more than body parts

 

Maybe she was just a bot looking to rack up a high follower count. That’s what I hope to be the case. Why? Because every picture on her social media account emphasized one of her body parts.

Her parts were lovely, but skin wrinkles. Boobs and bums sag.

So, this is what puzzles me. Why would a woman want to define herself by something that’s fleeting when so much of what makes a woman unique and wonderful is everlasting?

It breaks my heart to see a cover picture on social media of a woman’s dramatic cleavage or sumptuously curved booty instead of her face. Those body parts are amazing things to have (can only imagine), however, women are so much more than their body parts.

A woman’s whole self—her personality, intellect, abilities—can get separated from her appearance in unhealthy ways.

What we see in the media

 

Much of what we see in the media encourages gender stereotypes, unhealthy thinking about body image, or objectifies women. Consider:

  • 98 percent of the women portrayed in advertisements are ultra-thin with large breasts. Only 5 percent of women have that body type.
  • Women were on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine 30 percent of the time between 1967 and 2009. 83 percent of those images were sexualized. Only 15 percent of the images of men were sexualized.
  • The average woman is 5’ 3” tall and weighs 164 pounds; the average model is 5’ 11” tall and weighs 115 pounds.
  • 81 percent of 10-year old girls in the U.S. are afraid of being fat.
  • From 2006 to 2016, ads portrayed just one in four women as having a job (and to top it off women were 48 percent more likely to be shown in the kitchen).
  • Between 2006 and 2016 women were shown in sexually revealing clothing six times more than men. In 2017 that dropped from six times to five times, but the number of female characters shown in sexual revealing clothing overall remained the same (one in 10).
  • In some ads, a woman is a faceless object, reduced to features which are sexualized as objects of desire.
  • Women’s body parts are four times more likely to be included in advertisements than a man’s.

If women aren’t vigilant about monitoring these influences, they can begin to see themselves as a collection of body parts—only good for looking good. This inclination to reduce a woman to “piece parts” is borne out by the findings that women are more likely to be seen by other women and men as parts rather than as a whole person. Men are seen as a whole person.

What research says about a focus on body parts

 

This priming to focus on body parts and appearance negatively impacts women’s views of gender equality and social issues. Psychologist Rachel Calogero observes that “women who were primed to evaluate themselves based on their appearance and sexual desirability had a decreased motivation to challenge gender-based inequalities and injustices.” Ugh.

Are women and their worth doomed to being judged by their appearance and body parts?

Fortunately, no.

The body parts researchers modified their experiment to prime individuals to think of women as a whole, not a body part. The result? “The sexual body part recognition bias appeared to be alleviated. Women were more easily recognizable in the context of their whole bodies instead of their various sexual body parts.”

For a little while some years ago, I let myself get sucked into to the appearance-is-everything mindset and became the gal with killer shoes and size 8 clothes.

I wanted to be known for looking good and for being smart and powerful. The last two were getting lost in the shuffle because I was leading with appearance. I was miserable.

7 ways to get comfy in your own skin

 

I learned to get comfy in own skin—liking myself no matter my dress size—after learning seven life lessons:

  1. Appreciate that appearance is fleeting but that talents last a lifetime
  2. Understand that the best power comes from the inside out, not the outside in
  3. Surround ourselves with people who appreciate us for what we are, not how we look
  4. Believe that we are not just a collection of body part but rather the beautiful sum of our looks, brains, personality, and talents
  5. Accept that looking good, not air-brushed perfection, is enough
  6. Boot the fellas who are more interested in arm candy than a woman with brains and opinions
  7. Celebrate who and what we are, smiles lines, muffin tops, and less-than-perfect upper arms included.

What has helped you get comfy in your skin? What insights do you share with your daughter? Grand-daughter? Female friends self-conscious about their appearance?

Image credit before quote added: Pixabay

 

 

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