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Women are taught to change themselves to fit into the world—get a new hairstyle, learn some tricks to dazzle your guy in bed, do what you can to make people comfortable, try an exotic recipe, forge a perfect body—but how often are we encouraged to create a better world, one in which we can be just ourselves? Rarely. We could do more with the Sixties mentality which prodded us to question authority, fight back, and be part of a revolution. In fact, one of the best antidotes to an eating disorder or problem is to practice saying yes to what’s right with the world and changing what’s wrong.
Although disordered eating seems like a personal problem, it affects us all. It’s generated by unhealthy cultural attitudes towards women’s beauty and bodies (sorry, guys) and is a major cause of health problems—undernourishment and overweight. Not to mention how miserable women feel about themselves for not measuring up to beauty ideals. Female attitudes about beauty run along a continuum. At one end are women who will do anything to gorgeous up. At the other are those who have so staunchly rejected these ideals that they let themselves go or purposely make themselves unattractive to make a statement. In between are women too busy to focus much on looks, but manage to be presentable, and those who spruce up as best they can.
It’s impossible to grow up female in this culture and not feel some pressure (even unconscious) to be pretty and body perfect. Perhaps the best we can do is to become aware of the forces that drive our choices and pick and choose wisely among them. It’s important to develop ALL aspects of ourselves. Gone are the days when a woman’s only option was to be some gent’s arm candy. It’s time to look past cultural ideals and develop our own style according to our shape, size, and dress preferences, or to have no particular style—and concentrate on other areas of life. It’s time to speak out when only one kind of beauty is foisted upon us by boycotting products/stores/brands and writing letters to magazines when we see ourselves portrayed in unhealthy ways.
Two websites, among others, are trying to help women view beauty in a healthier way—Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty and The NOW Foundation (http://www.campaignforrrealbeauty.com/ and http://www.nowfoundation.org/sexbeauty respectively). If you know of other sites, please share them by posting a comment below. Now is the time to start your own personal campaign to change society’s view of female beauty. Stop being critical of yourself and other women, start seeing past superficial ideals, and challenge male attitudes toward what women should look like.
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