Learning to be body positive

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Why women need to revisit the way we think of beauty even if the beauty industry and advertisements tell us otherwise

Negative body image and lack of self-confidence are growing issues for women in modern society. Our media is responsible for propagating unattainable standards of beauty to impressionable young women and their male counterparts. Their focus is misdirected and they cannot distinguish between realistic images and airbrushed depictions of the body, leading to a dangerous mindset in the youth of today.
Women.Indian Link
Much of the current dilemma stems from the male gaze used to portray women in media in an unapologetically misogynistic manner. The success of this kind of branding and advertising has retained its popularity, despite the very real dangers it represents.
Today, feminism is frowned upon or rejected by some sectors of society in order to continue the subjugation of women. Many female role models succumb to the pressure to conform to standards of beauty that are unrealistic; such standards are unattainable for women who don’t have a group of hair stylists, make-up artists and Photoshop experts at their beck and call.
There are women who resist the pressure to conform and they face a backlash from the same media that delight in reporting cases of celebs going under the knife, with headlines screeching: “What happened to her face?”
We need to be active in setting the benchmark for what the next generation sees as confident, desirable and attainable in terms of body image. We must educate our boys, instil confidence in our girls, empower young women and reassure all women that they are more than enough just as they are.
Women.Indian Link
A great first step is to encourage women to stand up for other women. A recent Instagram photo featuring a model with unshaven legs resulted in many disparaging comments from women as well as men. That picture is most of us in real life! Why do we feel the need to insult her for reflecting that reality?

Women need to be mindful of the pressure we put on ourselves and other women in the way we comment on people’s dress sense and physical looks. The ‘hot trends’ or ‘must haves’, such as big lips, big butts, and slim waists, are all passing fads hyped up by gossip magazines – written by women for women. Buying into this hype can result in an increase in women who doubt their self-worth based on their appearance and resort to plastic surgery. It has become easier to change what you have then learn to love what you are blessed with.

Women who invest in their appearance may be labelled shallow and those who don’t are labelled anything from hobo to lesbian. Why do we encourage such negative criticism of each other and the misuse of such labels? If we collectively eat well, sleep well, are disciplined in fitness and get enough sunshine, then we can all embrace the positive body image that will make our world a better place.
We need to revert to being confident in our natural state. Every woman is special in her own way. No woman is desirable by every beauty measure so it is pointless to use them as standard benchmarks.
Women.Indian Link
When we improve the dialogue around body confidence by reinforcing the idea of all women as beautiful, we also impact men. We combat instances of misogyny through questioning the male gaze and also hopefully curbing male entitlement. Through education, men should be taught to see women as more than objects that sell chocolates and cars on television, in magazines and in movies. When men learn to respect individual women for who they are, and not what they wear or what they do for a living, this will have a profound impact on lowering the ridiculously high domestic violence and sexual assault statistics around the world.
The key to rising above social pressure is to stay educated. Keep reading, learning and knowing so that you can distinguish fact from fake and not get sucked into the fake reality sold on TV and in magazines. If you take care of yourself and eat well you will look well and it will rewire the way you think of beauty even if the beauty industry and advertisements everywhere tell you otherwise.
It’s up to us women to be confident in our varied body types, promote that confidence to other women and together stand united so that the male gaze and the media can’t faze us.

Shafeen Mustaq
Shafeen Mustaq
Shafeen is a Sydney based writer

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