america, the beautiful

For our first week day event for Body Image Awareness Week, we’re trying to do a screening on the documentary America, the Beautiful. I had never seen it so our Wellness Director loaned it to me this past week so I could 1. finally see it and 2. gain some knowledge about the modeling/fashion/cosmetic industry.

I highly recommend everyone watch it. Women can see what their doing everyday for what? To make us look like an unachievable ideal. And men? While they can see that their fantasy isn’t real and to not tease women 1. on their weight and size and 2. on how much they spend on cosmetics after you tease them. We live in a society where we all cut each other’s self-esteem instead of prizing what our bodies can do.

As much as I liked it, I also have some criticism about it. One, the flow was really off and weird to me. There were stories filled in between sections and as much as I could follow it, I feel it could have been presented a lot better. My suggestion (you’ll understand if you see it) is that it should have been broken up into two documentaries: one on the cosmetics industry, plastic surgery and the media and one on the models’ world with eating disorders as it relates to their life. Which leads me to my second big criticism, his bit at the end about eating disorders. While it was great for someone you isn’t familiar with the advocacy and the issues of the disease; however, I felt like he was insinuating that there is a correlation between eating disorders and the media and people judgements and that’s not true. Of course, body dissatisfaction can come from the media, but eating disorders are so much more complex. For someone who’s advocating for a healthy image, he should have been his research better into the causes of an eating disorder.

I loved listening to Eve Ensler. She said she had an awakening experience when she was in Africa. The women are more round and strong and this woman loved her body saying what it could do from walking, working and taking care of her kids to holding a man. Eve then said that she wished she could love herself like that and the woman asked why not? and gave this great analogy. She pointed to a tree and asked “you like that tree?” and then pointed to another tree and asked, “you like that tree?” “Now are you going to not like the one tree because it doesn’t look like the next? No. We’re all different. We’re all trees. 🙂 LOVE it!

She later said this fabulous quote: Every woman is beautiful in her particular way. Really. And some are more beautiful in the way you’re ‘supposed to look,’ but if we developed eyes and the spirit to see beauty in a different way, you’d see every woman is beautiful.

I believe that whole-heartedly. But in the meantime, here’s what I got from the documentary.

  • The average teen is exposed to 3.3 hours of magazine reading, 7.6 hours of internet viewing, 10.6 hours of television viewing and 13.5 radio listening per week.
  • After 3 minutes of looking at a fashion magazine, 70% of women feel depressed, guilty and shameful.
  • The US has only 5% of the world’s population, but 40% of the world’s advertising.

These statistics just show the power of images. As I said above,  I don’t believe that the media is primarily to blame for eating disorders because there are so many other factors that having a part, but I do feel that the media has a role in women’s dissatisfaction with their bodies. How can they not when images are so powerful and we’re saturated with them? What’s the old saying, “an image speaks a thousand words?” We need to change our words of what’s beautiful and ideal.

  • The average American woman is 5’4” and weighs 140# while the average American model is 5’10” and 115#. (Not very new, but still good to point out)
  • 40-60% of high school girls report to be sometimes” or “often” on a diet. It increases to 91% of college women.

If 91% of college women are on a diet, there’s a problem. It’s like they feel since they’re away from their parents, they can not only drink and party, but not eat too. Not a good combination and even worse for the self esteem. Not fueling yourself just causes more depression problems. College is all about learning and fun relationships. You can do either if you’re not nourished and constantly thinking about food. Trust me, I know.

  • Americans spend over $45 billion on cosmetics– starting around age 14.
  • While it costs $13 billion for a basic nutrition and healthcare system in developing countries, we spend $12.4 billion on cosmetic surgery (2004).
  • Horribly enough though, plastic surgeons don’t have to be board certified. That’s right, in 1977, the FTC ruled that any M.D. can take a weekend or night class on plastic surgery and then perform it on you! Ick!
  • If something goes wrong in a plastic surgery, you have no insurance coverage and sometimes are uninsurable thereafter. Unless you’re in the “loop,” you will never know of the deaths (mostly from the anesthesia) from procedures because plastic surgeries are not performed in standard hospitals or facilities.

I found some of this information on plastic surgeries fascinating and scary. I mean I might be biased because I’d never go under the knife unless I had to (I’ve only had my tonsils out when I was 8), but to know that you could put your life in the hands of someone who’s only taken a night or weekend class in these procedures? No thanks!

But if you do choose to do it, know that they do practice in the class at least… on a tomato.

  • More on our lovely government, did you know that the FDA doesn’t have the authority to ask for safety testing for cosmetics before it lands on the shelf? We use about 12 products a day (for women) on our skin and hair and in those are some of the 884 toxic ingredients floating around in the market.
  • Oh, and anything that’s considered a “trade secret” in make-up or fragarences doesn’t have to be listed on the label so you could not know up to 50-60% of what’s actually in the product. Nice.
  • In the last 67 years, the FDA has only banned 6 of the toxins while the EU has banned 450 chemicals.
  • In the EU, you have to prove something’s safe whereas here, corporations and industries have more of a say- thus why there’s been links to a rise in allergies, chronic illness, negative reproductive outcomes, infertility and breast cancer. Oh, and some researchers have found flame retardants in breast milk. Now that can’t be good for a baby…

My comments are going to sound quite interesting here because I’m actually one of the few conservatives in D.C. I’m socially liberal but fiscally and in the role of the government, I’m conservative. That being said, to know that large corporations run our government sickens me and I feel like there has to be some sound process or department to keep companies from doing this. I saw it with the meat-packing industry in Food Inc. and now here with cosmetics. Two completely different industries, but both having horrible health consequences to us and most of the time, we’re not aware until one of these documentaries come out. 😦 However, as I saw in Food Inc., the people who are in the government agencies used to lobby for their respective industries… ironic? Yes and in the meantime, not creating any positive change for us.

And a closing note, for all of you who wonder why sample sizes are sizes 0-4, it’s because the designers don’t want to “waste money” on fabric when they don’t have to if it doesn’t sell after the runway. How nice of them.

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7 responses to “america, the beautiful

  1. That is one of the reasons why I will miss europe! I don’t mind buying stuff in the grocery stores b/c I know the companies aren’t trying to kill me! Thanks for letting us know about this stuff! Scary shiznit with perfumes!!!

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  3. I have never seen this – but it sounds really interesting. The part about plastic surgery really hit hard for me – my mom, my sister, my aunts – its soooo sad! and really depressing, mostly because they think thats the only way to look pretty.

    PS – did you get my e-mail ? =)

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