What Kind of Woman Are You?
Yesterday’s article highlighted the perils of avid indoor tanning, and argued that self-image issues and accessibility were at the root of the problem for this growing public health concern. Overwhelmed by explicit requirements and statements on beauty, our girls enter adolescence, followed by adulthood, with a narrow vision of who they should be. As the late American novelist David Foster Wallace stated, “Adolescence is acknowledged to be the single most stressful and frightening period of human development.” It can’t help to have images of corporate beauty effecting how young women view themselves.
Different Kind of Woman
The repercussions are catastrophic as girls experience various life stages with distorted perceptions of what matters. The rising “Love Your Body” campaigns are great (they depict the infinite types of physical beauty and usher self-acceptance), but these messages can only go so far. Women must first accept the immeasurable qualities that make them beautiful beings. There needs to be a larger presence of female role models, from the halls of Congress to the films we absorb. Women need to be personified and depicted for their strength and dynamism, for their heroism in times of difficulty and compassion in times of need.
Maggie Gyllenhaal exemplified this notion in her Golden Globe acceptance speech: “I’ve noticed a lot of people talking about the wealth of roles for powerful women in television lately. And when I look around the room at the women who are here and I think about the performances that I’ve watched this year what I see actually are women who are sometimes powerful and sometimes not, sometimes sexy, sometimes not, sometimes honorable, sometimes not, and what I think is new is the wealth of roles for actual women in television and in film. That’s what I think is revolutionary and evolutionary.”
Inherent to Gyllenhaal’s statement is the recognition that women are individuals, and to categorize them into self-imposed societal roles is false and misleading.
Strong mothers raise strong daughters, and by ‘strong’ I mean possessing the ability to instill a deeply-ingrained sense of self and purpose — a sense of worth that exceeds the physical. Women have to grow up knowing that they are more than the sizes they wear and attention they receive; they must be their own best friend, maintaining a sacred relationship with themselves. When this important relationship is fostered, there will be little room for comparisons that compromise a woman’s worth and values. Who you are is already wonderful.