I was sitting with my 16-year-old cousin watching the "Africanized Tribal Cover of Let it Go" from the movie Frozen and my cousin said, "When is there going to be a chubby Disney princess. I wish there was one. I can't wait for her."
According to the National Institute on Media and Family via the University of Washington, in a survey taken by girls 9 and 10 years old, 40 percent of them have tried to lose weight and by "age thirteen, 53% of American girls are 'unhappy with their bodies.' This grows to 78% by the time girls reach seventeen."
These statistics change only slightly as women get older. For most women, not a day goes by without them wishing that some part of them were different. "If I could just be five pounds thinner, if I was just born a few inches taller, if my nose was just a little bit thinner, I would feel so much better about myself. Why couldn't I be born 'this or that way'?" "Maybe If I was born that way, than I would be happier."
I've heard women say these phrases over and over and over again and I've often thought similar things myself. We blame ourselves as much for the things that we can't control as we do for the things that we can.
I remember a few years back, when Megan Fox was all over the media; I would look at her and think, I'll never be beautiful because I'll never look like Megan Fox. At the time, I did not even realize the ridiculousness of my own thoughts. Nor did I realize that by thinking Megan Fox is the only beautiful person, I was saying that no one else in the world was beautiful. I was excluding everyone. Thankfully, I did soon after realize that women of all shapes, sizes and colors are in fact beautiful.
But this is the effect that the media has on one's psyche. And unfortunately, this does not just apply to the media it applies to real life.
During my sophomore year of college, I had gained about five or 10 pounds and over the course of the next year, I lost most of the weight I had gained. A friend of the family who was visiting over the summer, asked me, "oh I heard you gained weight, when and how did it happen?" This wasn't a comment that arose out of related conversation; this was on an escalator in the mall while we were discussing what store to visit next -- I thought we were there to have a good time. I remember kind of stuttering and answering the question. I actually answered because I didn't know what else to say.
These experiences are not unique to me; women face this kind of scrutiny all the time. One of my best friends told me a similar story about her experience. A year ago, she started training for a half marathon. She had been working extremely hard, going to meet with her trainer every day after work and on weekends. While at a family event her sister was telling her how great she looked. At the time, my friend was wearing a loose fitting hoodie so it was difficult to tell, and her cousin began to pinch her stomach to see if she actually lost any weight! Horrifying isn't it!
What's even more confusing about it all is how much physical appearance matters. A slight change in diet and lifestyle can elicit such strong reactions from people, who are not even in the slightest, affected.
Everywhere we look, we are bombarded with images of tall, thin, and beautiful women, selling us makeup, cars, jewelry, music, movies, virtually anything you can think of. Magazines sell us the latest fashion trends with beautifully constructed images in adobe photoshop, leaving little trace of the women who's photo is actually being taken. Prior to the re-structuring, the photos are taken with high definition cameras, lights and shadows of all colors, and hours of hair, makeup, and costume. Even models themselves will tell you that the photos are so different than real life.
If you haven't already seen the TED talk by Cameron Russell, a Victoria's Secret model, you must watch it. Cameron Russell talks about exactly this, constructed beauty or the beauty myth. She says that she is a tall thin white female and she won the genetic lottery. That's how someone becomes a model. Becoming a model is like winning the lottery, it's completely out of your hands. She further talks about how the "privilege" has helped her in life, and how its difficult to say that it has not always made her happy.
Her critique of the fashion industry is so on point, and it's high time that we stop giving into the beauty myth. Women deserve to be valued for who they are, for everything they are, there imperfections and all that goes with it.
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