By Margretta Sowah
Twitter – @bohomags
“This is the society that we live in. This is the climate of judgment and shame that you encounter when you share images of human nudity as art. It’s punishable for you to share images from classic works of art or a figure drawing class or even a mother breastfeeding her child. Censorship on Facebook is just a reflection of the bigger battle you face when you draw, paint or photograph a naked human being. We do not create this body of nude art to shock, offend, or arouse a mindless lust. We create so that all of us may come to see our shared humanity as a miraculous work of art. What do you think? Is your naked body obscene? Is it a crime to share artistic images of naked humanity? Reclaim your experience of human beauty!”
– Christa Maier, The Model Society
A positive body image is essential to maintaining a healthy lifestyle well into your old age. Body image is a melting pot of your personal values, beliefs, perception, thoughts, words and actions involving your body and its outward appearance. How we perceive ourselves paints a vivid picture of how we relate to others, navigate through situations and the influence our minds have on our actions. It is not just a physical task. This is emotional, mental, spiritual. When we have a negative body image there are many health risks that can affect how we interact with others and how we nurture our inner self. There are two main factors contributing to the rapid incline of illnesses related to body image: The media and The mind.
Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia, Body Dimorphism, Depression, Anxiety and other obscure forms of self harm stem from a distorted perception of the own body and how others view it. This is a vicious cycle of highs and lows, the fractured thinking of always trying to reach an unattainable goal of perfection. According to HeartofLeadership.com, ‘nearly a quarter of girls age 15-17 would consider undergoing plastic surgery. 13 percent of girls age 15-17 acknowledge having an eating disorder.’ This is a human soul searching for approval. We can all fall prey to this broken record of ‘not being good enough’, ‘not being sexy enough’ or the crème de la crème, ‘not being thin enough’. We want and hope to look amazing and desirable naked. We are at our most vulnerable but we are also at our strongest, too.
LYNX, a UK company specializing in body spray, became marketing gold with the slogan, ‘The Lynx Effect’. Flashy, flirty and deeply rooted in phallic symbols. The body wash and catchphrase became a pop culture hit, integrating quickly into an essential part of the male grooming routine. LYNX’s mission statement has always been; ‘Building confidence and preparing men for success, our range has expanded into all aspects of male grooming – including shower gel, eau de toilette, anti-antiperspirant, shampoo and hair styling. Infused with a sophisticated fragrance, every one of our products is designed for the modern man.’ Preparing a man for success. Does this mean smell is as valid as sight? What about touch? If you are being touched by women it means you are successful and therefore automatically endowed with a positive body image. This is just not the case. Men suffer as much from mental and emotional illnesses relating to body image as women do. There is a higher rate of male suicide. According to LifelineAUS there are 200 ATTEMPTS at suicide a DAY! How many do you think are image related? It is hard to detach ourselves from the self.
Your body is not a battleground. It is not a minefield or boobie-trap. Not just a piece of meat – well-done, with a side of judgment. Our bodies are not meant to be seen as a category in a size chart for easier purchase. Despite what we have been taught about sexuality, society is quick to condemn equally.
In the battle for equality between genders and cultures, there is one great equalizer – men and women are judged and judge the body with a fine comb. Women are objectified in an obvious, overt way. Advertisements geared to promote the perfect shaved leg, bikini playground – the designer vagina. The perfect hair texture, colour and length – because you are worth it. The perfect ‘summer body’ whether by diet pills, meal plans or various ways to keep physically fit – because you should always just do it.
Men are constantly reminded that they must make something financially of themselves and with that comes the pursuit of the perfection – Leonardo Da Vinci’s ‘The Vitruvian Man’ comes to mind. Adonis. Superman. Ryan Gosling… Is it healthy to expect your future husband to have an amazing smile, six-pack, little hair, big hands and butt? No, not in and of itself, but we are bombarded with mental and physical expectations of the male body and what it should do and can do… not to mention the age old debate – does size really matter? Men are under as much pressure as women to fit into the lens of society’s body image receptor.
I look at the naked human body as a ‘house’ and the clothes are the ‘furniture’. Our houses can always be renewed, revamped, remolded because we have a foundation – all the cool stuff happening inside our skin. But what happens when we don’t tend to our house? Or we are too busy grooming our house that we forget to step outside it; take in the fresh air and see that a house is not a home unless there is love is being nurtured in a healthy way within those walls. Corny? A little..
We may even go outside the walls. We peek at the neighbors house and garden, wishing we could have what they have (‘Keeping up with the Kardashians’ was taken from ‘Keeping up with the Joneses’ – to compare yourself with others as a benchmark for success). We wonder if the grass is greener, or on a diet. If you are experiencing body image pressure or growing pains please understand this: the grass will always be greener when you water and nurture it – dig deep, bloom wide.