Friday, 12 June 2009

Vile bodies

Why do women criticise their own bodies so mercilessly? I think most men get very impatient with this constant self-loathing, particularly when they've failed to notice any of the so-called imperfections.

Enormous bum? Hideous nose? Huge feet? Where do these obsessions come from? Presumably from endless comparisons with unreal supermodels who bear scant relation to ordinary women.

All my ex-girlfriends made much of some alleged deficiency which usually was invisible to me. No amount of reasoned argument would convince them they were just fine as they were.

Celebs interviewed in the media will invariably mention some part of their anatomy they'd love to be rid of, it's so loathsome. It seems to be female etiquette never to say that actually you're quite happy with your body. That would suggest a goodie-goodie-two-shoes surfeit of complacency.

I think it's time for a women's self-acceptance week, in which women are forbidden to criticise their bodies and can only appreciate them, listing all the features that are attractive and likeable. Plastic surgery would be banned for the week, as well as all media articles telling women how to improve their bodies.

Men would make a point of complimenting women, though predictably the recipients would see it as phoney flattery and wonder what the man was trying to get out of them. "You're just saying that", "Ha ha, pull the other one" and so on.

Or perhaps we men should spend a week being as relentlessly self-critical as our womenfolk, systematically pulling ourselves to pieces and wishing we looked more like Brad Pitt or Leonardo DiCaprio. It would be interesting to see the reaction....

22 comments:

Los Angelista said...

The media barrage of perfect images (thanks to Photoshop) is hard for women to ignore. Very hard to ignore.

Sadly enough, I think a lot of men really are starting to get that way, too. I've read that cases of male anorexia are on the rise.

Aidan said...

I don't think that there is anything wrong with being self-critical as long as it does not develop into a complex. Even though I am bald and greying I do compare myself against film stars. I remember watching Gattaca the first time and seeing Ethan Hawke training. That inspired me to try harder to make the most of my body. As far as I am concerned eating healthily and doing exercise should be part of life. It is too easy to over-eat with all of the calorie-rich snacks we are bombarded with. Of course I will never be Brad Pitt but I can be inspired by him to look my best just like a Sunday League footballer might model himself on a professional.

Grannymar said...

Most of the Celebs are air-brushed, thus giving the Paparazzi a field day when they meet them on the street in the cold light of day.

Thankfully I am happy in my skin, wrinkles and all. They (the wrinkles) are my laughter lines and a sign that I was not afraid to live and enjoy life. In the age of non iron fabrics and fashionable creases.... I am for once top fashion! lol!

Many of the women who spend fortunes on Botox and face lifts forget their hands. Hands are a real tell-tale sign of age.

Nick said...

Liz - Unfortunately you're right, the 'male grooming' market is growing all the time, so clearly men are getting more self-critical.

Aidan - Moderate self-criticism is fair enough, to encourage us to improve ourselves and not go downhill. But female self-criticism has reached mind-boggling, self-destructive levels.

Grannymar - True, celebs are meticulously airbrushed and photoshopped into total unreality by the media. In daily life they look much like everyone else. Glad you're happy in your skin. Me too!

Aidan said...

Nick - On that we agree totally. The fact that some women can criticize parts of their body that look great to a man's eyes is particularly baffling. If women were telling me I had a great behind I would not be trying to convince them of the opposite, I would love the flattery!

Suburbia said...

Great Post Nick. It does make you feel good about yourself if people pay you genuine complements, though there are men (and women too) who do not have the skill or talent for that.

Nick said...

Aidan - Absolutely, I'd just drink in the compliments! My bum is totally to die for, naturally.

Suburbia - Genuine compliments are always welcome. Actually I'm not very good at detecting phoney compliments, so I enjoy them as well!

conortje said...

ohh well said Nick! And indeed there's a lot of blame to be thrown on the media and their love of photoshop as Los Angelista said. By the way Brad Pitt is not someone I would ever strive to look like. In fact I'm quite happy the way I am, although my tooth front teeth stick out way too much... :-)

Nick said...

Conor - The media are heavily implicated, though we're all free to ignore those fantasy bodies and go our own sweet way. I hadn't noticed those two front teeth, but then you usually keep your mouth closed in your pics....

Leah said...

What can I do but give you a hearty hurrah?

Of course you're right. I'm raising a little girl, so this point is especially crucial. I think about it all the time; I want my girl to be happy with herself no matter what, and to focus more on having a strong body rather than a "perfect" one (is there really any such thing). We encourage her to do sports and such--and she is sporty and strong--but even that can be taken too far. Too much focus on the body, in general, is I feel not a good thing.

We have a full boycott of all reality shows in our household, which is where I think some really egregious stuff is shown...in general, we don't watch much tv anyway because I think the thing you're talking about is much more subtle and pervasive, and can counteract any good value we as parents have tried to instill...

I like the idea for women's self-acceptance week!

Leah said...

OH and p.s. re your point about women rejecting compliments, or going on and on about perceived imperfections--I know I'm guilty of it myself, and I just hate when I hear myself doing it--my husband just rolls his eyes at me!

I think that eye roll says it all.

Liz said...

Oh you're taking on a risky subject here, nick! Yes I have bits I hate about me but also bits i like. I think I'm good at accepting compliments (I've had so much practice you see!!!)

Husband can't win. If he says i look nice I say he's just saying that; if he doesn't comment I assume I don't look nice!

But it is a crazy world where size zero women can exist. And not healthy.

rummuser said...

Brain washed, that is what all of us are getting to be. The container constantly getting more importance than the content. It is not only in our appearances, it is in every walk of life that one sees this superficiality prevailing.

Nick said...

Leah - That must be a really tricky issue for mums (and dads), not wanting daughters to catch the self-criticism habit but seeing other women promoting it all the time. Reality shows are sickening anyway, but the ruthless female criticism some of them go in for (like Trinny and Susannah) is truly awful.

Liz - Husband can't win, that sounds familiar! The size zero fad is so damaging - so many vulnerable girls will aspire hopelessly to this ridiculous ideal.

Nick said...

Ramana - True, this superficial attitude is applied to many things. But I think women's self-criticism has gone way beyond superficiality to systematic self-belittling.

meno said...

Have you seen the movie "Bigger, Faster, Stronger."?

It really made me see how men are affected by their portrayal in the media much like women.

Baino said...

Ah we all like the odd compliment. I'm totally down on my self-image. Just can't help it. I'll never have film star good looks, nor do I want them but there's much about me I don't like. I'm not sure about blaming the media, if we didn't buy the mags, they wouldn't sell. Someone out there will pay to know how to look younger, thinner, more beautiful whether male or female.
@Conor - your eyes are very cute! . And Nick, your bum is fabulicious. There, compliments for the day

Nick said...

Meno - Never seen it, but I gather it's about the use and abuse of anabolic steroids and the idolising of men like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone. It's true there are men who worship perfect, super-muscular males, but I think most men are much more laid-back about their bodies.

Baino - Isn't my bum absolutely fabulous? A shame you're so negative about your looks, there's no reason to be! But this constant media flood of 'perfect' bodies worms its way into our unconscious.

Thriftcriminal said...

It would be terribly boring if everyone looked the same. At this stage the super-models are mostly invisible to me. Indeed, I'd rather a bit of brainy totty like Dr. Alice Roberts.

Nick said...

Thrifty - Indeed, and all those identically waif-like supermodels are pretty boring too - you can't tell one from t'other. As you say, brains are what really matter, why aren't they the talking point?

heartinsanfrancisco said...

It's a very old story. Women of my generation were taught that our value depended upon looking good. It doesn't speak well for our progress that today's young women suffer from the same feelings of inadequacy. Besides, when all that energy is focused on our looks, it leaves less for accomplishing other things, and that's terribly sad and wasteful.

Nick said...

Heart - Absolutely, all that energy wasted on constant body-monitoring could be put to much better use and directed into something genuinely fulfilling and satisfying.