No matter how small, large, or healthy sized a woman is, American culture grooms a woman to never believe she is done modifying her body to the “ideal standard.” Even someone who weighs 97 pounds can find problems to complain about: if only she were a size 4 or 6 instead! Then she could find all kinds of less-expensive clothes to fit her body and would not have to spend extra money at the tailor’s shop all the time! And yet…why does a number like clothing sizes carry so much importance? Because the media influence matters, and that influence is so much more accessible through seemingly innocuous sites like Pinterest, and along with the usual suspects, like fashion magazines, stores, and videos. The digital age eliminates the accessibility barriers and lowers the age of discovery of the objectifying body ideals presented and promoted by American society.
Young women have always harbored unhealthy ideas about how their bodies should look, but social networking sites like Pinterest add a different dimension. Usually, the rest of the healthy world can affirm with the young lady that she is a healthy size and introduce her to other real women with normal and non-model figures. However, searches for terms like “thinspo” on Pinterest yield a slew of unhealthy images and ideals. Users post images of themselves in undergarments via their cell phone cameras, proudly displaying a skeletal body, showing off angles where there might be curves instead (thinspo1977). Other pictures that don’t glorify anorexia promote the usual sexualized ideal of a female in a bikini/underwear with the underwear being pulled down slightly at the side to entice further ogling. Long term, what a lot of these young women do not understand is that you are treated exactly how you present yourself. If you present yourself as an object, then you can expect the world to treat you like an object and nothing more. Instead, if you present yourself to the world as a critically thinking, intelligent young lady who doesn’t feel a need to starve herself to appeal to the sexually starved masses, then you might just attract the positive attention you crave.
While images communicate body shapes to emulate, videos tell an explicit and implicit story. Weight Watchers consistently campaigns to encourage the obese and overweight population to take control of their lives and get to a healthy weight. Celebrity endorsements can’t hurt, so Weight Watchers’ current spokesperson is Jennifer Hudson. Her current video, “Success,” shows her dancing/singing that “I’ve got the power,” and discusses the benefits of losing more weight on the Weight Watchers plan. What a terrible message! Do women only have power over themselves when they are skinny? Or perhaps, the power to permanently change eating habits can only be developed through Weight Watchers? It is understandable that a woman will be more confident if she feels her appearance is top-notch, but her base sense of confidence should never be rooted in her appearance, lest she plans on not aging physically. Another small surprise is the choice in pants color for Hudson: most people know that black is a slimming color, so why place her in yellow pants (“Success X 5”)? To highlight her female shape. Sadly, Hudson is being objectified by Weight Watchers. This is a fairly logical move, though, since weight loss is easy to detect visually on a person.
Unfortunately, Jennifer Hudson never needed to lose weight in the first place! She has always been an example to American women that you do not need to be a size 2 or lower to be successful in life. She is beautiful at any weight, yet she was probably easier to relate to pre-Weight Watchers. Weight management is a deeply personal issue, one that should be evaluated and monitored by a general practitioner or OB/GYN, not by friends and family who comment, “Are you gaining weight?” and “You need to eat more.” As a general rule, weight loss should be a choice a person makes for themselves, not because society implies to you, “You’re less valuable when you are over 100 pounds.”
Blogs also provide women an excellent way to document weight loss challenges and triumphs, one miserable day at a time. Priorfatgirl.com is a blog run by a young lady who used to weigh 240 pounds. She blogs regularly about her struggles, weight loss maintenance, and surgeries done to achieve a healthier body (Emmert). She and other bloggers make use of the publicness approach, whether they intend to or not. (Publicness is simply sharing of information.) According to Jeff Jarvis, when bloggers use the publicness approach, they develop a connection with their audience and neutralize stigmas. Weight loss blogs break down barriers to success for women: when they blog publicly about their weight loss, they gain a following and therefore, gain an audience that keeps them honest. It is harder to justify eating a whole Bundt cake by yourself if you know you’ll have to explain why you ate the whole thing in one sitting to a digital audience later! Long-term, creating blogs like priorfatgirl.com offer inspiration and accountability to women, two ingredients important to reaching any goal in life (Emmert).
Every woman is responsible for her own sense of worth, whether she realizes it or not. Media companies are not in business to make people feel good; they are in the business to make money, and if that happens to make people feel good, so be it. A sense of worth does not come from the clothes you put on or the number on a scale: it comes from the belief inside that you are capable, competent, and the knowledge that people love you for who you are, no matter how flawed or quirky you might be every day.
Emmert, Jennifer. Prior Fat Girl. Blogspot, 2008. Web. 26 Apr. 2013. <http://priorfatgirlthestory.blogspot.com/>.
thinspo1977, thinspo. N.d. Photograph. PinterestWeb. 26 Apr 2013. <http://media-cache-ak1.pinimg.com/192x/55/cf/d8/55cfd8720a37925bced6bda00f4d4e9c.jpg>.
“Success X 5” . 2013. Video. Weight WatchersWeb. 26 Apr 2013. <http://www.weightwatchers.com/templates/Marketing/Marketing_Utool_1col.aspx?pageid=1213961>.