Apparently, I'm Supposed to Look Pretty
Yeah, you read the title and you know what's coming: a lecture on how society is spewing out commercials and teaching girls to meet the unattainable, unrealistic image of flawless beauty. Need I say more? Yes, or I wouldn't insist on writing a whole blog post about it.
In my philosophy class the other day, we talked about society's view on food, hunger, dieting, and overindulging. The case in point for our discussion was an article by Christina Van Dyke called “Eating as a Gendered Act: Christianity, Feminism, and Reclaiming the Body.” One of the points she made was that men are taught to want more while women are taught to want less. And as a feminist, Van Dyke focused a lot on the fact that women are expected to “repress and restrict her wants and needs for the perceived good of the community.”
What surprised me was when Van Dyke brought up how prevalent the myth is in Christianity, and how enforced the idea is that you have to lose weight in order to feel like you're on track with your life. At one point in her article she said “as a brief examination of the flourishing 'Christian diet industry' demonstrates, there's widespread acceptance within the Christian community of several of the central (and most damaging) elements of these myths—most particularly, the construction of physical hunger as an enemy that threatens both our bodies and our souls.” She even shared this quote from Marie Griffith to illustrate her point: “Disregard what goes in your body, many suggest, and you will not only gain weight, look ugly, and feel awful but you will also doom yourself to a lifetime and likely an eternity of divine disfavor.” And...um...
I mean, the enforcement of losing weight in a general society is bad enough, but that quote suggests how heavily it's enforced in Christianity—which it isn't. There are verses about taking care of yourself and staying healthy, but nowhere in all 66 chapters of the Christian constitution does it say “those who do not lose weight and look physically appealing must surely die.” Does the modern Christian society understand that? Evidently not. Not only does it contradict the ultimate constitution of Christian law, but it also takes it completely out of context and promotes ideas and eating disorders that peoplehave been struggling with for years. That's three slaps in the face for the price of one. Don't believe me? Van Dyke also gave a list of successful book titles geared toward Christians losing weight: Slim for Him. What would Jesus Eat. More of Jesus, Less of Me. Catchy titles, but again, three slaps in the face for the price of one.
Okay, before you lecture me on things like cardiovascular disease and other illnesses that can be caused by junk food, I want to emphasize that I don't think there's anything wrong with losing weight. But it all lies in why you would want to do so in the first place. I believe it's important to be physically active and keep your food intake balanced for the sake of taking care of yourself and staying healthy. You need to respect your body in the way that you'd want people to respect you.
Therein lies the key word:
Overindulgence doesn't promote respect, nor does a steady diet of nothing but fast food. Believing that starving yourself will give you beauty, pleasure, and God's blessing doesn't promote it either. If anything, the extremes completely disregard the idea of health without even trying. If an act of respect involves looking girls with anorexia in the eye and telling them that they're worthless and ugly if they don't lose more weight than they have, then I guess I have no respect for anyone with a low self esteem, battling an eating disorder on top of the expectations of society. If an act of respect involves teaching my future children that they're supposed to be obsessed with the way they look and that the church enforces it, then I guess I won't show a lot of respect as a mother. If an act of respect involves dehumanizing my friends by insinuating that they don't get to decide what to eat or drink, then I guess I'm not a very respectful friend.