In China, during the Olympics opening ceremony, one little Chinese girl’s face/body was replaced by a “prettier” little girl, who lip-synced to the “uglier” child’s song.
Occasionally, I watch soap operas. Sometimes, I leave the channel set all day on such drivel and come across two, in particular, that are specifically aimed at teenagers, where the female characters make fat jokes at each others expense.
We are taught very early that our looks are “important”. Every day, we turn on our televisions or open up magazines and see that the “prettiest” among us are more likely to be successful than the not-so-pretty. You cannot even watch the news without noticing that the anchors have pretty faces, too.
I won’t even talk about all the commercials and advertising telling us that despite what we might think of ourselves, we will never be attractive enough unless we buy their products (and even then, we’ll need an upgrade in six months).
I consider myself attractive, but even I have issues with looking good and making sure that others find me attractive (the only down-side of my business–my looks are important to my sucess). I do miss the days when I could just throw a pair of slacks and a nice top on and go about my business. But, like many people in the entertainment field, I built my reputation around my looks (they don’t call me “Diva” for nothin’). It’s amazing that I have actually gone so long without worrying about going on a diet. But, the one upside of my business is that since I’m not a skinny chick, I apparently appear “non-threatening” to other women and I seem more approachable to men, in general.
But, I’m not sure if any of that is a good or bad thing. Yesterday, I came across this article on AlterNet: Out-of-Body Image: Women See Themselves Through Eyes of Others. According to the article, they did a study about how women perceive themselves and it showed that women’s brain power essentially diminishes when they are focused on their looks (while doing tasks of varying difficulty, even if they had been successful in the task under “normal” circumstances).
That got me to think about the portrayals of women (and men, in some cases) in entertainment and how the “ditzy” chicks are always the ones with big…umm…smiles and the “smart” chicks are always the ones who are “considered” ugly (if only because of glasses, or braces).
Then I grew concerned about myself; how I portray myself in public.
The thing is, I was sexualized at a very young age. I was objectified by my father before I was even in kindergarten (sexually molested until I was 14). I was dieting by the time I got to middle school, thanks to my mother always telling me that if I wasn’t careful, that I would end up like my sister (who has been clinically obese since childhood). It’s taken me more than 20 years to get over myself (my weight issues) and I still worry whether my make-up looks right or if my skirt is too short, or if I am showing a little too much of my big…umm…smile.
The aforementioned article covers a lot of ground, including how our self-objectification actually influences how we enjoy sex. It suggests that some of us are unable to enjoy life and love to its fullest because we are overly concerned with how our lovers may perceive us. It got me to thinking about how sad it is that even when it comes to the most intimate of relationships, we still measure ourselves on some arbitrary yardstick, making it hard on ourselves to live in that moment when we should be most able to let it all go.
The article was based on a study of women, but I imagine that there is probably a study out there (if not, there should be) of how men perceive themselves, as well. Having a young man, in my home, I know that he deals with issues of how he looks and how he wants to be seen by the young women that he is attracted to.
It would be nice if we lived in a world where looks truly did not matter. I am still learning to accept myself, warts and curves, glasses and all. I think this article has put me on notice that I need to take a couple extra minutes to teach my children (particularly, my daughter) that their worth or the worth of others is not in their…umm…smile or in their jeans. Brains are more important than looks.
Besides, the brain is the biggest human erogenous zone so that means that smart people are sexy (YMMV).
(originally posted at: The Sirens Chronicles)