When you think about what Western culture exports, the first thing that comes to mind probably isn’t body dissatisfaction. But a recent study shows that our Western media is playing an increasing role in how women around the world perceive themselves. The study looked at Australian young women and then two groups of young women in Pakistan– those who go to English-medium schools (meaning English is the language of instruction) and those who go to Urdu-medium schools. The data is interesting, and I was able to find an article on it from Pakistan and then an article on values, concerns, and resources for young women in Australia. What remains with me after reading these two pieces is “what do we do?” Of course, we need to start with ourselves and our loved ones. We know that social pressures from family and friends and weight-related criticism from these two groups create a significant amount of body dissatisfaction. For some of us, if we perceive that others are okay with us, we often are more willing to consider the possibility of being okay with ourselves. It’s a shame that not everyone’s personal standard of worth comes from self-assessment but, right now, I want to talk about how we each influence others’ self-perception.
There are things we need to get out of the habit of saying. Too often, when we come together, we are actually pulling apart with our words and actions. We criticize those who aren’t with us; we pick ourselves apart; we lament. How hard would it be for us to stop the hate speech– the hate speech that our daughters, sisters, friends, co-workers hear and internalize? We say, “I’m fat” and the person next to us thinks, “well, if she’s fat than I am really in trouble.” We say “I hate my…” and the other person starts to think about what she hates of her self. We say “She sucks” and we create an us/ them, all-or-nothing mentality. We say, “do you really want to eat that?” and we do much more long-term damage to a girl’s soul than that steak or those french fries ever could to her waist-line or real throbbing heart. Instead, we– with our words–break her heart. When you think about things that you do not want to hear the women of the world say any longer, what comes up? Share them here. Let’s create a list of self (and other) defeating phrases that should be on their way to extinction. It’s just one way that our revolution against the empty standards we are judged by can slow down the body dissatisfaction we export– locally and globally.