|Image via Back 2 Retro|
We now have two new additions to our ever-growing list of body parts the world wants us to feel bad about: Cleavage wrinkles and big feet.
According to the New York Times: "Cleavage wrinkles are deep, vertical creases caused by hours spent sleeping on one’s side, where gravity forces the top breast to bend farther past the body’s midline than it should. The lines can also be caused by sports and push-up bras, which smush the breasts together and are often worn for hours." Now, products like the ChestSavers bra ($56 to $78) and the Kush Support ($19.99), are on the market, designed to be worn between your breasts while you sleep to prevent the dreaded boob-squishing. Just like the products invented by the marketers of Dove deodorant, Spanx and Bye Bye Cankles to combat horrifying things like ugly armpits, cankles, and muffin-tops. And don't even get me started on the popularity of a gross cream designed to whiten skin with a special ingredient - nightingale poop.
A few weeks before the Times' expose, The Daily Mail ran a feature in which big feet were the subject of female body angst. According to the Mail, a study from Debenhams department store stated that women’s feet have increased by an average size-and-a-half in the past 20 years – from a 4½ in 1990 to a six in 2011. The study claimed that 82% of women with size eight or nine feet said their feet made them feel particularly ashamed. In addition, almost two thirds of women hated asking sales assistants for help, and a further third were uncomfortable taking their shoes off in public.
Though the New York Times piece seems to target women who have had their breasts surgically augmented, the fact is that all women now have yet another thing to worry about, and for some, yet another object to purchase in order to "fix" their bodies. Naturally, the Times never dares to question the mixed beauty standard the article suggests - that women are supposed to have breasts so large that special garments are needed to hold them in place, while demanding that other parts of their bodies remain small, tight and flat. The piece also manages to ignore the fact that it is impossible for the skin around the breasts to remain forever tight and wrinkle-free, whether you are small-chested or well-endowed.
These two articles are a tiny portion of the message given to women that we must constantly remain vigilant in the fight towards perfection. Whether the issue is stretch marks, body hair, inner-thigh fat or sun spots, there is a product marketed to target that area and make women hyper-focused on our bodies. My friend Sal called this manufactured discontent - stealthy marketing that targets out body confidence. Like much else in our society, none of this occurs by accident, but rather by design. Using low self-esteem to manipulate and control populations is not a new trick. For eons, mankind has used these techniques to control people and group them. Dividing people along racial, class, and other lines, and programming people to feel they are "inferior" is an easy way to manipulate people.
Psychological experiments along this line have shown that once people are told they are an inferior class, they will behave in a manner that fulfills these expectations. Students told, in an experiment, that they are prisoners, tend to act like, well, prisoners. Young students with brown eyes who are told, in an experiment, that they are inferior to students with blue eyes will not only believe, but act in a manner consistent with the expectations.
It is an easy task to program people to believe that they are less than whole or even less than human by training them with a controlled set of expectations. It is no longer acceptable in America to teach people they are inferior based on race, religion, or even class. So appearance is the new discriminator, and an easy way to keep consumers in line and get them to spend money on things they really don't need.
Whether the issue is cleavage wrinkles, big feet, blotchy skin or "problem areas", being conscious of the attempts of companies to manipulate our self-esteem in order to sell products is a valid way to battle negative body image. Emptying our wallets in order to "fix" our imperfections not only generates profits for both the media and companies marketing these products, but also keeps us enslaved to the idea that we need to be perfect, and that our bodies are just not good enough.
Our bodies go through massive changes as we grow older. It's inevitable. And there is nothing we can do about it. In the end, spending money on special bras and support tools isn't going to eliminate cleavage wrinkles and sagging. These things will happen, because breasts can not defy gravity. And being ashamed of having big feet isn't going to make them go away. So I'm vowing to keep my money in my wallet, to be spent on useful things, like thrifting and movies with my kids and dinner out with friends. In the end, those are the things that make me feel good about myself. And that's what counts.
What do you think of the Times article? Do pieces like this make you feel more self-conscious about how you look? What products do you buy with the purpose to "fix" what you consider a flaw?
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