Cartoons often possess the uncanny ability to simplify even the most complex of social issues. In a classic
“For Better or Worse” comic strip, three teenage girls hover over a fashion magazine, gawking at the images.
One of the girls sighs, “I wish I could look like that!”
“She’s a model, Liz,” her friend says. “It’s probably taken three hours just to do her makeup, and another three hours to do her hair.”
“She’s had implants for sure,” another friend chips in, “Maybe even liposuction.”
“And I’ll bet the whole photograph was electronically retouched by computers,” the first adds.
“Yeah,” Liz concedes, “But other than that she’s perfect.”
Ours is a society brutalized by merciless media. The average American woman is exposed to 400 to 600 advertisements per day, mostly featuring petite models that average a size 2. If advertisements are a mirror of a society’s values, and the message to women is clear: “Everything you want – popularity, health, even love – is yours, if you are thin.”
Most women realize the models in fashion magazines are the extreme ideal, but it is still an ideal they long for, just as Liz does. The blatant disparity between society’s ideal body type and the normal body type often leaves women self-conscious and anxious about their bodies. In worse case scenarios, the obsession to fit a hyperbolized ideal mold can be disastrous as individuals turn to crash diets or pathological dieting. Unfortunately, BYU students aren’t immune from feelings of dissatisfaction with body image.
While conducting research for a series of articles, we were disheartened to find out some women admitted to eating less, skipping meals and even purging after meals in order to stay thin. One woman summed their bleak understanding of society’s values, “You have to be really thin to fit into society.” What can be said of a society that places so much value on a person’s physical attributes?
While we believe we should exercise, eat right and strive to be as healthy as possible, we repeat the counsel of Elder Jeffery R. Holland who said in 2005, “Please be more accepting of yourselves, including your body shape and style.” Sadly, too many women are convinced they will find happiness in conforming to another’s standard of beauty. The truth is, happiness is to be found in being confidant in who you are now.