Categorized | Letters

My Body Image Awakening

If you’ve seen the comic masterpiece, “Dodgeball,” and you’ve heard the excremental verbiage flowing from Ben Stiller’s mouth, then you’ll recognize this bit:
White Goodman: At Globo Gym we understand that “ugliness” and “fatness” are genetic disorders, much like baldness or necrophilia, and it’s only your fault if you don’t hate yourself enough to do something about it.
Now here’s my confession: I’ve believed White Goodman’s cruel statement, and I’ve told myself I’ll be thinner and prettier if I just hate myself enough. But recently I started to question that attitude, and now I’m seeing myself in a brand-new light – I look like an idiot.
Reflections of my body have been with me since I was 13. I was diagnosed with diabetes and I had to start counting the carbohydrates I ate, so I essentially became a calorie-counter in middle school. I haven’t stopped counting, and I’ve added other ridiculous practices to the list of things I now hate myself for, including: looking at myself in every piece of glass that reflects (car window, storefronts, mirrors, etc.); mentally labeling every girl who is fatter than I am as inferior and every girl who is thinner than I am as my enemy; tanning periodically so I have to stare at my naked body in a mirror under bad light (this obviously takes me down the road to self-hate); constantly being on the lookout for women in the media who are more beautiful, more starved and more airbrushed than I am, so that I can make them my role models and die a little every day I realize I’ll never look like them.
Number four on that list is where Natalie Portman comes in. The girl inside Queen Amidala has been my idol since she began her “Star Wars” saga. I look at pictures of her and dream of how she must breeze through life on her willowy limbs, feeling light as a feather. I can’t believe she’s just naturally thin and beautiful, because if I realized that, then I’d also have to realize I could never look like her. DING, DING, DING! This is the point of my awakening.
Has it ever occurred to anyone else that we sometimes know characters in the media better than we know the people we see every day on the street? I can tell you Jessica Simpson’s legs look thinner when she wears heels, and Jen Schefft (“The Bachelorette”) looks best in halter tops because her boobs are so huge. Meanwhile, my little sister wants breast implants, and my boyfriend asks me if I’ve noticed he hasn’t had time to work out lately. What do my observations about women on television do to help the people I really love? Jack shit, and that’s the truth.
In “Dodgeball,” Young Patches O’Houlihan says dodgeball is a sport of violence, exclusion and degradation. Doesn’t this sound like the game the media inspires us to play against ourselves? The body images for women and men projected on our televisions do little more than encourage us to practice violence (think of bulimia), exclusion (my mental competition with other women) and degradation (“Honey, do I look fat in this?”). I know, this may seem like a shallow and clichéd lesson to learn. But it’s one I think could make a lot of people happier.
The television is not a mirror. We use Hollywood to build the ruler we measure ourselves by, but this is simply impractical. We don’t live in Hollywood. We don’t all aspire to be actors. And most of us don’t have the money to get Zone meals delivered to our homes three times a day like Jennifer Aniston. So let’s break this ruler and form a new one! Instead of measuring only height, weight and cup size, we’ll use our ruler to measure strength as a friend, intelligence and the ability to quote “Family Guy.”
It comforts me knowing there are other people with a shared passion for my new goals: RUBI (Respecting and Understanding Body Image), a group of people right here on MSU’s campus. According to RUBI’s homepage, 80 percent of women are dissatisfied with their bodies, and the physique of a model is thinner than 98 percent of women in America.
It’s time to leave the matrix, people. Swallow the red pill and get the hell out of there. In my case, I know it’ll take some time, but ultimately I hope to be happier with my body and not hate it so much. I won’t let tiny inflections in the mirror keep me from a night out. I won’t ask my boyfriend if I look fat in my jeans…because, unless I’m looking like Roseanne Barr, I don’t care to know. Finally, I’ll fire Natalie Portman from the position of role model and I’ll try to find someone better qualified and more realistic to take her place.

RUBI is participating in Eating Disorder Awareness Week, February 28 – March 4. More information about RUBI can be found at the Olin Health Center info page.

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