Women Much More Than a Sum of Their Parts

Thursday, July 10, 2014
posted by elizabeth @ 7:57 PM

Being a female isn’t easy.  Are we paid enough?  Are we educated enough?  Should we be a stay-at-home mom?  Should we work outside of the home?  Are we mentally strong enough? Yet, still sweet enough to not be considered “aggressive,” or called worse.  We have an alleged war on women to contend with.  And then there is the whole Ban Bossy campaign.   Whew.  And, that is just the tip of the iceberg.  What about the physical pressure to look a certain way, to look perfect?  This perfection is something almost all women think about.  Note, I did say “almost.”  I know there is small percentage of women out there who are indeed happy with themselves or not at all interested in outward beauty.  But for much of our culture, outward beauty is the priority.  If you look at traditional media, social media, or any mall in America, the pressure to look a certain way is paramount.

People and US Weekly magazines devote pages to female celebrities on the red carpet or in their bikinis at the beach.  Yes, they do feature a spread here and there on buff male celebrities playing Frisbee or walking their dog.  But really, the number of pages pale in comparison.  Stories focus on weight losses by celebrities – Miranda Lambert, Kelly Osborne and new moms straight out of the hospital back to their pre-baby weight!  Its hard to live up to such high, unrealistic standards. Of course, these women have personal trainers and meals delivered.   But then, these women are in a world called Hollywood, too.

What really does make me crazy is the pressure on “normal” girls and women.  What made me start thinking of this recently was Miss Indiana.  You may remember at the Miss USA Pageant, she was eliminated after the swimsuit round.   Wholly guacamole, she was criticized and lauded for being “thick.”  “Thick” she is not – she’s a size 4.  Hardly thick.  The average American woman is a size 14.  I think Miss Indiana, otherwise known as Mekayla Diehl, looks fantastic.

Yes, I know that she agreed to walk on the stage in a bikini, it was her choice.  But the message trickles down to the non-fantasy world of everyday life.  I have daughters – a twelve year old and a nine year old.  What message does this send to them?  Or to my sons?   Just six now, but what happens when my boys start dating?  Will they be looking for girls that meet an impossible standard?

Our school district requires the students to take the Fitnessgram each year.  The Fitnessgram is an assessment of a student’s health and physical ability.  A report is sent home so that you can see how your child fits on their opined spectrum of healthy and unhealthy.  Not to digress too much, but shouldn’t this be the job of our family physician or pediatrician?  Anyway, the worst part of the Fitnessgram is that my daughter and her friends started comparing their weights and scores in third grade (the first year of the fitnessgram).   This is unacceptable to me.  Comparing weights on the school sanctioned chart at seven years old?

Of course, most seven year olds are not reading People or viewing their Facebook newsfeed, but the pressure is already there.  You can blame parents.  I know as a mother myself, I’ve made a very cognizant and careful choice in my words and how I describe myself to my daughters.  I always focus on the positive.   But ultimately it is our culture.   The shaming of Miss Indiana was such a moment of “Really?” for me.  The woman looks fantastic.  She looks healthy and great.

It is interesting that we live in a culture where obesity is a problem as we concurrently worry about eating disorders and body image issues.  Our country is not one of moderation and this dichotomy is a prime example.  Being a woman in America is a great blessing.  We have so many opportunities.  This should be our focus – continuing to shoot for high goals, professionally and personally, that are indeed attainable.   What others think of our jean size should not be our priority.  We are greater, better, and stronger than that.

-Elizabeth Biar

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