Body Image is THE Feminist Issue: Blame Media

Is fat a feminist issue? There’s quite an interesting discussion about it going on at Big Fat Deal. In one of many responses, Superblondgirl pointed out that “too thin” has its critics too. Does that make anorexia/bulimia a feminist issue as well? If so, we’d like to add breast implants to the list: These defective medical devices – profiting a billion-dollar industry run by men and regulated by a misogynistic FDA – are scud missiles directed at women, honing in on our most vulnerable insecurities and then, on contact, detonating health issues that, for so many women, have lead to life-destroying chronic illness and disfigurement.

But we digress. We could join the fray about which body-image issues should be labeled “feminist,” but the fact is, “Body Image, Period” is the feminist issue.

The root cause of all body image issues is the cookie-cutter ideal of feminine perfection perpetuated by a mainstream media that has found this fantasy to be the most efficient route to higher ratings, greater tickets sales or bigger circulation numbers. Media is saturated with images of young, slim, big-chested women, and for better or worse, we live in media-saturated society. No wonder women feel inadequate – not thin enough, not tall enough, not young enough, not chesty enough… Face it, ladies, we, the vast majority of American women, are just not enough! But of course, with more women than ever in the workforce (about half of the total), more women than men enrolled in our institutes of higher learning, a new female Speaker of the House, and possibly a woman president in 2008, this must be, has to be, a ridiculous notion.

Which brings us to what feminism is about in the first place: It’s not about women being “enough,” but being respected for what we are in all our diversity so we can work, live and love on an equal footing with men. But this will never be possible as long as mainstream media’s narrowly defined version of feminine beauty and worth is entrenched in our popular culture and is taken to be an accurate reflection of that culture, which it most emphatically is NOT.

Witness American Idol, the weekly “cast” of which is selected by audience vote, and every year that vote has rewarded physical beauty to only a point and given the ultimate title of American Idol to varying combinations of talent and charisma. Of all the American Idol winners, arguably only Carrie Underwood could have passed muster with actual casting agents. The lesson here is that what the American public wants and values and what mainstream media gives us is very different indeed.

Read more at Beauty and the Breast.

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