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Love Your Body: What's It All About?
Every day, in so many ways, the beauty industry (and the media in general) tell women and girls that being admired, envied and desired based on their looks is a primary function of true womanhood. The beauty template women are expected to follow is extremely narrow, unrealistic and frequently hazardous to their health. The Love Your Body campaign challenges the message that a woman's value is best measured through her willingness and ability to embody current beauty standards.
Where do these standards come from?
Advertisements, magazine covers and fashion spreads that:
What's wrong with all that?
Routine objectification and sexualization of women in the media and other cultural institutions can lead to anxiety, shame, self-disgust, undermined confidence and discomfort with one's own body.
Research supports that sexualization can lead to eating disorders, low self-esteem and depression -- three of the most common mental health disorders in girls and women, according to the American Psychological Association (APA).
Sexualization can result in self-objectification. The APA found that self-objectification can diminish the ability to concentrate and be attentive, resulting in poor performances in areas such as math and logic.
The APA directly links self-objectification with diminished sexual health among adolescent girls. Sexualization can affect how women and girls perceive their femininity and disrupt a girl's ability to develop healthy sexuality -- a crucial aspect of well-being. The sexualization of women also impacts men and boys and their ability to have healthy, intimate relationships.
In society in general, the sexualization and dehumanization of women can contribute to sexist attitudes, sexual harassment, domestic violence, rape, the demand for child pornography and sex trafficking.
The under-representation of women of various races and ethnicities can have a negative impact on the self-image of women and girls of color and on how others see them. Because our society's beauty ideal is often personified by white women, the dominant template is even more out of reach for women of color.
Studies show that "television watching is related to lower self esteem and higher levels of disordered eating for girls and young women of all races and ethnicities."
The near invisibility of women with disabilities and women who do not fit conventional gender stereotypes can lead to these women devaluing themselves and society in general viewing them as unnatural or abnormal.
What can we do?
Help spread the word about the hazards of the media's narrow beauty ideals and sexualization of women and girls. You can start by forwarding this page to friends and family and linking it on Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites.
Put your own thoughts about body image and media objectification into words on Facebook, Twitter, your own blog, for class, in letters to the editor -- anywhere and everywhere!
Take action using the many ideas featured on the Love Your Body site.
Talk back to advertisers, members of the media, retail outlets and companies when you see images and products that make you mad.
Urge advertisers and all media to embrace positive, healthy, inclusive portrayals of girls and women. Thank them when they DO use affirming, diverse images!
Make a pact with your friends and family to stop judging your own appearance by the media's narrow beauty standards and to avoid evaluating how others look.
Model an attitude of self-acceptance and love, especially in front of young children.
Encourage educators to incorporate media objectification and body image issues into health and comprehensive sex education classes.
Encourage educators, community centers and other local resources to create extracurricular programs that help girls feel powerful and smart rather than focusing on their appearance.
What's the pay-off?
More women and girls feeling unashamed, confident, proud.
Less stress for women and girls over appearance -- jumping off the beauty treadmill can be freeing, relaxing and even healthier.
Less money spent on beauty products, diet gimmicks, spray tans, cosmetic procedures and the like means more money to save, spend on education, donate to good causes, start your own business -- areas more likely to produce a positive, long-term return on women's investment.
More time to focus on family, friends, school, work, hobbies, athletics, politics, community, personal fulfillment, spirituality, etc. -- pursuits that are more likely to offer true fulfillment.
More time to build for the future, develop skills that will last.
Less judgment of others creates a less hostile environment and a better chance of identifying new friends and allies.
A society that celebrates all people -- regardless of size, age, skin color, ethnicity, ability, gender identity, etc. -- is a more productive and harmonious society.
Wiping out narrow beauty standards, superficial gender stereotypes and the portrayal of women as a sexual commodity will help erode sexism in other areas and advance our goal of full equality for all.
©2000 - 2011 National Organization for Women (NOW) Foundation's Love Your Body Campaign