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October 9, 2013

Women and Their Body

Most women would love to be known for who they are and loved for who they are. Yet, in our culture, what defines an attractive woman is her appearance and what defines an attractive man is his achievement. In a heterosexual environment, most men will never meet the beautiful woman who resides in a body that men or society deem as “not so perfect”. And yet, a woman will meet a good man who resides in a not-so-perfect body.

 

Who defines a woman’s body as beautiful? It does not appear to be women. Women work very hard and spend billions of dollars annually to create a body they feel will be good enough for our society’s definition of beautiful. Did women truly agree that a beautiful body is one that requires intense work and surgery to maintain?

 

Women very often hate their body. They are more often than not in a state of judging their body rather than loving their body. Women learn this. They learn that their body is a public viewing of how they are not good enough — not good enough to be accepted or loved. It appears to be an experience that gets handed down through mother to daughter! That suggests that women have bought into a patriarchal view that is destructive of them. A view that appears to say, “As a woman you will never be good enough to be a man.” It is the men in society that dictate what an attractive body type is. It is women who agree to attempt to create it. Consequently, it is the women who suffer the consequences of failing to meet the male expectation. What would happen if women decided to set their own standard of what their beautiful body is?

 

In order for that to happen, women would have to feel their own power. Women have learned to hide their power and play the roles dictated by a patriarchal society. Part of the hiding comes from the historic obedience to men’s desires that women have accepted. Obedience, however, only occurs as a survival mechanism. It appears to be a large part of the survival mechanism that has been learned and ingrained in women for more than 2000 years. Women have been teaching girls and other women how to be obedient to society’s expectations for a very long time. For example, in Florida the schools are now doing a brief physical on the children and sending letters to parents to notify them of overweight and obese children based up on the body-mass index. In a middle school a female athlete was sent home with a letter to give to her mother that said she was overweight. Unfortunately, they had her height off by 2 inches!! the mother of this particular student was very supportive and notified the school but what would have been the repercussions had that young, fit, healthy, teenager read the letter and had no support that allowed her see the error at MANY levels!!

 

It has been shown and discussed that women are not attractive when they are ambitious and intelligent (e.g., Miss Representation, 2012). Society has been trained to view an attractive woman as a sexy, thin woman not necessarily a healthy, conservative woman. This sets a stage for women to shy away from developing a sense of professional self. She tends to feel there is a conflict between professional and woman. Just the other day, I was sitting in a business meeting when one of the men stood to give a testimonial about the women in the group. His testimonial was that the women in the group are beautiful and manage to get up early enough for the early meeting to put on their make-up!! Seventy percent of the women were appalled and angry, while 30% giggled and thought it was funny!! All of the women in the group are high-powered business owners or professional (attorneys, doctors, etc.). Even many women who are successful in a corporate environment either shut down their sexuality and dress androgynously or overstate their sexuality and dress provocatively. Why? Because both extremes develop out of a focus on the image of what they are not. Why have women not developed a style that “suits” them in the business world. Each person can develop their own insignia rather than blending into the masses or the expectations. This is where women can begin to teach one another a new way of expressing their professional self.

 

It is in women choosing to define their Self that change will begin. Women must be willing to know what they want to experience and be willing to create that very experience. Women will need to help each other develop that confidence and inner knowing of who they are in order to initiate change in the cultural view of what they are. It is then that women will be known and loved for who they are from the inside out.

 

I am SO VERY UPSET!! We realized, in choosing a picture to represent this article that we could choose a horrific picture of an anorexic women or a media-based picture of a woman. I wanted this beautiful woman:

 

But the people of our culture have been programmed to KNOW the media’s view of women or be captured by hideous horror. It is the only view that will capture the attention of the public! So, even in my office, we chose a picture that would catch the public’s eye. How awful is this situation?! Please let me know your thoughts!

 

1 Comment »

  1. Well said Kristen. Everyday professional women have to struggle to be valued beyond their sexuality and many don’t know how to cope with the pressure. We need to educate girls to have self worth and value themselves the way God created them, within healthy limits. We as women have to understand that we are the force behind the changes we want to create and not perpetuate the standards and put so much pressure on our little girls to create that image of perfection.

    Comment by Mary sol gonzalez — October 10, 2013 @ 11:54 pm

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