Why it's Time to Stop Making Body Image a Female Issue
Let me tell you one thing: I love fitness bloggers. I'm a bit addicted to their yoga selfies, their fresh-faced post-workout Instagram updates and their ability to spur me on when I'm too lazy to peel my butt of the sofa, put on some yoga pants and get to work. I appreciate fitness bloggers for reminding me that strong is the new skinny, that working out will make me feel stronger and more energetic, and how radiant and healthy I'll be if I get over my laziness and get moving.
Some days, depending on how I'm feeling, I'll look at my stomach after a workout and think, 'damn, that's some killer abs!'. Other days, I'll glance at my thighs while changing out of my yoga pants and go, 'wow, those things are gigantic'.
But once I am done working out and done looking at Instagram, I am fully and completely capable of putting my phone away, changing back into my pyjamas and going about my day without a second thought to whether I can hold plank position for longer than a minute, and how my butt looks while I'm doing it.
And apparently, mainstream media deems me incapable of doing so.
It seems like wherever I turn, there's talk of 'female body insecurities'. Media is showering us with unrealistic imagery; fitness bloggers are contributing to the 'muscle hysteria' and women are suffering because of it. If you tune out your better judgement and give in to the media's message, it appears that all we do with our days and time is a) worry about how we look and b) suffer because we're so tremendously preoccupied with the state of our butts and bellies.
What drives me crazy about this is the condescending attitude of those who, under the guise of 'caring about women' reduce them to inept Barbie dolls who, apparently, are unable to care about anything other than their physical appearance. Do I acknowledge that Kayla Itsines is fitter than me? Of course. Do I suffer because of it? Not a chance, I am a rational adult who understands that a full-time trainer is going to have a body that I, a PR professional and magazine editor, will never achieve - not because I am somehow lesser, but because I work out a mere 30 minutes a day. It's simple maths, and not only am I confident that my fellow women are smart enough to make that connection, I am also a bit offended by the fact that media doesn't appear to think that we are.
It saddens me when I read that between a £1k pay rise and significant weight loss, the majority of women would choose the latter, but it is also true that I have never seen male-focused media put their readers in front of such a choice. Why must women constantly face questions about their bodies and how they feel about them? In a time when women are starting groundbreaking businesses, writing bestellers, selling millions of records and running for president, reducing them to to crying, nervous wrecks crippled by 'body insecurities' is limiting and disrespectful - and it goes against everything feminism stands for.
It's time to stop talking about body image as a women's issue - men face just as much pressure as we do, and important as it is to promote a healthy body view in media, it is much more complex than just 'get rid of skinny female models'. It's about not reducing the concept of the feminine to a body, to measurements, to clothing sizes. It is also imperative that we keep in mind that the self-acceptance movement must focus on strength and well-being rather than the freedom to slob on the couch wolfing down Pringles - the rising levels of obesity all over the Western world should be alarming enough to remind us that when talking about food and exercise, we must shift our concentration from appearances to health, for men and women alike.
If we want to empower women, I say let's talk about their incredible achievements rather than their waistlines. Let's take the focus off the physical. Let's celebrate women who found inspiring businesses, who fight to save the world, who break rules and laugh in the face of conventions. Let's discuss Lena Dunham's incredible writing skills rather than how 'brave' she is for being naked in an episode of Girls (she is not brave, she is naked. No one ever tells Jessica Alba she is brave for shedding the layers in favour of a bikini in a movie). Let's talk about Angelina Jolie's dedication to philanthropy rather than her 'toned' legs on display in that gala dress. Let's focus on Hillary Clinton's election programme rather than her hair. Let's talk about what women do instead of how they look. Men have been doing it for ages. It's really that simple. If we start in that end, everything else will slowly sort itself out.
Photo via Pinterest
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