Media Madness: Weighting on Wednesday

March 16, 2011

In which we take a brief respite from shilling my work as a young adult author to consider body image issues and representations thereof in the popular culture.

First up,  via, Why Do People Read Magazines that Make Them Feel Bad?
A very good question indeed! It’s no big secret that women’s magazines are essentially advertising tools, and therefore, making us feel not [BLANK] enough is sort of their stock in trade: we hate ourselves, their advertisers promise us tools for improvement, we buy the advertised products. And so on and so on. And while I support (almost) anything that sells the written word and contribute my fair share to the ladymag industry, it’s been a process, hardening myself from the mixed messages most of these glossies send out.

Apparently those of us with body image issues (are there any of us without? Call me – I must know your secret!) spend 50% more time looking at idealized body images if the images accompany advice on improving our own bodies.
While I guess it’s a good thing that we’re more critical of ourselves in the context of self-improvement, the fact is that often these prescriptions for fitness are little more than a regurgitation of the latest fad. Furthermore, it’s crucial to keep in mind that these ideal bodies haven’t necessarily been attained by the prescription in question – or even, for that matter, at all. Almost every single photo that makes it to such an article has been retouched, and heavily.

As I head toward my mid-thirties, I find I’m in a place where I can usually read a fashion magazine and enjoy it for what it is without spiraling into self-loathing or existential despair (though I *do* wish I could afford more of the fashions!). Teen and twenty-something me put in her dues, and then some, so I think this seems as “fair” as one might hope for.

What about you? Do representations of idealized bodies affect your image of your own?


2 Responses to “Media Madness: Weighting on Wednesday”

  1. I just turned 50 (I’m typing it, but I still don’t believe it) and as I entered my late 40s, I noticed I was more ok with myself and my life than I had ever been. I like what I’m doing, I know who I am, and I feel pretty satisfied. But the body image…nope. Not ok with it. Maybe it’s the last piece to come together.

    This is actually a topic that’s getting a lot of press and attention in the YA lit community, and I’m glad. I edited one YA novel on the subject myself and it was eye opening–who knew what guys were thinking about their own bodies? And it made me laugh a lot while I thought about that stuff. It’s Allen Zadoff’s Food, Girls and Other Things I Can’t Have.

    Finally, Micol, if you have body image issues, then I guess no one is safe.

    • micolostow Says:

      But that is just the point – everyone does have the issues! It’s not like I suddenly decided I was perfect, but more like, it’s just not that important.
      I loved Allen’s book for the same reason – it’s refreshing to hear a boy’s POV on the subject, and Allen’s voice was so sincere and relatable, and didn’t take itself too seriously. Robin Friedman’s NOTHING is also a good example of a “male eating disorder” story.

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