Culture: Toasterside reflections on body image

Culture: Toasterside reflections on body image
By Emma Plant

It is not commonplace for us to pause momentarily and reflect on “how we are going”? Miranda Kerr-Bloom says she takes time each day to meditate. Joan Rivers says she often takes time to reflect on her reflection.

A great many of us ladies will, for the most part, trade in reflection for the honourable title of task-master. Constantly we are looking to the future, even it is the very near future, even if we are just waiting for the dinkin’ toast to pop.

Yes, we are driven and busy, like a BP fuel truck. Yet, in the midst of our achievements, raising its head constantly around all our pursuits, are our body image hang-ups.

As we age and wise-up (hopefully), we start to understand that there is a very-many-thing that make us beautiful, as the adage so repeatedly goes: ‘Beauty is only skin deep’.

However, for adolescents transitioning into womanhood, now more than ever before, there is an incredible amount of pressure placed on their body image.

The main text reads: ‘You are achieving great things, you can do anything!’ Unfortunately, the subtext is still relentlessly yelling ‘You lack the conviction of your achievements because your sense of worth is suffering due to your poor body image’. It is a riddle and a half for a young lass.

"Body image is consistently rated as one of the biggest issues of concern for young Australians, according to Mission Australia’s national annual survey," says Sarah McMahon from BodyMatters Australasia, who keeps an eagle eye on what is happening regarding young women in the mainstream media.

"It trumps other issues including concern about school, peer pressure, drugs, the state of the world and so on. While the study results indicate body image is a concern for both men and women, typically body image is a gendered issue. It is particularly significant for females because our body literally embodies who we are as people and how we see ourselves."

Sarah believes that as our society is increasingly globalized, there is also increasing pressure for girls to reach womanhood at lightning speed. When young girls are peering-around (pun intended) and looking for role models, the ever-present, scantily-clad celebrity is the generic default of influence.

"Ironically, with the transition to a global culture, the beauty ideal has become even more homogenised," says Sarah. "We are moving away from a localisation whereby individual difference is the value. This means that role models, more than ever, are from Western pop culture and fit a very specific profile.”

Does this emphasis on body image make the ‘womanhood transition’ harder than it needs to be?

“There is a huge emphasis on how we look rather than how we feel, and this makes the transition into womanhood very difficult," says Sarah. "It also facilitates a mind-body split, that not only undermines our ability to be authentic, it completely disconnects us from ourselves. Dieting is a prime example of this. Tapping into how we feel honours our own intuition and that is a vital part of transitioning into womanhood."

As a consequence of the hyper-emphasis on looks, the checklist of adulthood shows body image is at the tipy-top, right above intelligence and character (and this phenomena is growing for males too). But Sarah believes it is a mindset that can be debunked with knowledge and awareness. And, surprisingly, adolescents’ heavy use of social media can be a positive practice to alleviate some of the pressures.

"One of the best things about the younger audience is that it is not necessarily passive and observing," she says. "Social media provides a forum to do this, and also for people to “talk back” to media in a way that has never been experienced in history."

Yet, for some reason, women are particularly inclined to comparing themselves to a digitised image of a very niche ideal. It must look a tad confusing to young girls. They hear that they are beautiful just as they are, it is what is on the inside that counts, they are able to do anything... and then they smacked down with a Barbie as they watch grown women bang-on about their dimpled thighs.

Oh, the humanity!

Perhaps women have been squandering their achievements because of an unspoken but incredibly loud sense of body imperfection, which can consume all their toasterside thinking. But with the right knowledge and wisdom, that undermining voice can be made quiet for the younger generation of women haphazardly trying to find their feet. How about a toast to that?

Emma @ Girl With a Satchel