Body Hate Accomplices: It’s Not the Media’s Fault

At the risk of being bold, I am here to say that it is not the media’s fault that young women have body image issues.  It’s our fault.

Us, as their mothers, their teachers, their older sisters, their cousins, their whatever- we are teaching them to diet and exercise themselves half to death.  We are they reason they are chasing the collar bones, the jutting hips, and the often impossible to attain thigh gap.

I know that the messages in the media are powerful and consistent, but I think that young women are intelligent and critical.  I don’t think they’ve been brainwashed by the covers of fashion magazines and the gaunt bodies of child star-gone wrong celebrities.  I think it’s us.

My mother, who is by no means overweight, has been on a diet for nearly all of my life.  She taped pictures of her head onto supermodel bodies and put them on the refrigerator door as a form of rather rudimentary “thinspiration”.  Susan Powder, Richard Simmons, and Dr. Atkins were like live-in life coaches who stood, arms-folded, and oversaw every meticulously measured and portioned meal.

I need to be clear- growing, up, my mom never told me that I was fat or needed to go on a diet or start an exercise regimen to lose weight.  But I still got the message that to be a women meant to be trying to be thinner.   And this message came from just about every grown woman I remember interacting with as a child- my aunts, my grandmothers, my mom’s friends, my friends’ moms, and even my teachers.  It wasn’t runway models who taught me about womanhood, it was the women who loved and nurtured me every day of my life that taught me about womanhood.  They taught be that women should be kind, hospitable, intelligent, hard-working, creative, loved.  But should they be happy?  Only if the scale said it was okay that day.

So no, I don’t think it’s the media’s fault.  I think it was their fault.  And now, I think it’s my fault.

The young women and girls I know all know that I am trying to lose weight.  They hear me talk about my “scale victories” and see me jot down calorie counts.  But what is worst is that I am teaching them that I am happy when i am losing weight and that I am failing when I am not losing weight.  They hear me get irritated with myself when I ate “way over my limit” or I haven’t been to the gym “in like 3 days”.

I need to stop.  I don’t know if I owe it to myself, but I owe it to them.  I can’t let them believe that my happiness, and therefore their happiness, is supposed to depend on whether or not our “fat clothes” currently fit.

I like to work out, and, to be honest, I like losing weight.  There is everything right with being concerned for our health and taking pride in our bodies.  But there is everything wrong with our wrapping our BMI around our pant size and calling that our identity.

So next time we are quick to point the finger at the wicked media for tearing down our girls, let’s think about how we’ve been, and how we can stop being, an enthusiastic accomplice in the message of body hate.



For more on taking a step back from the body image finger-pointing, check out this post by Moment’s in My Head: Why would anyone want to look like Barbie?  She’s so fake!

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5 thoughts on “Body Hate Accomplices: It’s Not the Media’s Fault

  1. BroadBlogs says:

    Well, I would say that it’s not ONLY the media’s fault. When TV became a part of Samoan culture girls who had not previously worried about their weight began to worry about it. They got that message from television, not their mothers.

    When you are bombarded by messages they will most likely have an effect because they sink into your unconscious. Combating that takes a lot of work. So even if you can combat them they are still playing a role.

  2. I would say it’s a combination of media and the people around us. It’s a SOCIAL MINDSET. It is a simple idea that has been implanted into society’s brain as a whole, like some sort of sick global inception. It is one single lie that has sprouted into millions of problems.
    “Who you are is directly correlated to what you look like.”
    That lie is so subtle, yet so wide-spread that it shows up pretty much everywhere. Because the people we love are believe it, WE believe it. It’s not just some bad guy we can smite. It is like a parasite within us. We can’t destroy it without first removing it from ourselves, our mothers, our mentors, and yes the media. That’s why fighting it is so damn near impossible. But I am going to try anyways.

  3. […] Please check out a great post by The Preppy Panda: Body Hate Accomplices: It’s Not the Media’s Fault […]

  4. PUTdowntheCUPCAKE says:


  5. Leisha Almanza says:

    I think the cause runs way deeper than any of this.

    Imagine a bowl of gemstones. Most of them are black onyx and quartz, common and easy to come across. A few of them are rare – rubies, sapphires, diamonds etc. If you gave someone the choice of a gemstone from the bowl, they would choose a rare one. This is because to the human mind, rare things are more valuable. The rare gemstones are more special, meaning we will get more benefit from having them (showing them off, selling them etc). This leads us to be attracted to the rare gemstones, to see them as beautiful.

    It works the same way with people. Hundreds of years ago, lots of people didn’t have enough food, leading them to become underweight. They were the onyx, common and easy to come across. A minority of people were wealthier and had access to more than enough food, meaning most of them were curvier. This lead society to see curvy women as attractive, as they were rarer. They were the diamonds and rubies. This is also evident in the paintings from that time, in which most of the women are overweight.

    In our culture, it’s easy to become overweight as everyone has access to more food than they need, while weight loss becomes more difficult because of us being frequently exposed to tempting fatty foods. Now overweight and healthy weight people are common, and thin people are rare, seen as attractive and our definition of beauty.

    The media doesn’t help either. It panders to the wants of society, meaning it gives them more of what is in demand, thin people. The media doesn’t control society, it broadcasts the demands of society to everyone who sees it, including our young girls.

    The skinny fad and unhealthy body image can only change if food becomes scarce or weight loss becomes easier and more available meaning more people are thin and thinness becomes less rare; or if the human attraction to rare things changes.

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