How are Oppression and Body Image Regulation Related?

Conforming to conventional body image standards has become one pervasive form of oppression in this country. Similar to “doing gender,” the issue of weight has become an inescapable object of obsession in today’s society. Our pop culture delights in ridiculing celebrities that have gained weight. Nowadays, women are inundated with weight loss gimmicks and the dangerous side effects of these diet products are often minimalized. Still, it is more important for a woman to look skinny than for her to be healthy.

Furthermore, an individual’s sense of self-worth is now tied in how confident that person feels in clothes. Spanx and corsets are becoming increasingly popular ways to cover up one’s “physical failures”. The relationship between body image and societal oppression is quite a provocative one. Bordo states: “Images of the physical body may symbolically reproduce central vulnerabilities and anxieties…of the social body” (186). Fundamentally, addiction to dieting and weight/body control masks oppression. This obsession with weight and physical regulation of food intake has generated unnecessary issues with stress, eating disorders, body dysmorphic conditions, and low self esteem. Perhaps the oppression of weight control will lessen when women are seen primarily as citizens rather than consumersfor these unwarranted products.

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2 Responses to How are Oppression and Body Image Regulation Related?

  1. I agree with you that strict adherence to a certain body image can be a form of oppression. As you said, some women would rather be skinny than be healthy. Due to the widespread images of male and female models who look flawless in almost every way, some people think they have to take drastic measures to look like them. They spend countless hours a day doing things to improve how they look, whether it is struggling with eating disorders or going to the gym whenever possible, and this deprives them of freedom to enjoy life and to be themselves. However, I believe that these images do not necessarily have to be oppressive, depending largely on how viewers interpret them. As long as they use the models as sources of motivation but do not strive to copy them, the effects of these images can actually boost self-esteem.

    For example, a female can be inspired by an image of a thin, beautiful woman without taking it too seriously. Such images can have positive effects on overweight females and inspire them to lose weight as long as they do not take the images to the extreme. If they develop dangerous eating disorders, i.e. when the desire to look good compromises their health and prevents them from engaging in other daily activities and pursuits, then it becomes a problem. When males feel immense pressure to have chiseled physiques, they feel pressured to go the gym, which carves out tremendous chunks of time from their everyday life and can be deemed a form of oppression. However, going to the gym has ancillary benefits, such as lessening anxiety and improving overall general health. When males go to the extreme, though, and begin to take steroids, their health can become compromised. Their testosterone levels can decline significantly and teenage boys’ growth can be stunted. In short, everyone needs to follow Benjamin Franklin’s famous adage to “do everything in moderation, including moderation.”

    The desire of many people to improve their physical appearance is a normal human impulse and is not necessarily harmful, as long as they set realistic expectations and don’t go to extremes. If people expect perfection and aspire to look exactly like models in clothing advertisements, they will more likely than not be disappointed, depressed, and have low self-esteem. Therefore, it is up to educators to teach people to get the positive, inspiring messages out of these images without becoming dangerously compulsive or fanatical.

  2. irism999 says:

    It is true that society looks upon women as solely consumers, a market with which to profit. This view of women can be seen in the ways in which the media pressures women to buy certain products or engage in dangerous forms of dieting, a form of oppression. The effects of this manipulation include a high prevalence of eating disorders, increased obsession with weight, and heavy scrutiny/regulation of food intake by women in the U.S. Although these are all problems that arise from the way society views and treats women as consumers, these problems are very often discussed as having been generated by women themselves. This can be seen in the number of self-help books that exist today, books that address women as individuals who must change something about themselves in order to treat their eating disorders or obsessions with body image. However, it is not the individual, Woman’s, fault that she suffers from these ailments- the issue is society. It is much easier for the system to blame woman though. Media companies, the self-help book industry, and consumer products can continue to generate countless amounts of money when reducing the issue to a medical problem with the individual.

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