But there’s another assault on women, not new and not necessarily by men. Known as the “objectification” of the female body, it’s a fixation, near obsession, with a perceived ideal female body, and then the taunting and tormenting of any woman in public life whose body (or some specific body part) doesn’t fit the ideal.
Barbara Ellen, writing in The Guardian, wonders Which part of a woman’s body will we be taught to despise next? In this instance, apparently Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, has been “caught” with a bit of gray showing in the part in her hair.
This isn’t really about hair (shedding, greying, or otherwise), this is about the relentless scramble to find not only new ways to torture women about their appearance, but also new areas to focus on – institutionalised sexism one body part at a time!
What happens to people in the public eye has a trickle-down effect until you come inevitably to a 14-year-old schoolgirl crying alone in her bedroom, wondering which part of her body to despise next, the result of a culture that encourages her to think of herself not as a whole person, but as a series of flesh-and-blood problem zones.
I am especially sensitive to this, because I have four granddaughters, two of whom are teens (a third turns 11 in January).
Apparently in addition to disturbing gray hair showing, there’s something being pursued that’s known as “thigh gap.”
There is now a disturbing breed of thinspiration that pressures women and girls to pursue a “thigh gap,” which is defined as the space between one’s thighs. Everywhere online, users are posting aspirational pictures of thigh gaps, used as inspiration for weight loss and dieting.
Muffin-top (or muffin-top girl) is a generally pejorative, slang term used for a person, usually female, whose flabby midsection spills over the waistline of his or her pants in a manner that resembles the top of a muffin spilling over its paper casing.
All of these, and several more, are simply ways to think of women’s bodies, or for women to think of their own bodies, as a collection of flawed objects that need to be fixed. Many of these pressures aren’t coming from men (at least not directly), but rather from beauty magazines and online forums with a primarily female audience.
It’s a common misapprehension that women (or men, for that matter) strive to attain good looks solely for the purpose of attracting the opposite sex. Many pressures come not from individuals but from a societal complex that enforces a certain standard of appearance.
I don’t know how to combat the objectification, and of course it’s not as important in the overall scheme of things as climate change, surveillance, or our insane and broken government.
On the other hand, what if your daughter is that 14-year-old crying in her room because her body isn’t “perfect” as defined by the media? Then it winds up pretty high on the list of things you worry about.