Pop-Culture | Posted by Avigayil H on 03/2/2012

Giving It Up

If you had asked me six months ago if I was affected by the media’s presentation of women, I would have responded with an unequivocal no. Yes, TV and magazines bombard us with horribly warped images of what a woman is and should be, but after all, I’m a feminist. I can expose myself to images of impossibly skinny, tall, well-dressed teens and look at them with clear eyes and my self-esteem intact. I know they’re not real! Besides, I think I’m attractive already, and just like to read the fashion magazines for the outfits, and nothing else. So what if I skim over the “how to get a hot guy to hook up with you” sections? This stuff really can’t possibly have any effect on me!

This was my internal dialogue up until about four months ago, when I came home from a summer program where I hadn’t received my subscription to Lucky or checked out a copy of Seventeen or Teen Vogue from the library. It took me a while to realize that the little voice in my head when I looked in the mirror had started to say different things. I went from thinking “Oh, you look okay, today, I guess. You have a bit of a tummy and you really look much better when you put on makeup, but if you don’t have time it’s fine,” before my magazine hiatus, to “I look nice! I forgot how much I like this shirt!” or something similar afterwards. I feel happier with myself on a daily basis, and I’ve stopped spending so much time in front of the mirror at home and at school.

I thought that because I could identify what I was looking at in magazines that I was immune to it, but I was wrong. When my subscription to Lucky expired, I didn’t renew it. I’ve stopped getting Seventeen from the library. I only recently decided to give up magazines completely; I recently got a “complimentary issue” of Teen Vogue in the mail, and I tossed it in the recycling without opening it. I now bring my own book to read when waiting at the doctor’s office or to get a haircut, and I finally stopped watching Glee, which had been a guilty pleasure, but which I now realize contributes to making me feel bad about things I can’t change about myself (“I really wish I could sing and dance! Why don’t I look like them?’).

I never paid attention to the things I was telling myself about the way I look. I assumed that it was normal to not be completely happy with your appearance, and that even as feminists, we will always be insecure about our bodies. This is NOT TRUE. I am so much happier since I stopped the influx of negative messages, and I can only hope that one day society will accept that we have so many more important things to to with our bodies and talents than to “dress for your shape.”

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  • Mary Joan Koch @ at 11:14 am, March 2nd, 2012

    Excellent post. I am 66, and I am so grateful I was never exposed to false images of beauty when I was growing up. My parents only subscribed to political journals. We did not have a TV until I was 13. The newspapers did not run fashion ads. I never subscribed to 17.

    I am horrified that my granddaughters, 3 and 2, will be exposed to far more unrealistic images that their mothers were (4 daughters, 39 to 29)

  • Zoe @ at 2:15 pm, March 2nd, 2012

    Have you read Bust magazine? It’s a fantastic alternative to regular glossy women’s magazines.

  • Liz @ at 11:26 pm, March 3rd, 2012

    Two thoughts -
    1) I am the class of “99″ – and Mary’s speech on my 18yr old self in pop-rock form made a difference. I do not read beauty magazines and they do not make me feel ugly.\
    2)Read the Economist. Or some other “Man’s Magazine” like it. Pictures are few and content is full.

  • Jennifer @ at 12:45 am, March 7th, 2012

    Gosh, I love this post! I feel the same way at 37 — I get tons of women’s mags because I’m a freelance writer who needs to stay on top of the market, but I feel so much better about myself when I do two things: 1. Lay off the women’s mags; and 2. Hang out with vibrant older women. They’ve taught me that my wrinkles and “extra pounds” aren’t just okay, but beautiful. (Cheesy but true!)

  • Ari @ at 1:16 am, March 10th, 2012

    I really liked this article and I wish I had your strength to give up magazines (I’m addicted to Glamour).

    I do however think that it’s perfectly normal to watch a show like Glee, Smash or So You Think You Can Dance and say ‘I wish I could sing and dance”. I personally don’t see that as a self-esteem issue, it’s just being envious of someone’s else talent. Granted we need to recognize our own gifts but shows like those simply provide a venue to appreciate other peoples’ gifts.

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