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Of purse strings and true power

Heidi Klum dressed as Jessica Rabbit attends her 16th Annual Halloween Party at Lavo on Saturday, Oct. 31, 2015, in New York.

“If tomorrow, women woke up and decided they really liked their bodies, just think how many industries would go out of business?”

I chanced upon the quote above by Dr. Gail Dines, (Professor Emerita of Sociology and Women’s Studies at Wheelock College in Boston, Massachusetts) while scrolling through my friends’ pictures on Instagram on 1 January.

And I was struck by its simple truth.

Notice how every New Year, sportswear is wheeled to the forefront of clothes stores and television commercials tout personal trainers, the newest fitness regimens or protein shakes at unbelievable prices to spur us all to achieve our ideal weight or to be in the pinkest of health?

That’s why I think Dr. Dines was spot on. Feeding on people’s –to a large extent, women’s – insecurities is indeed a lucrative business. And most of us – yours truly included – often fall for it.

And in my opinion, it ironically starts with the very thing that often makes you believe that it has your back: women’s magazines.

The cover itself might feature a blurb urging you to “be yourself” but will be accompanied by articles that ballyhoo the latest belly-reducing exercises or instruct you on “how to be a vamp in bed” or set some other goal that you might not have set for yourself but that makes you question whether you a lesser mortal for not doing so.

Reread the quote and you’ll realize just how much power YOU as a woman actually do wield. Not surprisingly, Dines has written plenty on beauty standards set by society, the media and the fashion and beauty industries.

The quote got me thinking of the industries that I think would go bust if women did indeed wake up one morning and say, “I love what I see.”

The plastic surgery industry for instance. Yes, I deliberately call it an ‘industry’ because I cannot fathom how a medical professional can actually sleep soundly at night after, say, removing six ribs from the body of a patient who wants to look like Jessica Rabbit. And believe me, it has happened!

Over time, I have almost become inured to other plastic surgery procedures such as liposuction, breast augmentation, rhinoplasty, and even Brazilian butt lifts because of countless news reports (and the Kardashians). However, removing six ribs from a healthy human being simply because she wants to have the wasp-like waist of a Disney cartoon character is beyond me.

Kim Kardashian and Kanye West arrives at the 2015 Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute Gala benefit in honor of the museums latest exhibit China: Through the Looking Glass May 4, 2015 in New York.

Sure, some may argue that people go into such operations with their eyes wide open (and apparently after at least Googling why human beings need rib cages), but I think an ethical line has to be drawn somewhere. And certainly not as the dotted lines etched by plastic surgeons on their patients’ bodies outlining the ideal contours one should have.

In fact, most board-certified plastic surgeons feel that rib removal is too extreme a procedure to be performed for cosmetic reasons. After all, the ribcage’s essential function is to protect the vital organs. And even the lowermost ribs removed for this cosmetic procedure are positioned around some very important body parts, such as the kidneys, gallbladder, and even part of the stomach. If you ask me, unless absolutely necessary for health reasons, Barbie-waist aspirants might be better off investing in a rowing machine or doing the plank – non-stop.

I’d wager that the beauty industry would also take a beating if women willed it to, and personally I’d be happy to see the skin-whitening industry in the red. I have no qualms admitting that skin whitening or bleaching products have always been particular targets for my vitriol simply because I come from a part of the world where women generally aren’t light-skinned, but are made to feel that white skin is a beauty ideal. The advertisements promoting such products merely activate my gag reflexes; they often feature males who are initially oblivious to the dark duckling but are completely smitten by the dazzling white swan into which she becomes after seven weeks of bleaching her face.

The pharmaceuticals industry might also see fewer women falling for their rapid weight-loss products and opting instead opting to follow a diet of moderation without guilt. And let’s not even get started on the fitness and fashion industries.

The point I’m trying to make is that despite so many studies on how the media and industry have contributed to our insecurities about our physical appearance and health, we continue to allow ourselves to be told that we need to keep aspiring to some other ideal – for which we also have to pay.

Don’t get me wrong: we each owe it to ourselves to be the best version of ourselves and to take care of the bodies we’ve been blessed with. However, I believe each of us has been blessed with a uniqueness that makes this world so much richer than just a planet full of primped, tweaked, airbrushed glamazons.

So, this year, perhaps the resolution should be to take a real good look in the mirror and appreciate the beauty and the strength that is looking back at you.

And to realize that where health, beauty, fitness, and overall well-being are concerned, it is you who calls the shots.

Author: Brenda Haas

Editor: Anne Thomas



25.01.2018 | 15:16