For as long as I can remember, women have demanded to be judged based on their intelligence, their character, their competence, their skills, their talents, their intellectual acuity, their capabilities, and their qualifications. They have asked for consideration based on what is on the inside, and not what is on the outside. They have insisted that they should be respected for their brain and not for their body.
And so, I am both puzzled and disappointed that after the many years of progress, there are still women out there who judge and evaluate each other first and foremost based on appearance. They make instantaneous character assumptions based on external characteristics. They carry the same bias that they have been fighting against, bypassing substance for style; but somehow, because they are women, that makes it okay. It is most certainly not okay.
I read an article the other day about how overweight women are far less likely to be chosen for corporate leadership positions, and I wondered why this issue doesn’t create more of a stir in social equality and feminist circles. Do only thin women deserve equal rights? I must have missed the memo.
If it were just men who promoted these biases, then it would be frustrating, but somehow easier for me to accept. However, there are far too many empowered, independent, strong females who guzzle the “beauty ideal” Kool-Aid and who subscribe to the belief that physical attractiveness is a woman’s strongest asset, totally sabotaging efforts to convince society that women should be valued for who they are, and not for what they look like. I would guess that many of these women call themselves champions of the feminist cause and have no clue that they are anything but champions.
In a world filled with wonderful people of all colors, ethnicities, shapes, and sizes, I think it’s time that we flushed society’s ideas on who is beautiful down the toilet and agreed to be kinder and less judgmental about what others look like. Let’s assess value based on the things that really matter.
My daughters are now women, and I wonder if the world that they live in today is easier or more difficult than it was when I was their age. I am having trouble coming up with a solid answer. I think that the opportunities are similar, but the pressures that they face are so much stronger, and I worry about how that affects their ability to cope in today’s society. As much as there has been progress, I believe that there have also been setbacks.
We are all aware that there is a significant emphasis on appearance in the world that we live in. I would love to say that this is imposed solely by men; but the truth is, that would be false.
For years, I denied the connection between body image and eating disorders. My daughter’s eating disorder transcended so far beyond wanting to be thin. It extended into every facet of her life, bringing intense pain, suffering, and destruction with it. It was complex and sophisticated.I couldn’t reconcile such a severe illness with body image. They just didn’t go together in my mind.
I also had difficulty associating body image with eating disorders, which are biologically based brain disorders. Body image seems so lightweight (no pun intended) and eating disorders are so serious. I felt that associating eating disorders with body image was disconcerting and somehow misrepresentational of what eating disorders really are.
But I am looking at the data about body dissatisfaction rising and eating disorders rising, really in all populations, and I can’t see any way that 2+2 does not equal 4. We have not only let society continue to correlate a woman’s value to the size of her body, but we, women, reinforce that code, which is so antithetical to our desire to be assessed based on our intellect, our character, and our abilities. It’s disheartening.
I now have a granddaughter, and I think about her future. When I look at her adorable little face and tell her that she is beautiful, my son-in-law gently chides “she is smart”, as if to remind me that she is about more than just what is on the outside. And in his words, I see the silver lining; the progress between his generation and mine in how girls and women are appreciated for their sum total and not just for their appearance. But that being said, we still have a long way to go.
I pray that my granddaughter grows up in a world where all women feel comfortable with their bodies, where all women are equally promoted to corporate positions, where women respect and support one another, where value is placed on substance and character, and where true equality exists.