Oh man. How did I go from having nothing to post about last week to having too many things to post about this week? I was originally going to cover the firing of Gap’s design chief, but that’s going to have to wait till tomorrow. Today’s all about body image, the media, and Seventeen magazine.
Seventeen Magazine’s been doing this “Body Peace” thing to combat all the body image issues and eating disorders afflicting women born in the last 30 years.
It’s been at least 30 years worth of women who spend a good part of their day thinking about food, staring at their body, pushing for just ten more minutes on the elliptical and over-salting their food so they can control their portions.
Maybe my view’s just skewed from growing up in LA and being part of a demographic prone to eating disorders (white and upper middle class overachievers), but judging by the 70,000+ signatures on the Body Peace petition, I don’t think I’m wrong. We’re all at war with our bodies in some way or another.
I’m not one to throw stones here – I have many, many of my own issues. This blog is a result of my body issues. In the beginning, I viewed all the clothes through the lens of “How unflattering would this be on me?” Reading one of my earlier posts, I’m horrified to see my own words referring to myself as “heavy.”
In truth, I’m not heavy, but I’ve felt that way since I was 13. I’ve only started to sort of accept myself in the last year, thanks to therapy, a boyfriend who listens to me talk about food and body fat incessantly, and some major personal honesty. Part of me wants to go into it further, and maybe I will in a little while, but that’s not the point of this post.
The point is that Seventeen’s push for “body peace” is great, but their promises of “Your Best Bikini Body” aren’t helping things.
I get why they’ve put out a fitness mini-mag with my current girl crush Nina Dobrev on the cover (I’m a little obsessed with her, thanks to recapping Vampire Diaries for You Know You Love Fashion – her hair is so shiny). Nina Dobrev’s body is amazing. I’d love to know how to get her awesome bod without working out.
Because, y’know, celebrities hate working out and dieting, so they just don’t do it. That’s the secret they’re always more than happy to share with every magazine that asks. “I just eat what I want but in moderation, and I have great genes.”
I grew up in LA. There’s not a lot of eating in moderation and good genetics in this town, unless “eating in moderation” means “eating when there are cameras” and “great genes” means “trainer seven days a week for two hours, because the studio says I have to lose 10 pounds.”
Which is fine, because their job is to look better than the rest of us. That’s what we expect out of celebrities. They are our Greek Gods, our unattainable ideals. The only difference is, I doubt Greek women poured over magazines trying to find ways to get Athena’s grey eyes or Demeter’s blond hair.
But we do. It’s a simple, unchanging fact.
So when Demi Lovato admitted that she had been in rehab for an eating disorder and bipolar disorder, I was really impressed and kind of proud of her. And I felt a kinship with her – which is weird, because I don’t normally care one way or the other about most teen celebrities.
I tweeted about it, and Demi Lovato retweeted it, so I wound up with like, 40 new Twitter followers, all of whom had either “Demi” or “Miley” in their name. A little unexpected, but I really hope they’re reading this. I know that a lot of them are struggling with the same things that Demi is, and the same things that I am, and probably some of the same things that Nina is – that we can’t let our bodies just be, no matter how many Seventeen-sponsored promises we sign.
Their Body Peace Treaty is a great start, but the problem isn’t just that we can’t come to terms with our perceived shortcomings. There are so many other factors and so much else at play. Real body peace probably isn’t possible. At the end of the day, the most we can hope for is a cease-fire.
And even for that, we need some help. We need to hear from magazines that we’re okay how we are, but not just with a condescending “love who you are!” article followed by three pages of diet tips and an article about Jennifer Hudson’s amazing body makeover.
Magazines don’t cause eating disorders or most body image issues, but they sure as hell provide a nice echo chamber for our own hatred.
Which is why I’m asking – as futile as it may be – for the following things:
1. That we stop buying magazines that promise to make our bodies perfect.
2. That magazines stop promising to give us perfect bodies and start featuring real girls talking about how they stay fit, how they stay active, and how they stay healthy.
3. That both we and the media be a little nicer to ourselves and celebrities. Seventeen’s fitness mini-mag had a whole feature on “OMG Body Makeovers!” with before and after shots of celebrities who used to be too fat, too thin, or too untoned but are perfect now. Was that really necessary? Are any of the National Enquirer “Best and Worst Beach Bodies” really necessary?
We can’t just expect magazines to change, because we haven’t given them any reason to. So, can we please all start working together to make things suck just a little less?
I keep re-reading this post, feeling like I’ve left something out. I think it’s partly because I know there isn’t a real solution, and because I can’t really fault Seventeen for making this mini-mag. Maybe tomorrow, or in a month, I’ll really know how to express the deep disappointment I feel over their approach to the fitness mini-mag.
But for now, because Seventeen said they were listening, this is the best I can do. I just wish I could do more.