Let’s talk about the beauty industry

Interested in some basic statistics on how much money and business the beauty industry makes? Aw yea, you are.

Why exactly are we buying all this stuff?

  • The average US resident is exposed to almost 5,000 advertising messages each day.
  • A study in 1992 (so it’s outdated and very possibly much worse now, sorry I can’t find anything more recent) found that 1 out of every 3.8 television commercials sends some kind of “attractiveness message” commenting on what is/is not attractive
  • The purpose of beauty advertisements is only to convince you to buy a product. Because of this, advertisers will often play on your emotions. They’ll use phrases like this 

oh, that’s lovely

They’ll publish an ad that they know will only make you feel bad about your body. Something like this

another keeper

You might feel bad, but that will ensure that you buy their product. They’ll emphasize looks and beauty over everything else. They’ll photoshop  unrealistic images and tell you that anyone can look like that.

Oh don’t worry, it isn’t just advertisements. Companies are selling our kids crap like this, and this, and this, and this. What a terrible childhood. Also, messages about beauty are fucking everywhere. In advertisements, in movies, in television, in books. The beautiful princess marries the beautiful prince and they live happily ever after. The evil stepmother is ugly. The unpopular girl becomes popular when she gets a makeover. Even when they don’t outright say things like that, they subtly slip it in there. The successful, happy, popular people in media always seem to fit our standards of beauty. Next time you watch television or a movie, pay attention to how the villain/annoying character/outcast is portrayed. More often than not you’ll find that they’re the ones that don’t fit standards of beauty while the “popular people” always do. And we internalize all of this shit.

 

Some things that beauty product marketers often try to tell you that probs aren’t exactly 100% true.

  • Our product WILL fix this. Lots of companies that cite research backing up their product have either sponsored the researchers or they use their own researchers. Sound biased? It probably is. They also sometimes take the studies they have done on animals and extrapolate them to humans. Because that’s how science works. Human=sad bunny. Beauty companies spend only 2-3% of their sales on research and development of products, compared to the 20-25% that they spend on advertising. 
  • Anyone can do it. We see this ALL the time with weight loss advertisements. It’s also extremely common with things such as makeover shows. And this king of advertising is a problem. It results in shaming and blaming people that don’t fit societal standards of beauty. It creates this false idea that anyone can change anything about their body if they just have enough willpower. Advertisements tell us that everyone is perfectly capable of fitting into the mold of what is considered beautiful, why aren’t they doing it? Oh, obviously it’s because they’re lazy/are a slob/don’t care about themselves/don’t care about others/etc. We question why people aren’t taking the time to fit our idea of what beautiful is, because they should be. Anyone can do it.
  • It’s not about changing how you look; it’s about changing how you feel about yourself. It’s about gaining self confidence. This one is all the rage right now, especially since so many people are promoting self-confidence. Advertisers are just disguising their products under this veil of “it’s about confidence.” Sure, you can have confidence, as long as you still buy their product. I personally really think that our problems with body image are often just symptoms of bigger problems with ourselves. We aren’t confident and self-loving so we try to have the body/car/job/insert whatever you want here that we’re “supposed to have.” If you don’t have confidence in the body you have now, you aren’t going to have real confidence in a different, more socially acceptable body. Meeting their standards of beauty isn’t the same as having confidence. Sure, you’ll feel better because you’re fitting their narrow standards, but that isn’t the same as having confidence. That “confidence” is based entirely on outside sources, rather than coming from within. And when you’re letting other people determine how confident you can be, you’re letting them be in charge of when that confidence disappears. These ads create the idea that people “earn” confidence. That you can feel good about yourself because you’re doing what they want you to do, because you earned it. People that don’t meet the narrow standard of beauty are just as deserving of experiencing confidence and self-love. Those are not privileges that we have to “earn” by changing ourselves. You have the right to love yourself no matter what. Bottom line: you can’t trust the people selling you beauty products to tell you how to gain confidence. As a side note, this is kind of like the story about the girl that was bullied because of her ears and received free plastic surgery to “fix” her flaws. She didn’t need to “fix” herself. Someone needed to tell those bullies to stop being assholes.

I have news for you. Changing whatever part of your body that doesn’t meet society’s standards doesn’t fix the problem for several reasons (I love bulleted lists!)

  • Self-acceptance doesn’t sell anything. If you love yourself just the way that you are, and don’t try to change everything, these big companies aren’t making any money off of you. And they can’t have that, can they? Companies are just going to keep making up things that are wrong with our bodies in order to get us to spend money. You could change everything about your body to meet the expectations that are given to us, and someone would just come up with something new that was wrong. And the moment you think you’re getting close to finishing up that checklist of beauty standards, the tables will turn. Pale skin will be back in right after you get that tan, curves will be in just after you lose those last few pounds. It will never end. This is about money.
  • YOU’RE just going to keep making up things that are wrong with your body. As soon as you “fix” one thing, you’ll find something else that you don’t like. There is no possible way to be satisfied in this quest for perfection because it is not realistic and it will not happen. This isn’t about not liking one part of your body, this is about a bigger issue with self confidence and self-love. Also, 33% of potential nose job patients have moderate to severe symptoms of body dysmorphic disorder. I mean obviously I can’t speak for them, but I’m fairly confident that a nose job did not make their mental illness go away overnight.
  • It perpetuates the idea that there is an ideal standard of beauty and it is ok to expect everyone to meet that standard. When we mold ourselves to fit what other people want us to be, we are giving them permission to mold others into what they want them to be. We are supporting the culture of telling people what to be and how to look and how to act. We are supporting ostracizing certain people. We are supporting telling people to change themselves. And if this culture keeps on going, they’re just going to throw more and more ideals for us to meet and we’re never going to be happy with ourselves.

The bottom line is that it is not your job to change your body so that people will respect you. People should be respecting you regardless of what you look like. They should be respecting you simply because you are a being and a soul and that is enough to make you completely deserving of love and respect, just like every other being out there.

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Why No One Should Diet. Ever.

What exactly is the big deal with dieting? People are just trying to be healthier right? Obesity is such a problem in this country. Most people need to lose some weight to be healthy. By dieting they’re just learning to eat healthier foods right?

I overheard a coworker the other day talking about her diet. The girl she was talking to commented “I don’t know why you’re always on a diet. You look fine.” She immediately responded with “oh, you know, I’m just trying to be healthy.” What the fuck? You do not have to be on a diet to be healthy! Those two words are not synonymous.

What the Dieting Industry Doesn’t Tell You

“But I’m not on a fad diet like a juice fast or a master cleanse. I’m on a HEALTHY diet like Weight Watchers or Atkins or Paleo or whatever the fuck they’re doing these days.”

  • Is it something that you want to keep doing for the rest of your life? Can you imagine yourself being on this diet forever and being completely content?
  • Does it label foods as “good” and “bad” or make entire categories of food “off limits” or “forbidden?” We should not be afraid of any type of food. There is no reason to be afraid of cake or carbohydrates or dairy or whatever. ALL food has a place in a healthy diet. You can’t eat only Doritos, candy, and doughnuts all the time, but you also can’t eat only grilled chicken, vegetables, and brown rice all the time. If you’re actually eating a healthy, balanced diet, you won’t feel deprived of anything. The key is moderation, nothing to extremes.
  • Are you eating REAL, nutritious food, or are you eating their food?
  • Are you responding you your hunger cues or are you following their meal plan? Are you listening to your body, eating when you’re hungry, and stopping when you’re full? Or are you following their menu/points/meal plan/food choices/etc.
  • If for some crazy reason this diet was suddenly taken away from you would you still know how to choose foods and feed yourself?

“But my doctor supports it”

Yea, a doctor also supported this crazy ass shitand thisand thisand this.

Get my point? I’m not saying don’t ever trust your doctor again. I’m just saying that maybe they’re not so immune to some of the crazy advertising out there. Maybe they’ve also been a little tricked by this whole dieting lie. I’ve heard horror stories about parents of anorexics begging their doctors for help and the only responses they get are along the lines of “she looks great! She should be a model” and “she still has some chub, she’s fine!” I’m not kidding. This is unfortunately uncommon.

 

And we’re just starting a cycle of it. People are learning it young and they’re just being set up to do this for the rest of their lives.

We are teaching LITTLE KIDS that they have to diet, that dieting is good, they’re learning at an early age to associate dieting with health. And that’s going to be really hard for them to unlearn later in life, especially when they’re still going to be sent all of these incorrect messages. These innocent little kids, just going around doing kid stuff, are being told that they aren’t good enough. And they grow up continuing to think that they aren’t good enough, and they accidently teach others that they aren’t good enough either. This cycle needs to stop somewhere because if those statistics don’t make you just plain sad then nothing will.

This obsession with dieting is not really about health, it’s about aesthetics. It’s about using our bodies as proof that we are good enough and worthy. It’s about making money off of the insecurities of others. All it’s doing is making people feel bad about themselves. We’re falsely associating thinness with health and that isn’t correct. Studies have shown that it is the behaviors that correlate with health, rather than weight. You can be both perfectly fat and perfectly healthy. Instead of wasting our time dieting to lose weight we need to focus on making lifestyle changes to be healthy. And we need to respect that our bodies do know what’s best for them. We need to get rid of this idea that healthy also fits the current social standard of beauty. “Healthy” and “diet” are not synonymous.

 

Also, this is really beautiful.

All Body-Snarking is Bad Body-Snarking

I keep seeing a lot of body-snarking coming from websites promoting more realistic images of women. People that, like me, are tired of seeing only one standard of beauty. Pinterest seems to be an excellent source of body snarking. All this people pin their little thinspiration pins and some people comment on them “eww she needs to eat a sandwich” or “this is disgusting” and then come the comments like “you’re just jealous because you’re fat” and “obesity is a problem in this country” and thus begins the cycle of anger and body hate. The thinspo people become more defensive and angry because they’re being told that curvy people can love their bodies but skinny people are ugly.

So while we’re sitting here yelling at each other over what is better than what, so many people are still hating their bodies, so many people are hurting their bodies by trying to change them, and these big huge beauty companies are making a profit off of those people that want to change their bodies.

A few problems I have found

Or the phrase “real women have curves.” No. Some do. Some don’t. There are probably some men that have curves. Whatever.  REAL women come in a variety of shapes and sizes and they don’t look a certain way.

These look pretty similar to some of the ads that I see today, ads that I hate seeing because they make me think “oh I CAN’T be fat. Fat is bad.” But these older ads aren’t ok either; they do the exact same thing just with a different body type. They are still making someone feel bad about their body

This is just like a pendulum that we’re swinging back and forth. We used to accept larger bodies and criticize smaller ones; small people were made fun of targeted as unattractive. Then the pendulum swung to the other extreme where we now credit small bodies as being attractive and large ones as unattractive. But swinging back to the other side and bashing smaller bodies will not solve this problem and the cycle is just going to continue as long as we continue to not expand our definition of beauty and as long as there are people that can make money off of our insecurities and prejudices.

And I know the intentions are great-people are tired of being told to hate their bodies and they’re starting to fight back against the messages telling us that we have to be thin. But don’t bash others in the process of making yourself feel better.

I understand that right now the push has to be for seeing larger bodies in media and being told that it’s ok to have a larger body, but if we push for only larger bodies then we’re just waiting for this to happen again.

I don’t have a problem with someone’s body looking a certain way, I love skinny bodies, I love fat bodies, I love in between bodies. I have a problem with being TOLD that we SHOULD look a certain way.

 

My History with Pro-Anorexia Part 2

Oh shit, it’s like the Chamber of Secrets up in here you guys.

 

So as you can imagine, by this point I had pretty low self esteem. I had received a lot of messages about how I wasn’t “good enough” and I had learned to tune out the messages that said that I was enough. And then I started high school. I switched to another school with another new group of people. And as much as I ended up loving the high school I went to, it was like a petri dish for growing low self esteem. Don’t get me wrong, I love my school, I’m SO glad that I went there and I know I wouldn’t be at the college I’m at now if I hadn’t gone there. The high school I went to was very small and very academically advanced. It took the most advanced students from all over the county and held all of our classes at the local university. I took my first college course when I was in the 9th grade. But so did everyone else at my school. Using academics to show that I was “enough” was no longer a reasonable expectation because I was taking classes with the smartest people around me. I just couldn’t compete with some of them. There was no way. But I tried. You guys, I did a shit load of work in high school. I always had homework to do. And I put all of my effort into that during the beginning of 9th grade, because I wasn’t used to having to actually work to make good grades. I guess like most other high schoolers do, I lost my sense of identity. I didn’t know how to identify myself. I wasn’t the “smart” one anymore. Everything I could do, there was someone at that school that was better.

Then I started having unexplained problems with my stomach. It started bloating after I ate anything. At first it was over a span of several days. My stomach would keep getting bigger and bigger for about three days, then it would go down in my sleep and the cycle would start over. You guys, I was never, ever even close to being a big child. I don’t think I was ever even technically a “healthy” weight. I was small. But when my clothes were suddenly not fitting and my body was doing all of this weird stuff, I didn’t know what was going on. I guess I thought I was actually gaining weight at first. I can remember listening to two teammates at volleyball practice complain about how they were having a “fat day” and it just made so much sense that I was experiencing that. My stomach felt larger some days and smaller on others. So I cut back a little bit on what I was eating. As my stomach began to bloat and go down each day, rather than over a span of several days, I realized that by skipping breakfast, I could keep the bloating away for a little bit longer. Therefore my clothes would fit and I wouldn’t look as “fat.” I wasn’t at a level of full blown eating disorder by this point, just at a level of disordered eating. But I felt good. I felt better about myself as a person. Even though I couldn’t have the highest grade or the most friends, I felt like I was doing something right by dieting.

 

I’m going to take a short pause here to explain the difference between disordered eating and eating disorder in case anyone doesn’t know exactly what that means. Otherwise I’ll totally forget to ever bring it up again.

Eating disorders have clinical criterion that must be met in order to be diagnosed. For someone to have an eating disorder they would fit under the category of Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, ED-NOS, and soon to be (thankfully) Binge Eating Disorder.

Disordered Eating is a much more broad term that includes a wide range of abnormal eating patterns. If you have an eating disorder, you have disordered eating patterns. You can have disordered eating without having a full blown eating disorder. BUT disordered eating CAN (definitely not always) lead to eating disorders. An example would be something like chronic dieting or eating only at a particular time of the day. (on a slightly unrelated side note, I have seen magazines RECOMMEND chewing and spitting food as a way to lose weight. Society is ridiculous) Disordered eating can cause tons of emotional and physical problems and should not be messed around with (oh hey, remember this shit later because I will probably bring it up like 12 more times).

 

So then I started doing some research online. About how I could lose more weight and feel even better about myself. And I eventually stumbled across these pro anorexia websites. I don’t remember my initial reaction when I found them, I wish I could. But the pictures of the girls that were posted on there looked so great. They didn’t look scary like the media usually presents anorexic skeletons. They looked like models, like movie stars, like Victoria’s Secret angels, like people that people love. And the people online made it seem so ok to be doing these things to their bodies. Like it was their business what they did to their bodies and that made it perfectly acceptable. And they made it SO easy, by openly providing different “diets” to try, different exercises to do, ways to lose the most weight, how to convince people that you had already eaten. They posted pictures of “thinspiration” and participated in group fasts to see who could lose the most weight. And I became hooked. I felt like I NEEDED to look like those women, I NEEDED to be able to control myself and be good at something, otherwise no one would ever like me.

Women’s Studies Revelations

This week in my women’s studies class we were supposed to bring in a picture that we think is beautiful, a picture that is “conventionally beautiful” that we do not like, and write a little blurb about our reactions to them. Unfortunately, my TA just sent out an email that says that the reactions are “academic papers” and not “personal journal entries” so I am going to have to rewrite mine. But I figured I could at least post it here so that someone could appreciate it instead of me just deleting it. It kind of just reiterates a lot of things that I’ve already said in this blog. But whatever. I’m putting these pictures as hyperlinks in case anyone would be triggered by them.

Victoria’s Secret Angels

The image that I don’t like bothers me because I feel like it is trying to send the message that I should love my body like these women love theirs. But at the same time, I’m confused because their bodies perfectly fit the description of “conventional beauty.” My body doesn’t look like that. This ad leaves no room for variance among bodies. These women all look practically the same. They have the same hairstyles, the same makeup, the same body type, and all of them have relatively light skin. But not too pale, because that would be unacceptable. What if I don’t look like them? This advertisement leaves me confused. Am I still supposed to love my body? Am I only supposed to love my body if I look like them? Is the only way to show that I love my body to make it look like a Victoria’s Secret model? How can I do all this at the same time? How can I love my body the way it is and also look like these women if that isn’t my body’s natural, healthy shape. Are they telling me that if I love my body I will make it look good regardless of the consequences? Is that what it means to love your body? To decorate it, lose every excess ounce of fat, and show it off? Also, is my underwear always supposed to perfectly match? Am I supposed to walk around in my underwear with make-up on and my hair done? As if I’m going out in public without clothes on. Why should my body be used just to look good? Will people still love me even if I don’t look like a Victoria’s secret model? Do I deserve to be loved if I don’t look like a Victoria’s Secret model?

Technically contains nudity. (As a bonus for look at this picture you will get a lovely link to a fun board on pinterest because I couldn’t find the original picture)

I like the second image because I feel like it tells me that women are loveable even if they don’t fit perfectly into society’s idea of “conventional beauty.” This picture is beautiful to me, because these two people are allowing themselves to connect, form relationships, and be intimate with one another, regardless of how they look. When I look at this picture, I automatically think “oh, they love each other” rather than “oh, I should look like her. I’m not good enough. I should work harder,” like I do with the Victoria’s Secret ad. This woman embodies the “loving your body” that I want to have. She obviously cares to at least some extent about her body. She has her nails done and wears jewelry and decorates her body. But she isn’t overly concerned and focusing only on that. She allows herself to show emotion and form relationships regardless of what she looks like. She lets her hair get a little bit messed up. She lets her body fat get above 5% because maybe that isn’t her body’s idea of what is healthy, regardless of what society thinks. Whereas, I feel like the advertisement tells you that you have to be both healthy and a size 2 at the same time. It paints this picture that these women are what health looks like, and that is the only healthy option. And that just isn’t the case. Yes, some people eat healthily and exercise moderately and look like Victoria’s Secret angels. But a whole lot of other people aren’t naturally that size and I wish this advertisement would allow me to actually love my body and let it be the size it wants.

 

Just as another comment. I”m not saying that the VS angels are ugly. Nor am I saying that anyone that looks like them is not beautiful. I’m just saying that I would like to be told that I can love myself no matter what.

healthy equals what?

Yesterday I was sitting in my women’s studies class, minding my own business and being an attentive student when my professor showed us this image of a rather thin model.

She asked if people thought this woman looked healthy or if she looked too thin. Half of the class answered that she looked healthy. In case you guys don’t recognize her, this is Ana Carolina Reston, and she died of complications due to anorexia. I think I spent the rest of the day livid at the fact that this culture glorifies certain body types regardless of what it takes to get there. She most certainly is not the first person to be used as an “ideal body” and actually we find out later that she was really struggling.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told that I “don’t look like I have an eating disorder.” My own sister has told me that I never looked anorexic because my bones weren’t sticking out or anything. And honestly, I don’t really blame her. The way that anorexia is presented in the media is that you have to be absolutely emaciated and dying to actually have a problem. I’ve had so many friends that have been told they looked “amazing” or “beautiful” at their lowest and most unhealthy weights. When they were struggling, starving, and miserable.

It would be one thing if the media glorified people that ate healthily, exercised moderately, and took care of their bodies, regardless of their size. But it doesn’t do that. Everyone seems to spend a lot more time focusing on the people that eat healthily and exercise moderately and are also on the VERY thin side. I definitely won’t say that the media blatantly encourages eating disorders, because we see people being attacked all the time for being “too thin,” but I am just really frustrated that practically everyone’s idea of “healthy” looks like a Victoria’s Secret model. I wish people would quit fighting for people to fit within a certain weight category or image category. No offense, but if you’re eating fairly healthily and exercising moderately, I don’t really give a shit what your body looks like. And neither should other people. Because it isn’t their business.

Don’t get me wrong, I totally understand that people can look like that and still be healthy, good for those people. That’s what healthy looks like for them. My roommate is one of them. I’m just upset that everyone is held up to this standard. Bodies are all different. They have different genetics and work in different ways. So people need to quit expecting them all to be relatively the same size and shape. My body is my business. Your body is your business. Don’t judge it. Don’t comment on it. You can’t prove that one is healthier than the other just by looking at them. And along the same lines, you can’t prove that eating/exercising exactly a certain way will make you look a certain way. You can’t say, “this is what my healthy is going to look like” and then do whatever it takes to get to that shape and call yourself healthy. Because that’s not how it works. I would just like to see some diversity. In advertisements, in media, in movies, in everything. And I know that we now have plus size models, but even they are all perfectly proportioned, curved, balanced, and quite frankly, often the same size. I never see pear shaped models. Or movies with actresses that have love handles. If the size that my body wants to be includes cellulite on my thighs then let me leave it like that, goddammit.