Apr 24, 2013

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A Filipina’s complaint: Pressured to be beautiful and sexy

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Original posted at the Philippine Online Chronicles: A Pinay’s complaint: Pressured to be beautiful and sexy by Jasmine B. Barrios

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They haunt us everywhere. Commute to and from work and you see them along highways and major thoroughfares with their beautiful slender bodies flashed on giant billboards and big posters by the tail-end of big buses. Browse through the newspapers and similar images are splashed on the pages. Turn on the TV and the same looks glare back at you in shampoo, soap, canned goods and even detergent soap commercials. Watch the news and the broadcasters exude the same aura. One showbiz host just delivered a baby and a few months after, she was up and about with a flat tummy in no time at all. Worst, you see your husband dozing off by the bedside with a picture of a sex goddess splashed on the centerfold of a men’s magazine. And the Pinay’s plaint ensues.


The pressure to be gorgeously sexy gets so unbearable that we try to achieve the skinny look we constantly see around us. Unkown to us, while we painfully struggle for the perfect Coca-cola bottle (not can) shape, other people get a joyride. Manufacturers of diet pills earn big bucks. Remember how the Bangkok pills sold like hotcakes way back in the early 2000’s? The gym bursts to its seams especially right after fervent resolutions to stay healthy are dished out in the New Year. As all sorts of diet gain popularity- Atkin’s, South Beach, Cabbage Soup- the authors get richer. Everybody is happy except us poor women trying to scale down our weight. No matter what we do, the nasty built-in belt bag seems to get bigger even more.

For all it is worth, there is comfort in knowing that we have company in this misery. It is not just the Pinays who seem to lose the battle with the bulge. A study conducted by the North Carolina State University in 2005, found that only 8% of the 6000 women-subjects have the perfect 36-24-36 body stats. The rest are distributed to the more common shapes like “46% for the banana shape (rectangular), just over 20% pear, and just under 14% apple.”

Yet this truth is covered up by how the media project that thinness is the most common thing in the world. Skinny actresses come a dime-a-dozen making big bucks in the entertainment world even with the slightest hint of true talent- dancing with two left feet, singing out of tune and acting with the help of eye drops to shed buckets of tears.

It is not just the svelte shape that we contend with. There should be the matching long, black, soft and shiny hair that should go with the sultry image. Mind you, it should be tousle-and- tangle-free even if you ride in an open jeep or bus and the wind blows hard. Advertisements even claim you can land your dream job with the perfect tresses.

Not to forget the milky white complexion to match. The skin tone should be even from head to toe with the best glutathione and papaya soaps around. Of course, you have to have the porcelain teeth for a perfect smile.

The pressure to be beautiful and skinny sometimes gets so overwhelming that some women either go into crash diets, get addicted to plastic surgery or fall into eating disorders like anorexia nervosa or bulimia. Even royalty is not exempt. One of the dark secrets of the world’s darling Princess Diana was that she was a bulimic. Even the rich and famous are not spared. Geri Halliwell of the reknown Spice Girls, Canadian singer Alanis Morissett, “Ally McBeal” star Calista Flockhart and a lot more went through the same struggles.

This get-pretty-to-please plague is now affecting the MTV generation. Girls as young as 11 have to deal with the insecurities on flabs. There is a growing trend among the young generation called “thigh gaps.”

Licensed Eating Disorder Counselor Jacquelyn Ekern defines the thinspirational objective, “a person is said to have one if they put their knees together, but their hips do not touch.”

This look is so reminiscent of the image projected by Barbie the Fashion Doll which was invented by Ruth Handler in 1959. As Barbie gained fame in the 60’s, the thin-is-in era ushered in with a real model Twiggy personifying the slim look and long, slender limbs.

Many very young Pinays are not exempt in being blinded by the false branding of beauty. In fact, some teeners get into unhealthy eating habits just to catch up with the thigh gap craze. Rachelle Bado thrives on fried processed foods and chips while Angie Castillo opt for high protein viands and stay away from carbs. If these bad patterns are not curbed, this could spell trouble especially when women want to start having babies.

Dr. Richard Sherbahn of the Advanced Fertility Center of Chicago reminds us that “being thin can lower the sex hormone oestrogen, making it harder to get pregnant.”

What is more disturbing is the early demise among teens who get hooked on this trend. Ekern further warns, “I think when they start seeing this topic trending they have a tendency to grasp that and become a little too obsessed with the thigh gap and develop eating disorder behavior that can really open the door to some very destructive eating and exercise patterns that could eventually lead to death.”

Cuypers and colleagues at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology enjoins parents, teachers and influential people to help teens “find healthy body role models. Most important though is acknowledging role models for their positive internal qualities such as kindness, sharing, courageous, forgiving etc.”

Luckily, more and more brave souls are coming out to counter the emaciated illusions of beauty. 22-year-old Oscar nominee Jennifer Lawrence who rose to fame as Katniss Everdeen in the blockbuster hit The Hunger Game in 2012 is not buying the thin lie. She does not care that much about being considered a “fat actress” in Hollywood. She bravely banners that she is “comfortable in her own skin.”

Probably one of the most influential fashion movers that may help contribute in veering away from the bony bunch is Lady Gaga who has been battling anorexia nervosa since she was 15. Getting back at the media attacks on her 25-pound gain, the singer posted her photos clad in revealing underwear on her website in the latter part of 2012 and dubbed her blog as, “ “A Body Revolution 2013.”

Kelly Tschopp of Shreveport hails the campaign “we as a society have put celebrities on a pedestal that when they come out and they share their struggles and they share their accomplishments with that struggle I think that really speaks loudly to us. They’re human and they have the same struggles that we do and they can be overcome.”

So the next time you peek out the bus window and see the ghastly skin-and-bones apparitions called “beauty,” better think twice. Exude with confidence in knowing that real beauty lies in strength of character and pureness of heart even if its trimmings are voluptuous bulges.

Photo: “who is she?” by kedoink kedondeng, c/o Flickr. Some Rights Reserved

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