Marisella Rodriguez, Former NOW Communications Intern
You can’t be what you can’t see – Marie Wilson, founding president of The White House Project
My body is far from perfect. I don’t have perfectly rounded, large breasts, my hips and thighs are way too large, and my skin will always be darker than the preferred clean color of white. Everything about my body screams different from what society has defined as appropriately sexually appealing. Instead, my physical image offers a fantasy of exotic sensuality and passionate lovemaking. Men are encouraged by the media to believe that not only am I hard to obtain, but once I am conquered, I will scream your name in between Spanish exclamations. Well, I hate to ruin the illusions of the next GQ photo spread, but this exaggerated image of Mexican women is not true. In fact, the only time we will scream your name in between flustered Spanish sentences is when we are passionately pissed off.
Growing up, I resigned to the fact that my peers will never appreciate, let alone love, my body. They were not socialized to appreciate my wide birthing hips or stout figure, because we have been drowning in images of “perfected bodies” for the last few decades that only apply to roughly five percent of the female population (Killing Us Softly 3). The remaining females will biologically never achieve the glorified characteristics of long legs, white skin and blonde hair that men have been brain washed into expecting and women have been manipulated into imitating.
Yet who can blame us? Every media genre, from print advertisements, commercials, music videos, television shows to movies, exemplify overly sexualized young Caucasian females as the perfect submissive woman. To make the situation worse, we are bombarded with these images so often throughout the day that we subconsciously blur the lines between fantasy and reality, between photo-shopped and natural, between surgically enhanced and plain old good genes. Since most of the media messages are targeted towards younger demographics, young girls quickly find these dreamland characteristics necessary to be socially accepted, feel confident, and content with their bodies. Growing women feel constant pressure to be a size 00, to be quieter, more submissive, to literally disappear in society.
The social norm for females to be invisible is only reinforced as we continue to be severely underrepresented in Congress and the Equal Rights Amendment gets pushed aside year after year. How can young girls be the powerful, confident women they deserve to be when there are so few strong women embraced in American culture? How will growing females find the strength to be heard in their society when they are invisible in their nation’s constitution?
I struggle accepting the imperfections of my body everyday, often needing to remind myself that what may be socially ideal is not always healthy for me. I encourage young girls to trust their bodies; eat healthy, exercise appropriately and be proud of your physical image, whatever it may be. For adult women, I implore you to do the same; be proud of your tall, short, heavy, thin, curvy, muscular, fat, skinny, stout, or slim frame and finally give young girls an empowered image to emulate.