One of the courses I have been taking this semester is a Women’s & Gender Studies course. I have greatly enjoyed it. I recently wrote a paper for extra credit. The husband liked it a lot and suggested I use it on my blog-great idea on his part.

This is loosely based on the screening of a documentary called “Miss Representation”. The documentary discusses in great detail women and their role in the media-along with lots of other interesting information. Enjoy! 

 

     Ashamed. That is how I felt after watching the screening of “Miss Representation”. It was an eye-opening experience. For a large part of my forty-four years on this earth, I have often lamented the state of my thighs. I have criticized myself alone. I have criticized myself in front of my husband, my sisters, salespeople, my doctor, and most importantly, my own daughters. I never realized the far reaching effects the words I said, about my own body, would have. I have perpetuated the problem. My own daughters now complain about their bodies.

I have long been aware of media bias and the quest for the perfect female body. I’ve read fashion magazines for years encouraging me to eat less, exercise more, exercise less, and eat more. Wear this, not that. High heels make your legs look longer. Black makes you look slimmer. Don’t wear horizontal stripes. Smaller patterns, not larger. Buy this product; it makes you look younger, stronger, brighter, happier. On and on the rules continue. Whose rules? And, why do I need to follow them?

I’m glad to see more people starting to recognize an obvious problem. When a magazine manipulates a model’s photograph so that her head is larger than her waist, there is a problem.

When women die of starvation because they want to fit into sample size clothes for a runway, there is a problem. One should have more than a deep breath and a cigarette for lunch.

When men have the expectation that after twenty years of marriage and three children you should still fit into the same size 6 you always did, and can’t understand why you don’t fit into an 8, we have a problem.

During class discussion we have talked about the media and it’s manipulation of the masses. I understand companies want to sell their products. I understand advertisers want to make their clients happy, but at what cost? Outright lying?

The message that men, women, and children get from the media is that the self-worth of a woman lies in her looks. Her breasts, her legs, the shape of her nose, the color of her hair and skin. We don’t talk about women as powerful and intelligent. As leaders, not followers. I have seven nieces. From this moment on, I will endeavor to congratulate them on every good grade, not how pretty they look in a dress. How much I admire their ability to hold snakes. Ride dirt bikes. Clean their room. How strong they are, both physically and emotionally.

I always told my daughters that within them lay the power to do anything they wanted to do. As long as they could read and write, they could do anything. And then I’d complain about my thighs.

These thighs have carried me countless miles. These thighs walked me down the aisle. These thighs stood for long hours, working. These thighs walked my daughter down the aisle. These same thighs steadied my body as I held my own daughter’s legs as she was giving birth. These thighs stood by my father’s casket. These are strong thighs.

Who would have thought that as far as women have come in the past 100 years that they would have just as far to go? The women who fought so valiantly for us over the last several centuries would be proud, but would they be satisfied? I think of the old cigarette ad that said “You’ve come a long way, baby.” We still have a long way to go. I’m not satisfied. And I’m going to make sure that the young women in my family aren’t either. I’m going to make sure my grandson questions what he sees as well. I want them to all be informed and know they have options     .

The most important takeaway I got from “Miss Representation” was on a more personal level. Be kinder to myself. In doing so, I’m kinder to everyone around me too. I’m still not happy with my thighs and I probably never will be, but I have a greater appreciation for them and the years they have carried me through.

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