Saturday, October 11, 2014

Do You Hate Your Body? The Glamour Magazine Survey.

According to a new survey by Glamour magazine, women's body hating is more common now than it was thirty years ago.  I haven't tried to find this year's actual survey, to see how the respondents were selected and to judge whether they would look similar in relevant ways to the respondents of that older survey from 1984.

However boring all that might be, it matters.  If the two surveys didn't scoop up women from roughly the same age, ethnic, racial and income categories then the two cannot be directly used as telling us about what has changed in the society.  Because they might have scooped up a different mix of women then and now.

But let's assume that the work was done properly.  You can read the summary of the findings here*.

Tantalizingly, the summary hints that men were included in this year's respondent group but we are not told very much about how men hated or loved their bodies or what that emotion might depend on.

Instead, the summary focuses on increased focus on pictures via social media, the need to get a lot of "likes" on your selfie in Facebook and the fact that you now get daily reminders of how pretty (or carefully selected) the pictures of your friends or acquaintances are.

Guess what the recommendations at the bottom of the survey summary piece were when I read it?  The four included these two: The Look That Men Find Most Attractive and Celebrities Who Have Completely Transformed Their Bodies.  The tangled webs of what determines one's body image, who sells the need to fix that image and so on!

The fashion, cosmetic and dieting industries have a pretty big stake in keeping women unhappy with how they look without expensive help.

My apologies if my coverage of an important topic so far sounds flippant**.  That's because of the surreal framing of a survey carried out by a fashion magazine, utterly dependent on keeping women interested in physical and visual self-improvement.  It's great that Glamour dares to go there, of course, but the solutions the summary offers are all of the individualistic kind.

They are not without value, but they will not change the societal pressures for women to be pretty, for women to be judged as adequately feminine or sexually desirable and so on or the racial and ethnic models of what is beautiful.
*I really would have liked to see the ranking of various items in the "what makes me happy" question, with percentages attached to each.  We are only told that men ranked doing well at work first and that women ranked losing weight first.

Indeed, I would have liked to see all the frequency distributions in that survey, including data on the average weights and job positions of the men and women in it, to see whether we are comparing apples with apples or with pinstriped bananas there.

**Poor body image can result in illness, it drains a person's energy from other uses, it locks people into vicious cycles of dieting and not-dieting, it offers a button for others to press and so on.