“I’m a Barbie girl”?

Checking my e-mail just now on Yahoo!, I saw a little thing in my news feed that I had to look at.

Here’s the link (and please be warned that it does contain one picture which you might find to be a little, ah, “graphic” – at least I though so):

The plastic surgery a model needs to look like Barbie

Really, there’s not much for me to add, but I might as well say a couple of things:

First, I want to reiterate the article’s point that our society’s image of what is attractive is increasingly skewed.  I don’t have to tell you how much our culture worships at the altar of “thin-ness”.

Why is this so?

Here’s my theory: in the U.S. of A., greater than 60% of the population is overweight, almost half of which are actually obese.  As a result, the market for “skinnifying” (my term) products is booming.  The amount of money tied up in diets, exercise equipment, and magic little pills is astounding – trust me, I’m a dietitian with an amateur economist for a brother, I know this stuff.  Since the market is so lucrative, the product placement and advertising aspects are HUGE.  Thus we are constantly being bombarded by messages to “be thinner”, because when people hear that message they shell out money for skinnifying products.

So it works like this:

A) We are a nation of which the majority are overweight people
B) Overweight people tend to want to become thinner
C) Thus you have a huge, lucrative market for skinnifying products
D) Thus you have a huge budget for advertising
E) The message advertised is “be thinner” – note, not “be thin”, but “be thinner” (see, if the message was “be thin”, then that would mean it’s a goal that can be achieved and shelved; this as opposed to “be thinner” which means that no matter how thin you get, you need to keep going – in this way the money keeps coming in)
F) Thus the message “you must be thinner” is imposed on the general public, in toto, without discrimination
G) Thus the thin people are bombarded with the same “be thinner” message as the obese people
H) As a result, some of them will take the message to heart, even when they themselves are thin enough already
I) In the end, with all this talk of “thin-ness”, it becomes something to be adulated and adored
J) That is, it becomes a god – and why not?  If a culture is always talking about something, if it’s ubiquitous, part of the very fabric of society, is it not reasonable to assume that it is their god?

There’s a whole sociological rant I could go on at this point, but you get the idea.  When you pare it down, what I’m saying is that we are seeing a pendulum swing: we got too fat, and now skinniness is the most important thing in the world to us.  To the detriment of the more sensitive among us, might I add.

On that note, the second thing I want to mention: I encourage every one of you to seriously think about what you are saying to young girls (or women in general, for that matter).  Are you critical of their weight/features/appearance in general?  It’s one thing to occasionally admonish someone not to dress like a slob or not frown so much – but a completely different matter to make cutting comments about how “you shouldn’t eat so much, you’ll get fat”, etc.  Basically, don’t make careless comments, because to the little girl desperately wanting to be found beautiful, words that seem innocent enough to your ears may strike a completely different note to her and send her spinning.

I remember once growing up I made a comment to my 8 year younger sister on how pretty soon she would be too heavy for me to carry.  Bad move.  What was an innocent observation on my part caused her extreme distress – and I was none the wiser until my mom dragged it out of her what the deal was.  It had never once occurred to me that she should be thinner, nor had I even considered that this might be how she interpreted my words.  That said, in a culture where the ideal of “thin-ness” and looking good is the god of society, we need to be extra mindful of these things.

To maybe co-opt some wisdom from C.S. Lewis: In a society where tasty food had the importance that thin-ness does in our own, we would need to be very wary of careless comments about someone’s cooking, precisely because it is an area of much discussion (which, to a child, means: of much importance).  In the same way, in our current situation we need to be very wary of careless comments about weight, etc.

In the end, our job is to communicate to our young women (and men) that skinnification (again, my own term) is not the answer to all problems.  We need to be adamant and purposeful about this, because the world today is communicating the exact opposite – and quite purposefully and adamantly itself.

If we roll over on this and allow the culture to dictate what beauty and worth means, we have only ourselves to blame for our children following the Pied Piper out of town to only the Lord knows where.

 

 

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3 Responses to “I’m a Barbie girl”?

  1. Rev. Eric J. Brown says:

    Like unto this are other idols – the false gods of “er”.

    You should be richer.
    You should be happier.
    You should be fitter.
    Your _______ should be better.

    And we are called to lay down our trophies at the feet these false gods all the time.

  2. Phillip says:

    I know several girls here at college with closer to 60% waste to hips ratio than the healthy 70%. They actually don’t look good that unnaturally skinny, besides, they’ll never be able to have children like that. They love to show off their ridiculously skinny bodies, but oh the price they’re paying for it, and so many of them still want to be thinner.

  3. Tom Lemke says:

    Pastor Brown: You said it.

    Phillip: It really does look horrible. I’ve said more than once that, as far as attractiveness is concerned, I prefer women on the heavier side of the continuum to those on the thinner side – i.e. balance is good, but err to the heavier, precisely because being too thin carries a high price indeed.

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