A Response to the Vanity Virus (The Flash)

So it’s Body Confidence Week here at 30 Dates, and I’ve asked all the Experimental Daters to write pieces on Body Image.  One of the key reasons for creating a dating community is to encourage debate and discussion, so I love it when other EDs reply back with articles in response to posts they read on the blog.

Here The Flash discusses some of the things she considered when reading Mister Mischief’s recent post ‘Immune to the Vanity Virus’.

Miss Twenty-Nine xxx

I read Mister Mischief’s post with interest: his take on the male ‘vanity virus’ and how caring about your physique as a man is really an optional goal/hobby if one can be bothered – it just seems worlds away from life as a woman!

So it was fascinating to read.

What follows is perhaps unfair as a ‘response’ to MM, as I understand he was speaking from a male perspective and probably wasn’t trying to comment on a female one at all.

However, I wanted to take up where he left off in likening his male ‘vanity virus’ conclusions to what women experience.

To be honest, I take issue with any comparison. I don’t think, on a whole, the body issues we witness amongst women can be put down to a similar ‘vanity virus’ explanation. It’s just not a comparable thing at all.

I’m not just being offended by the word, vanity. I take issue with the underlying assumption that ‘it’s all in our minds’, or that we can choose to be affected or not.

Our gender’s obsession with looking good is not generally something we have chosen to occupy our lives. It is something that has been foisted upon us.

It is not a brain-washing. It is a reality. We ARE judged on our looks. We are not dreaming it up. It happens.

For most of us, there is a constant daily battle to actively fight the very real messages we are exposed to (or sometimes shouted at in the street). I went to the corner shop today to buy some milk. Passing the money over the counter, my eyes fell on the cover of the Daily Star (at hip height, which is about 7yr old height, I think?). A bare, Luisa Zissman was straddled on a chair – pouting at the camera. Now the last I heard of her, she was a finalist on the Apprentice (yes, I’ve missed all the Celeb BB stuff but that’s not the point). Back then, she was being praised for her business acumen, successfully running her own enterprises – obviously an incredibly intelligent woman. Now here she is on the shelf – reduced to an image for men to perve at – literally for sale for 15p.

Our appearance matters.

It shouldn’t matter. But sadly, to much of the world, it does.

I left the shop, consciously reeling from this and telling myself how wrong the attitudes that put her there, are. But that takes a lot of effort! We are subjected to way more sexist imagery than we have time to process in that way, so much of it just goes through unfiltered and affects us.

So, my friend, the Justice Seeker is as far removed from somebody you might think susceptible to a vanity virus as you can get. She has far more important things to spend her life on, and far more weighty issues to get involved with to waste energy worrying about triviality. She works for an anti-human-trafficking organisation. She is incredibly passionate that people should not be bought and sold, is articulate and intelligent in her advocacy on their behalf. Heck, she even trains the police on how to spot the signs of trafficked girls!

But even still, even she is subject to ridiculous judgements on her appearance. And she’s not blind – she knows it. So when she had to go to Washington for a serious, high-powered conference, networking with important people, she agonised over her outfits. She was the first to point out how crazy her anxiety was and was ashamed that she wasn’t just spending the time in actual preparation for the conference. But I understood why. Her anxiety was actually pretty rational. She’s intelligent, and she knows some people, foolish as they are, will form an impression of her based on whether her suit is too frumpy, or too sexy, or too last season or too show-ey …or the myriad of other judgements they may place on her. In order to give her mind and voice the best chance of being heard, she simply wants to reduce the chance of any of those impressions being made

To Mister Mischief, your concern for your niece is wonderful. She does not have to grow up with a bad body image. The solution will not be a self-curing of this disease that a lucky minority manage to achieve, as they finally ‘see sense’. It’s not even therapy and counselling that will ultimately solve the dilemma once and for all. It is through the very real actions and attitudes of her uncle and those around her, actively and consistently teaching her the reality that a woman’s image is not more important than everything else going on in her life.

That is what will sway the balance in favour of a healthy attitude and reduce any anxiety.

I would not have the perspective I have on my own body and it’s relative place in the world, if it weren’t for the attitudes of my parents, my friends and the media I now choose to allow to influence me. They are part of the world that demonstrate the belief that a woman has a heck of a lot to contribute.

All a young girl needs, is to see women being praised and respected for their intellect, character and actions, regardless of their image. When she sees that that is a reality, we won’t have body issues. Until then, it’s not her mindset that’s the problem.

The Flash

x

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