Wednesday, 2 May 2012

The Tyranny of Body Image

by Zoe Dukoff-Gordon 

Image source:

 ‘Everyday is so wonderful
Then suddenly
It's hard to breathe
Now and then I get insecure
From all the pain
I'm so ashamed’

It takes a teenage girl (age 12-18), on average, 66 minutes to get ready in the morning for school, 66 minutes when preparing to go out to see friends, and, before seeing a boyfriend, 93 minutes. This includes shower, makeup, outfit, hair (straightening and styling,) moisturising and perfume.

‘I am beautiful
No matter what they say
Words can't bring me down’

The magazine ‘Bliss’ did a questionnaire with girls in this age group which discovered only 19% of the girls were clinically overweight, yet 67% of the girls had thought about or attempted to lose weight- some using extreme ways such as bulimia. Over a quarter of 14 year olds considered plastic surgery and dieting pills. Over 60% of 12-16 year olds diet. Unless you are classed as overweight, it does your body more damage to diet when you are younger than 18. Even if classed as overweight, only diets that cut down your food consumption are appropriate.

To all your friends you're delirious
So consumed
In all your doom, ooh
Trying hard to fill the emptiness
The pieces gone
Left the puzzle undone
Ain't that the way it is’

But not only girls have this issue, boys suffer too.

Male teenagers are mainly suffering from hiding their identity and not having a ‘body builder’ figure.

You're beautiful
No matter what they say
Words can't bring you down
Oh no
You’re beautiful
In every single way
Yes words can't bring you down
Oh no
So don't you bring me down today

Why does it matter what you look like? Everyone in some way would rather have an attractive boyfriend/girlfriend husband/wife, but should teenagers have to go to such extreme measures to fit in? The amount of pressure teenagers are put under due to looks (mainly girls) is horrendous. Over 50% of suicides from the age of 10-14 years are due to bullying. The context of the bullying is telling the victims they are "ugly", "fat", "worthless", all because of their appearance.

‘No matter what we do
No matter what we say
We’re the song inside the tune
Full of beautiful mistakes’

‘And everywhere we go
The sun will always shine
And tomorrow we might awake
On the other side’

We need to highlight to teenagers about these risks and give the statistics. Usually people’s appearance is not their fault, so why terrorise them about it?

We're beautiful
No matter what they say
Yes words won't bring us down
Oh no
We are beautiful
In every single way
Yes words can't bring us down
Oh no
So don't you bring me down today’

Christina Aguilera- Beautiful

See also Siena Hocking's article on double standards regarding men and women in television:

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