Body Image

FTLComm - Tisdale - February 1, 2001
The face you are looking at is that of a beautiful European model and actress Eva Halina and I would suggest you click on the picture and visit the really great site that tells and shows all about her.

Several days ago my friend and fellow photographer Ben Chechowy sent me a message about his latest project. Ben had just done a set of pictures of an aspiring young Regina model Sherry James. In an exchange of messages I pointed out how he was able to capture the wholesome "Regina" look of this young woman and he was able to tell me how impressed he was with her, her strength of character, determination to find a unique career for herself and her confidence.

It was a coincidence that after going through her site last night I went to the links and had a look at these sites including many of those in the "nine-models" site. I am hardly knowledgeable about fashion and fashion models but I am a normal human and I was shocked to see so many of these women
identified for their beauty to be so damn thin. Now we have all been exposed to television and seen the stars come and go and the pressure of work on young women and their need to see themselves as beautiful often means that they take a dim view of fat.
Teo Leone, Calista Flochart, Sarah Michelle Geller, are just some of the remarkable young female stars who have come onto television acquired fame and lost weight. Every time I see one of these bright lights appear on the screen the image of one of the greatest young performers in the later half of the last century comes to mind. Karen Carpenter with the help of her brother produced some of the best music any of us have ever heard and she is dead. She died as a result of the complications resulting from a chronic eating disorder. That is shocking and truly upsetting.

Were Karen Carpenter the only famous person to die from this condition would not make it any less serious but the reality is that every teenage girl and many teenage boys look at what they consider the real world, television and the entertainment industry and based on what they see they decide what they think should be the way people look and they want to measure up. That is why today's web site by Crystal Hegarty from Kamloops really is important. (This picture comes from Crystal's site)

Though we can focus on the extreme illnesses that seem to come from abnormal beliefs in the necessity of being thin, this issue is relatively minor in comparison to what the whole culture does to people in general.

We really need to think about what is beautiful and what is attractive and what makes us think those things. Surprisingly enough the basic engine that drives our acceptance of others and of ourselves is the primary need for us to reproduce and there is some heavy duty built in wiring that determines what is driving us toward our goal. The difference between men and women is remarkable and if we examine these factors a little bit more awareness comes to light.

Studies have found that the primary reproductive need in a woman will make the average female attracted to successful males or males who appear to be positively bent in such a manner that the female can expect financial security. This really means that though a woman may want an attractive mate that is not the primary concern.

Males on the other hand want a female partner who will easily provide offspring, they want their children to be good looking and there are some interesting primary concerns that all males of all cultures share. It is important to note that many features we consider as attractive are culturally based but we will deal here with the main cross cultural features. The unique ability of women to have children means that a man any man wants a spouse who can do that safely and the universal feature all male humans respond to is a wide pelvis. We tell children that the symbol for love is a heart and each valentines we see red hearts everywhere. Sorry to blow that illusion but that symbol is not a heart at all but the shape of a female's behind. Woman have emphasised their seat and width of their pelvis knowing full well the importance this is to males so much so that there have been fashions that actually choked the woman and caused fainting during the eighteenth century as women put on under garments that gave them tiny waists which in turn made the hips look bigger. Check out the Sear catalogue today and you will find women's undergarments designed to do this and others with padding to make the hips look bigger.

The recent trend by North American women to wear clothing that does not cover their waist is yet another means of drawing attention to the width of the hips. Of course all males are able to tell the difference between gender at a mile's distance simply by the walking motion of a person.

The female figure and the possibility of reproduction is as basic as breathing itself. The consequences of this factor is really profound on those people who's life is so directed at finding a mate and so young people are under huge pressure to fit the image that they see as appropriate for their gender. God help the young woman who is even the slightest bit overweight as our present society has identified this as a dangerous life shortening condition yet though a negative thing, it is far less important to a male as young females will over look any imperfection if that male can provide her with security.

It is surprising that thin is in, with the emphasis on sports and good healthy conditioning you would think that active sports type females would be what males want and in thinking that you would be right. However, young females are paying attention to the trend setters and the hot stuff that television and advertisements show and they see "thin".

This brings me back to Ben's work and his subject Sherry James. She is athletic and my guess is she is what most young males would really consider as a very attractive young woman. But compare this wholesome young woman with the skin and bone pros and you realise the issue is not skin deep it is that layer of fat just under the skin that makes the difference. The pro models tend to be missing the reserve that all of us would agree is the sign of health and beauty but clothes look better on a skinny woman. The clothing designers are not selling the women they are selling the clothes and the result is starving models to show off the clothing to its best.

There is a role for all of us in this issue we have to do our part, every day with every person to reassure our friends, and each other that the way we are is just fine and looks super. Body building and breast implants are freak show stuff and the way you are is the way other people will like you. Boys and men look best when they are showing their success. Women all look best when they are themselves. This is a simple rule but it is up to us to do our part and everyone will feel better. Oh, and one other thing, blast away no matter what your size at the stores who do not provide good clothing that will fit every person, the men's stores with the biggest size suit as a 48 are to be shunned just as the ladies stores where size twelve is the biggest fashionable dress in the store.