Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Perception Part Two

Back to the dream I had the other day.  Well, not the dream, but more the way I saw myself and everyone else who was in the dream.  I saw myself as skinny, but the rest of the people in my dream (I only knew Kurtis - the other people there I had no idea who they were) looked like I know them to look in life.  I don't know if this means my subconscious thinks I am skinny or if I just have hope to be skinny one day.  It's an interesting thing to think about.
But then there is the other side of the coin so to speak.  I have a friend who makes movies.  He is really nice and lets me be in them, too.  I love making movies.  I'm really quite passionate about it.  He did not give me the part I wanted this time, though.  I asked him if the reason is because I'm fat.  He assured me it wasn't and I went on a bit about it and finally, he said to me, "I don't think you are fat!"  Oh.  But I am though.  Right?  I mean, all the magazines tell me I am.  My body mass index is 28.3 and all the BMI calculators I have used tell me that means I am overweight.  When I was 178 pounds and I punched in those numbers, it told me I was obese.  That's not something a girl ever wants to see.
We have to get past this idea that the only way for a woman to be beautiful is if she is 112 pounds.  It's a lie. We can't just blame the media, but I do think it plays a major role in this.  Did you know that 65% of women in the United States have an eating disorder?  Did you also know that the rates of depression in girls has doubled between 2000 and 2010?  78% of 17 year old girls are unhappy with their bodies.  That's huge.
I can also see why my mother did not want me to read Seventeen and other magazines like that.  Just so you know, all of those statistics I just spewed off were from a documentary called Miss Representation.  I encourage everybody to watch it.  It's an eye-opener, and it has helped me in my journey to self-acceptance.  I don't know if I will ever truly get there, but I'm working on it.
I just feel that we have all bought into this idea that we have to be skinny to be happy or to be accepted.  Well, not everybody has the ability to be as skinny as the actresses you see on television.  I dream of the day when all body types are represented on television and in film.  It's important that we start to re-train our way of thinking.  Because women are beautiful.  That's it.  Women are beautiful.  I'm not saying let's all go eat whatever we want and forget about the consequences.  Eating healthy foods and taking care of ourselves is what I am talking about.  I am more than just my body.  I think that the media tells me I'm not though and that's where the problem lies.
If I'm not anything other than a body, or a man's plaything (this is known as self-objectification), then I'm not a real person and I don't matter.  That's what young girls are telling themselves after reading magazines or watching television and movies.  But I am a person, and I do matter.  Women matter.  Girls matter.  Yeah, everybody knows that, Melissa.  So why are you even bringing this up?
Because not everybody does know they matter.  Look around you.  Everywhere you go, you will see women being objectified or their bodies use to sell products.  It's an epidemic.  In Miss Representation, one of the women being interviewed talks about how you can't be what you can't see.  If girls never see a woman being objectified and she is told her worth is more than just her body, you have fewer instances of eating disorders.  You have women with higher self-esteem and fewer instances of depression.  That's basically the opposite of what is going on in this country.
I wish I could put in a clip of one of the biggest wake up calls for me in this movie, but I can't.  So I will quote the woman instead.  Caroline Heldman (PhD) is an Associate Professor of Political Science at Occidental College.  She said, "The more women and girls self-objectify, the more likely they are to be depressed, to have eating disorders.  They have lower confidence.  They have lower ambition.  They have lower cognitive functioning.  They have lower GPAs.  How does this connect to women in leadership?  Women who are high self-objectifiers have lower political efficacy.  Political efficacy is the idea that your voice matters in politics, and that you can bring about change in politics.  So if we have a whole generation of young people being raised where women's  objectification is just par for the course, it's normal, it's okay; we have a whole generation of women who are less likely to run for office and less likely to vote."
I'd like to apply this to our whole lives.  Efficacy is a noun.  It means "capacity for producing a desired result or effect, effectiveness."  I went to dictionary.com.  I use that sight frequently.  Everybody wants to have a purpose that is greater than themselves.  But if I am not more than my body, then I can't have any efficacy in this world.  This will affect my children.  This will affect how I raise them and how they see me as a person.  So if we do not change the way we think, we are not only hurting ourselves, but we are also hurting our children and our children's children.  Because this is not just going to go away.


Shauna said...

You go girl!!! I've been fighting that perception fight my entire life! I finally got to the point about 10 years ago where I could accept my body the way it is. Doesn't mean I don't try to eat right and lose a few pounds, but it does mean that I can still feel like I am important and have value even though I'm not a size 2. And one of my goals is to help my children to feel that sense of self "okay-ness" at a lot younger age than I did. So woohoo! I'm your cheerleader anytime you need one! I still need one from time to time as well, so I'm happy to cheer for any of my ladies who need it!!

Emi-chi said...

The BMI system is extremely messed up, so don't focus on what it says. According to it even I am overweight.