As we look to the past, we see female icons such as Marilyn Monroe, Twiggy, Elle McPherson and Kate Moss. Today we have figures like Ally McBeal, Christina Aguilera, Rebecca Romijn-Stamos and Heidi Klum displayed widely in our daily lives, creating an unattainable ideal that many of us desire. What do all of these “icons” have in common? Their audience – us. We look at all of these figures surrounding us everyday, changing our opinions of our selves and those around us. “I want to be blonde, 5 feet 7 inches and weigh 110 pounds,” says a young teenage girl. And the boys, well they might not say much, but we all know what they are thinking, “I’m gonna be ripped, man, so I can get all the chicks.” Why do we want to look this way? Because our culture and society deems it as valuable. If you look good, you fit in; you are a part of the mold.
It’s hard not to fall into the trap that society has prepared for us. When the majority of women see a “beautiful” model, they wonder, “why can’t I look like that?” Her boyfriend probably has pictures of Pamela Anderson Lee and Playmates all over his room, while she has Ambercrombie & Fitch models all over hers. It has been ingrained in our minds to deem these figures as beautiful and sexy, which is how all women and men want to feel. So how do they go about it? From dieting, fasting, bingeing and purging, to over exercising, people do it all. Eating disorders have become more prevalent as the years go on. Here at UCSB, 23.4 percent of women and 7.9 percent of men have a diagnosable eating disorder! This is up to eight times the national average. How can we change these sad statistics? We can change our values and our ideals.
If we look at our partners and friends as individuals who are unique because of their attributes and personalities, rather than their superficial looks, then we will have made a start. Let’s face it, we can never get rid of the media. It will always be there, selling us products with “ideal” models to make our selves fit the molds constructed by them. If anyone can change their own outlook on what’s beautiful and what’s not, they can also ensure that they will feel good about themselves and who they are. Instead of looking at these actors, actresses, singers and models as idols, look at them as not fitting into our mold of society. These body types only make up 5 percent of the population anyway, so aren’t they really the minority? The average female model is 5 feet 9 inches tall and weighs 110-118 pounds. The average woman is 5 feet 4 inches tall and weighs 145 pounds. Does this “ideal” represent reality? The “ideal” is getting thinner all the time. The “ideal” woman used to weigh 8 percent below average, now she is 23 percent below average. Never before has the ideal been so difficult to attain. Remember to keep in mind while looking at these unrealistic figures around us that these models spend their day keeping “in shape” because they have to continue their career.
Every BODY is different. If we were supposed to resemble these images, then wouldn’t we look that way? Going through all this trouble to look “ideal” isn’t right, it shouldn’t be so hard to be sexy. Marilyn Monroe was very sexy and she was a size 13. Why can’t that be our ideal today? Women have curves because they are made to reproduce. We can’t change biology, so why don’t we just change society?
Changing society will take some time, but if people begin to hold their own ideals as important over the ones constructed by our society, things will begin to change. If you feel better about yourself, you’ll feel good about everyone around you. If anyone you know suffers from an eating disorder, help them by just being there for them and being their friend. If you want to talk to someone regarding these issues, go to Student Health and set up a free appointment to talk to a counselor or dietician. Make an appointment by calling 893-3371.
Karen Booth is the co-coordinator for Nutrition and Eating Disorder Awareness Week, Feb. 26 to March 2.