Recently, at Barnes and Noble I was getting ready to pay for my items when a magazine at the checkout counter caught my eye. The magazine was O The Oprah Magazine and the major headline was: We're Starting a Beauty Revolution! (say bye-bye to feeling bad about your looks). Since starting this blog, I am constantly looking (with a critical eye) for positive and constructive statements about beauty in the media. The headline sounded promising, so I impulsively purchased the magazine. After reading the articles and the rest of the magazine I have conflicting feelings about the message that is conveyed. I would first like to share some of the encouraging and affirmative statements made in the article titled The Revolution Starts Here by Valerie Monroe.
"[When you look at a photos of a women in a magazine] If you are thinking, 'Well, this one could lose weight, and that one should try a push-up bra - and what's up with her hair?' you're probably casting the same beady, critical eye on yourself. Enough! It's time to change not how we look, but how we see."
"Everywhere we turn, there are images of gorgeous women, constant reproaches to the reality of us, with our real bodies and un-Photoshopped flaws. We're not buying it anymore!"
"Though the cultural ideal has broadened to include more diversity, it remains an ideal, setting an unrealistic standard by which we all, consciously or not, judge and are judged"
"Gorgeous is not a good stock to invest in. No matter what you do, how well you take care of yourself, one day you are going to lose everything on your investment. You know this, I know this. Even so, we buy into the beauty rules, colluding with a culture that makes us feel inadequate, whipping ourselves when we come up short. Which makes us-come to think of it-part of the problem."
"What if, instead of colluding, we traded cruelty for kindness? What if we started a revolution, if each one of us took a vow to catch ourselves scowling or sneering at our imperfections - and simply stop? If we noticed every time we had a nasty, hostile response to someone else's appearance - and simply stopped?"
"This is a call to arms. A call to be gentle, to be forgiving, to be generous with yourself. The next time you look into the mirror, try to let go of the story line that says you're too fat or too sallow, too ashy or too old, your eyes are too small or your nose too big; just look into the mirror and see your face. When the criticism drops away, what you will see then is just you, without judgment, and that is the first step toward transforming your experience of the world."
After reading part of this powerful and beautifully crafted article, you must be wondering "Megan, why do you have mixed feeling about this?"
My conflict is not because of the content of the article, but instead, the content of the magazine. While the article tries to promote a "beauty revolution" based on self-acceptance, the magazine seems to be running business as usual. Along side articles titled The Self Esteem Tool Kit and The Beauty Revolution are advertisements for Botox, diet plans, diet products, and lingerie featuring meagerly clothed models. It is hard to concentrate on self-acceptance when you are staring at ads that palpably tell you that you are not measuring up.
I do not mean to discredit Oprah or her magazine, because in fact, I find her magazine FAR less hypocritical than most. I applaud that the magazine confronts the issue of beauty and body image. I think that the contradiction in the magazine enforces Valerie Monroe's statement that we are "part of the problem". Advertisers such as these would not have ads in any magazines if there was no demand for the products they promote. We are obviously part of the cycle, but I hope that as we think about what is beautiful and become less accepting of what the media is feeding us we can at least break the cycle in our own minds.
Saturday, May 24, 2008
Posted by Megan at 10:29 PM
Thursday, May 15, 2008
I am currently enrolled in a Yoga class at my college. As part of the class we are required to keep a journal in which we answer and ponder questions and comments the instructor provides. Recently, we were asked to list in our journal five things we like about ourselves. Initially, this seemed simple enough. I was sure that I would swiftly have five items etched into my paper, but rather the opposite happened. Quickly, my mind began mentally tallying all my undesirable traits in the pursuit of a positive one worthy of my list. I did not intend to think negatively, however my thinking automatically arrived there. Negative thinking, especially about ourselves, has become instinctual and often inadvertent. When did we start believing that negativity was superior to positivity? When did it become fashionable to be depressed, insecure and self-doubting? The world around us tells us that we can't possibly be happy being simply who we are, and to that I say "WHY NOT?!" I think it is safe to say that the world is wrong about a few things, and this is just another one to add to the list.
In the end, I did think of five things I like about myself. In fact, this journal entry has prompted me to keep a running list of things that I like about myself to use as a shield against the media's constant bombardment of lies about beauty. I hope this post allows you a chance to consider five things you like about yourself.
Posted by Megan at 8:36 PM
I love dandelions. I think I love them because they are different depending on your perspective. To some, mostly adults, a dandelion is merely a disruptive weed, yet in the eyes of a child a Dandelion is a beautiful flower and one of life's simple pleasures. On a recent walk I observed a young boy pick up a dandelion from his front yard and give it to his mother. The most interesting part of the interaction was how the mother reacted to her son's gift. In an informative tone she explained to her son that a dandelion was not a flower at all, and that he should not blow on them because doing so only lead to more weeds in the yard. Isn't it interesting how two people can look at the same dandelion and see two different things? In the eyes of the boy, he had found something beautiful. As we become adults, we lose touch with our child like acceptance of the world and of ourselves. We become critical of beauty. Children seem to understand that just because a dandelion is a weed doesn't exclude it from being beautiful. Can you image how, if applied to our lives, this concept could change how we view ourselves? Just because you aren't perfect, just because you are different, or just because others don't accept you does not exclude you from being beautiful. We are all like dandelions and we are all beautiful.
Posted by Megan at 4:33 PM
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
Monday, May 12, 2008
Can you imagine viewing the world through a drinking straw? How sad it would be to only see a fraction of a sunset, only a portion of a loved one's smile, only part of the starry evening sky? Imagine how difficult it would be to do a simple thing like read a book with the narrow scope that the straw would allow. If your vision was limited to the restrictive view of a straw hole you would inevitably miss out on many of life's beautiful offerings.
Unfortunately, when we use the media's standard of beauty to view ourselves and others we are using this same kind of "straw hole" vision. Through the straw hole of popular entertainment we only define ourselves in physical terms; we examine and compare our height, weight, complexion, hairstyle, and clothing, but because our view is circumscribed by media standards we neglect to see the entire picture. If we view ourselves outside of this restrictive lens we are able to see that who we are is so much more that what we look like. I feel strongly that magazines, TV and movies teach us "to judge a book by its cover." We need to recognize that the characteristics we identify as beautiful in nature and in other people are complex, and there is no way to see or fully appreciate their beauty without the full picture. So likewise, don't look at yourself through a drinking straw, because when you do you miss the real picture.
Posted by Megan at 10:56 PM