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Idealized Female Bodies: An Illusion

female bodies | photo: alexisren

We all know the angels. When we say angels, what comes to your mind first? Victoria’s Secret? Here is why we have to deal with the idealised female body everyday.

Have you seen 2018 VS Fashion Show? Did you ever missed it? I never did. As they say it is the biggest fashion event of the year. I watch the show as a marketing event. To see the performing artists of that year, scenes, decors, new designs. But also to see all those beautiful, sparkling women and their wings. Then I think ‘I should do some exercise to have a healthier, tight body and strong muscles’. Well, it is good so far. Envying them to have strong muscles, being healthier… But the thing is those images make me think about my body and maybe causes concerns about my body, myself. So what about all those young women especially the teenagers who think they are ‘ugly’, ‘too fat’, ‘too skinny’ and being bullied by their peers. Is that acceptable for them too? At the beginning of my adolescence, I was not totally satisfied with my body although I did realize that my body was changing naturally and I was never overweight.

We all love those angels and most people think that they have thin, well-shaped bodies. Both the brand and the models say that they eat well, sleep well, train well in order to have those bodies. That is good because they encourage women to be healthy. But we all know that lots of young women are trying to lose weight in the wrong and unhealthy ways. This happens because of the idealized female body images they have. Women feel depressed, unhappy with their bodies, and depression can cause eating disorders. I’m pretty sure that we all tried to lose weight in a wrong way at least once.

But still, why do we have to search The Victoria’s Secret Angels’ workout routine on the internet?

Idealized female bodies (and also male bodies) is not something new.

We are not born with those idealizations, we learn them in the socialization process. Socialization process starts with family, continues with friends and school life. It is also supported by ‘the fourth estate’ –  the media and all those media content. These are also known as the socializing tools. Everything around us (toys, books, movies, ads) can present us how men and women must behave, dress, talk, and even what profession we must choose.

The social learning processes teach us how our body should be. But that’s an illusion. Idealized bodies keep changing. The female bodies that were ‘sexy’ once now can be seen as ‘fat’. Today, you need to be thin and muscled. But as you can see in this print ad; if you want men to like you, you must gain weight!  J (You may also check this website in order to see how female body changed over the years.) Who knows what will happen tomorrow? Think about our eyebrows. Once everyone had that thin eyebrows, now everyone wants thicker eyebrows. So, what we want to see when we look at the mirror is often the idealized female body for us by the media and the society. Before we even realize the media can influence us with all those images. Maybe this is the reason why we start a diet on Monday but it ends on Tuesday. If we do something just because it’s trending it never lasts forever.

(Image source: https://tr.pinterest.com/kikicanniff/vintage-ads-beauty-equipment/ )

Well, at least they were frank in the past. They said ‘This is ideal figure that modern women want’ openly and gave the sizes. I think no one can want something without knowing it exists. I also think that ideal means ‘standardized’, ‘monotype’. I never wanted to be same with all other people and I’m sure none of the women wants that.

idealised female bodies

photo: Alfred Eisenstaedt — LIFE Magazine

 

How the media idealize female bodies is also related to the popular culture. After a photoshoot everybody started to talk about Kardashian’s hips. Exercises for hips became popular and lots of women started to do them. We all have better versions of us. We sometimes need to change our physical appearance. Do we have our hair cut or dyed it because we like it or because it is the new trend? Of course, everyone knows the right answer for herself. I always wanted to dye a part of my hair in purple (but i never did it). This year it became a trend and I said to myself ‘Meh, if it’s trending it’s not worth doing.’

photo: Bustle

Our mind and perceptions are shaped by the media and the society but if we keep learning and improving ourselves we can shape the society with our knowledge.

Firstly, know that the media barely shows the real life. We may say that media is directed by the advertising. Because it brings money to media channels, and all the media channels need money to survive. In order to take ads, media content must gain the attention of the audience. So, they can present different lifestyles and mostly they are idealized images. Advertising is a tool that helps brands to sell their products. So the brand and it’s product always match with a good life, beautiful woman, handsome man, happiness, etc. If we always see the same images, that images become our reality. For example think about your favorite woman character from a movie. Why she is your favorite character? Maybe because of how strong, clever, rich, loveable she is. Maybe she is so beautiful; she has a perfect boyfriend who is handsome, clever, understanding. No matter how, the main reason is that you want to be in her shoes. You take her as a role model, and she is perfectly idealized for you. Don’t worry, according to social learning theory, it is normal to have a model, an ideal or an idol. The important thing is whether you are aware of the reality and the illusion or not. It is important not only to be literate but also to be media literate.

Secondly, other people may have that idealized images in their mind too. Also they can try to impose their idealized body images to you. We may all have those people around us who keep telling us lose weight, gain weight, eat more, do that, etc. I can say that I had those people around me and I’m sure I’ll see those kind of people in the future too. Those people also love giving advices even we don’t want it, and never think about how their words can hurt others or they just want to hurt others. But hey! The important thing is what do you really want? Never forget that you can accomplish everything by following the right path. In this case, follow the physically and psychologically healthy path and do not worry about the idealized female bodies.

 

Written by Ezgi

 

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