Hi there and welcome to the first women’s column of 2007! My name is Clelia Opie and I am your Student Association’s Women’s Rights officer.
This week’s column is on body image and media. The Media Awareness website disturbingly reports that the constant bombarding of images of young, beautiful, thin women is a cause of depression, low self esteem and the development of unhealthy eating habits. So. You may be thinking that it’s time to start boycotting; burning those cosmopolitans and vogue magazines, especially the ones lying around your flat. Not a bad idea.
Media undeniably plays a huge part in what is perceived to be attractive or sexy. What is deemed to be the ideal body type has changed constantly and throughout the decades. In the 50’s, the Marilyn figure was portaryed as the ideal by the media and the public, but in the 60’s this changed to the ‘skinny as a twig’ look. Curves made a comeback in the 80’s, but dipped again thanks to Kate Moss, who made the ‘grunge-waif-heroin-chic’ the ‘in’ thing. Today, the media portrays a variety of body types – anything from toned, taut yet curvy figures (Angelina Jolie, Scarlett Johansen) to flat chested, slim, Paris Hilton look-a-likes.
There is still enormous pressure on women to reach a certain “ideal” and more TV, more magazines, and a generally stronger media presence means more problems. So, how can you avoid this pressure from the media? Well, you can choose to become a recluse, throw out your TV and – with this isolation – risk becoming an alcoholic. One other solution is simply to love, respect and accept the body you were blessed with (no, not cursed!).
While the media certainly has a huge influence on the pressures women face in reaching a certain body type and weight, society certainly has an impact as well. It still seems that if a woman is slim and beautiful, she is more likely to get that trophy husband, have a great career, get whatever she wants, and gain instant respect. But this isnt always the case. Look at someone like Paris Hilton. She’s rich, young, slim, tanned, pretty. She has dabbled in music, TV, and films. But is she respected? That is extremely debatable. Many find her unattractive due to her outrageously self-centred and spoilt behaviour. But in comparison, Jennifer Aniston – who may not be deemed to be classically beautiful or hot – is constantly voted one of People magazine’s ‘Top 100 Most Beautiful People in the World’. Respect is hot! It’s hotter then fitting into some ridiculous ideal body image, that’s for sure. Most women at some stage in their lives have struggled with their body image. This can take years to overcome, to reach a stage where you’re like “Hey I’m comfortable with myself.” But it doesn’t have to take years – it can start right now. It’s distressing to me when I see the lengths women go to, as trying to reach a body ideal can be a killer on the sprit and destroy on the soul. So again love, respect and accept the body you were blessed with!
So continuing on the ‘feel good about your body’ theme: a belly dancing workshop was held during Orientation. Hopefully this was the first of a series of fun, feel-good-about-yourself events to be held throughout the year. For all of you who are unaware, there is a women’s space on campus (in the Student Union Building) – a place for women to take time out from study and meet other women. The first meeting for the women’s group will be held in the women’s space on Thursday the 8th at 3- 4pm.See you then!If you wish to join the women’s group or have any enquires, feel free to e-mail me on clelia.opie@vuwsa. org.nz or pop down to VUWSA in the Student Union Building.