International Women’s Day

Cakie Belle

Body Love Revolution

Cakie Belle writes on

There’s something scary happening in Hollywood. One by one, the women on our magazine covers and TV screens are becoming oddly alike. Their faces are strangely smooth and their expressions are unsettlingly frozen. Botox injections are as regular as manicures, bizarre procedures (like butt implants!) are increasingly common and boob jobs are basic requirements. Some famous women in their 50s look startlingly similar to their 20-year-old counterparts and one particular young starlet is well-known for undergoing a staggering 10 cosmetic procedures in a single day.

Worryingly, a twenty-something woman with face full of botox, lips full of collagen and breasts full of silicone is no longer considered particularly strange. On the contrary, it’s more likely she’ll be dubbed an “it” girl, given a place in the “100 hottest women in the world” lists and turned into a role model for impressionable tweens. On the red carpet, unnaturally perfect, primped, plastic women have simply become the norm.

What’s really concerning is that cosmetic surgery procedures, hair extensions, bizarre exercise regimes and coconut water diets are no longer exclusively the domain of the rich and famous. “Plastic fantastic” culture has spilled over into the lives of regular women. Mamas are getting tummy tucks with their c-sections and teenagers are rocking up to class with fake hair, fake tans and fake nails.

So why has looking like a cookie-cutter clone of a thousand other surgically, cosmetically and digitally enhanced women become something to aspire to? Why are so many smart girls buying into this madness? And why are there so many beautiful women with shattered self esteem and zero body confidence?

Well, at least in part, the answer is quite simple: Because every day the media inundates us with destructive messages. You only need to cast your eyes over the magazine titles at the checkout for a hint as to why negative body image is so rampant. Girls of today are repeatedly told that they are not enough. Natural is not acceptable. Unique is not desirable. If you don’t fit the mould, you don’t matter. And if you’re not in, you’re out. That’s what drilled into little girls when they pick up a copy of Total Girl magazine with a photoshopped picture of Miley Cyrus on the cover. That’s what teenagers are led to believe when they watch Heidi Montage strutting her surgically-enhanced stuff on The Hills. And that’s what mothers are told when they read a Women’s Day article featuring a celebrity mother wearing a bikini and declaring “I lost my baby weight in just 3 weeks!”

An examination of magazines from the 70s and 80s really highlights how much things have changed (for the worse) in the last few decades. Though super models and movie stars have always been enviably beautiful, in the past they were more naturally so. Plastic surgery was not so common and much of the technology now used to digitally “correct” images simply didn’t exist. Today the images presented and perpetuated by the media are so far removed from reality that if it wasn’t so dangerous, it’d be laughable. Furthermore, through technologies such as social media and reality TV, the line between “the girl next door” and “celebrity” has become increasingly blurred, creating even more pressure for women to live up to Hollywood standards.

The expectations currently placed on women are ridiculously high and mostly unattainable. When a girl’s relationship with her body is already such a fragile thing, these unrealistic depictions of beauty are terribly destructive. Body-hate mentality is insidious.

If we are ever going to escape the body-hate cycle, things obviously need to change. The media certainly need to be more conscious of their impact and make serious reforms, but for as long as they are making a profit while pushing their toxic messages, that shift is unlikely to occur.

While as individuals we have little power over the media, as a group we women are a force to be reckoned with. We can speak with our money by not buying the products that perpetuate dangerous beauty ideals and we can speak with our numbers by letting the government know, this is not ok.

It’s time to speak up. It’s time to be heard. It’s time to start a body love revolution.


About the Author

Cakie Belle

Cakie Belle is a professional writer, dreamer, cake fanatic, body image advocate and self love crusader, on a mission to promote healthy self esteem, body confidence and true beauty.

Cakie passionately believes in the the magic of being unique and actively rejects the superficial, narrow-minded and unrealistic definition of beauty presented by the modern media. Cakie hopes to remind women that beauty comes in all shapes, sizes, ethnicities and ages, and inspire, educate and encourage girls to love their bodies for the gorgeous miracles they are.

Comments

Joanna
Joanna — 23 February, 2011 at 10:21 am

Cakie, you’re my hero! Except for the part about using our consumer power to send a message—my head is right there with you, but in my heart its too difficult to part with the vapid and ridiculous that is a good women’s magazine. So, I had to ask myself, why are my head and heart so out of sync on this? Do I secretly like to feel bad about myself? What pleasure is there in such tales of surgery, lives of excess? I think Cakie actually hit upon the crux of the issue (for me!). The line between who you are in your ‘everyday’ life and ‘celebrity’ have been forever altered with the influx of young girls who are famous for being famous.

Never was this more obvious to me then one morning in New York City when I was extremely frustrated that I couldn’t find anything to wear. Nevermind that I had a 32kg suitcase full of stuff and a whole closet full of clothing on top of that—nothing i seemed to put on accomplished the goal of making me feel worthy of a day of shopping in New York! Finally my boyfriend, loving, sweet guy that he is turned to me and said “you look great, and more importantly, no one cares what you’re wearing—its not like you’re a celebrity, no one will even look twice at you!” Something about that stung. But its true, I was so caught up in looking like a fashion model to go shopping I totally lost sight of the fact that no one cares what I look like except those who already love me and they were saying i looked great.

That realization was entirely liberating. We do need a body love revolution and we need another examination of our culture. Is boycotting women’s magazine’s the answer? Maybe. I think, however, the long term fix is a real dialogue that starts in the home and is continued in a meaningful way throughout the school years. Its about teaching our youth to think critically and smartly about the media and the images they see. Its about unraveling the stories of popular culture in a structured sense and working with young and old alike to find a meaningful place for “reality” within this culture of “reality television.” The most powerful part of body love will come when women can read magazines and engage the media and STILL feel good about themselves.

I’m on the fence about media images that reflect “real” women. I suppose we mean not airbrushed and not all a boney size zero. But I can’t help thinking that somehow, in that demand, is really just another demand that we be externally validated. We want the media to reflect women who look more like….“us”. As if somehow, when the media reflects what “we look like” as a standard of beautiful then we can accept that we are beautiful? I think that’s walking a thin line between the need for external recognition and the very internal processes that are imperative to body-love. We need a body revolution and we need to give each generation the skills to make that happen, for themselves, one at a time—even if they are sometimes compelled to pour over a gossip magazine and take a moment to enjoy the vapid and the ridiculous.

Kate
Kate — 23 February, 2011 at 10:26 am

My partner and i have a long-running joke that a particular commercial TV network produces all its presenters in a basement lab, so similar are they in appearance. I guess the scariest – and most anger-inducing – part of the media pressure on women to conform is watching how the pre-teen girls i know deal with it. Even the strong, independent, feisty and most feminist individualists among them are starting to put more pressure on themselves to look ‘right’. It’s sad and it’s not right, and there’s only so much the adults in their lives can do to correct that message that is coming at them from all sides. Viva la revolution! :)

Emma
Emma — 23 February, 2011 at 01:33 pm

Totally agree that we need a body-love revolution. My tween daughter is keen to start reading more, but it is almost impossible to find a tween magazine that isn’t all about the plastic fantastic world. Even my three year old son is mimicking it – he heard the song on a certain website, and now he sings “Come on barbie, let’s go party!” when he wants his sisters to play with him. Needless to say, we’ve banned the computer from being able to hit that website again… But these messages that started with magazines and TV are now part of playground culture, and it’s destructive. It’s no wonder that the Guides Say report shows a jump from 63% of girls 10-14 to 75% of women 18-30 years who believe that the media think looking “pretty and thin” is the most important aspect of being a girl.
So, I am actively looking for magazines and TV shows that reinforce to my kids (male or female) that what they do is more important than how they look.