The Die In Diet: How North American Ideas Of Beauty Harm Women

1545 words - 7 pages

Humankind has always been aware of the existence of beauty. As our species has grown intellectually and socially, the standards that constitute beauty have changed to suit our culture. Females, in particular, are given more focus than males when it comes to appearance (Jackson, 1992). For instance, cosmetics cater almost exclusively to women and while they are considered a luxury, they have come to represent more of a grim necessity for females (Hansen & Reed, 1986). In the Western civilisation of North America, the concept of what constitutes beauty has transformed from the curvy and voluptuous looks of Marilyn Monroe to the sickly thin figure of supermodel Twiggy. The most recent ...view middle of the document...

The fact that the majority of models and beauty contestants would meet one of the medical criteria of anorexia - that body weight be 15% below a "normal" weight - serves to prove that society embraces an unhealthy body image. In 1990, a direct relation was found between exposure to media and the incidence of eating disorders. The increase in eating disorders over time has coincided with the decrease in ideal female body weight, as portrayed in the media. In 1992, women's magazines were found to have 10.5 times the amount of advertisements promoting weight loss than men's magazines. This ratio is identical to the sex-ratio reported two years earlier for eating disorders (Kuehnel, 1998). The North American culture's thin beauty ideal pressures many women to resort to self-destructive and painful behaviours.The four most common cosmetic surgery procedures are liposuction, laser skin resurfacing, facial rejuvenation, and breast augmentation (Browning Jones, 2000). Liposuction involves surgically removing unwanted fat from the body. Laser skin resurfacing removes the top layer of skin from an area, resulting in less pronounced lines and wrinkles and smooth skin tones. Facial rejuvenation surgically manipulates the face in order to give it a more youthful appearance. Breast augmentation enhances the size and shape of a woman's bust by inserting saline-filled implants behind the breasts. Other procedures include testicular and pectoral implants, inserting implants into the calves, removing skin from the buttocks, thighs or breasts to give them a "lift", abdominoplasty (commonly called the "tummy-tuck"), rhinoplasty, and phalloplasty (lengthening the penis by cutting ligaments, or thickening it with fat).Cosmetic surgery encompasses many serious risks to the health and life of the patient. The reason why some women choose to take such risks may lie in the fact that the ideal woman, says Dr. Blake Woodside, director of inpatient eating disorders at the Toronto Hospital, is one who has a "totally flat figure except for large breasts, which is physiologically impossible" (Driedger & DeMont, 1994, p. 4). Drastic as cosmetic surgery seems, it may be the only way for an average person to measure up to society's standards of beauty.Former supermodel Kim Alexis has largely been considered one of the most beautiful women in the world, but even she has moments of insecurity. The constant pressure to look a certain way seriously affected her self-esteem, she said in an interview. At the age of seventeen, Kim Alexis was a fit and healthy athlete, who gave little thought to her figure. She was devastated when she was told that she would have to lose fifteen pounds and began to starve herself. As a result, not unlike other models who "diet" to maintain their image, she stopped menstruating for two years. Her obsession with looking strong and thin eventually damaged her endocrine system and she can no longer produce the hormones her body needs to adapt to stress....

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