and Machando-Borges illustrates how a person in Brazil talks openly about surgeries as it is a symbol of showing off wealth. Kulick and Machando-Borges state, “This procedure means one thing to them,” Joana told Thais. “Status. To have plastic surgery is to show that you have the money to afford it. It’s chic to talk about it. That’s why Claudia and her family are talking so openly about it. It shows they have money.” This clearly explains how body image or beauty is enslaving us in the world of today as we want to achieve a perfect body image to prove something’s to the society.

Beauty is nothing but what we tune our brains to look at and say it looks good. Someone once said beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder. Society’s opinion and views on what beauty is continue to change with time based on media influence, celebrities, fashion and more. In the past it was considered that those who are wealthy and rich are fat and so most of the people wanted to have the extra pounds. Today it is about being skinny. Are any of them healthy for us? Being healthy is to be the ideal weight in correct proportion to your height, and not based on what the society thinks is the ideal weight.  Why is it that so many surgeries, Botox, liposuctions and enhancements are getting done by people to attain the shape and looks that they were not born with? One of the main reasons is that we grew up with an ideal beauty image in our mind. We played with the pretty Barbie’s and macho G.I Joes and automatically our brain developed an idea of a perfect body image which is now unrealistic. The beauty which is artificial and harms ones health in return, is not worth it.

Earlier, it was important for women to look a certain way for attractiveness and to be accepted by the society. Men did not have to worry to the extent that they do now as they were the ones who had more choice to pick which women. Today men are obsessively worrying about their looks and physique as the power is declining. Women are doing all the things which men do; women are competing with men at all levels. “Never to Buff” by John Cloud shows how men are taking steroids, supplements and spending extra time at gym, to reach their goal of having a perfect body. Men are working extremely hard to attain the perfect body, it is an unspoken competition that is running between men as the man with a perfect body is more likely to have a relationship with a girl. Men want to be accepted and more so be admired by the society.

Not only are the adults a victim of society’s wishes, but so are adolescents- they are the ones who are mostly affected. They are the ones who are reading the teen magazines, keeping an eye for all the celebrity news and are trying to make a place for themselves in this world. They are trying to push all limits to attain that perfect body.

Living in a consumer culture has co-modified the body as we view everything as a medium of exchange now, be it actual commodities or commodities like our body. We are paying for those pills, steroids, surgeries to alter our body, we pay a price and we obtain a modified body.

Rather than one focusing so much on their looks to attain a status in the society and earn a name in the world, if they looked for alternative sources of happiness — perhaps worked hard in their particular field and contributed to the world, they would be self satisfied, motivated and happy in their lifetime. The artificial beauty will not last them a lifetime. Attaining the status in society, with modes of looks is living a life filled with continued pretending. 

The following sources were referred to for the above article - 

Machado-Borges, Don Kulick and Thais. Leaky. n.d.

“Never to Buff”: http://find.galegroup.com/gtx/infomark.do?action=interpret&contentSet=IAC-Documents&docType=IAC&infoPage=infoMarkPage&type=retrieve&searchType=BasicSearchForm&tabID=T003&docId=A61565618&prodId=EAIM&source=gale&version=1.0&userGroupName=bentley_main&finalA.

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  1. Shelley Saha

    not only that.. but apparently in some African countries.. women are forced to eat fat, because thats the only way they can mate and find husbands (or the other way around), because the men like them fat. What they don’t consider is all the cholesterol issues, diabetes and all the other obesity related problems that come along with it. The sad part is, their society makes them that way and it’s a ritual that they have been following for ages.
    Even if you read the book The Color Purple, it mentions how this tribe forces the women to scar themselves. Some tribes force the women to go bald after marriage. But for what?
    It’s everywhere! It’s difficult to take a stand and be happy with your own body when the society has been perceiving “the ideal figure” for generations. Like you said Barbie and G.I. Joes are perceptions of the ideal look which are unrealistic, but we just succumb to that pressure.

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Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

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