Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Body Image, Clothes Sewing, and Elitism

One of the reasons  I decided to learn how to sew garments was due to my feelings about body image. Specifically, I feel that the mass media and mass market do not  allow for the reality and variety of body types  in the RTW clothes that they sell.
I just finished reading a post by Ohhh Lulu about body image in regards to self-sewn lingerie and negative commenting on the internet. The article addresses how we need to stop judging each others bodies so harshly and vocally. While I agree with the spirit of what the author is trying to say, this does not address the root of negative rhetoric regarding body image in our culture.
What most people don't realize is that the hegemonically "perfect" body, which many aspire to but no one can achieve, is driven by elitism. When you really consider what the "best" bodies consist of, you realize that the "bad" bodies are really "poor" bodies.
For example, most people do not find a body wracked by malnutrition, abuse, and disease to be attractive. This is not only because this body looks unhealthy and possibly close to death, but also because it it obvious that the body does not have access to the resources reserved for the elite.
Contrary to popular belief, the majority of obese bodies, also considered unattractive, are from backgrounds of poverty as well. In fact, that the greatest indicator of obesity in the first world is poverty. In America, the poor deal with excessive stress, known to be a trigger for weight gain, as well as working irregular and/or long hours, have little leisure time apart from that which must be spent sleeping or maintaing their person-and-household, have little to no vacation time, and few benefits such as healthcare. They often work in stressful, demeaning, and unsafe environments, for little recognition and low pay. As a result, they have little money to spend on food, and focus on cheap, quick, "filling" foods which are high in calories but low in nutritional value.
Finally, the elite structures of society send messages to these people with "bad bodies" through media, the true opiate of the masses, to make them feel ugly and unaccepted. This can lead to depression, feelings of inefficacy, and complacency which insure that individuals are focused on their inner turmoil and  personal flaws instead of joining with their peers and affecting change.
So yes, we do need to stop judging each other and using mean language against each other. But more importantly, we need to stop judging ourselves and focusing on ourselves. When we focus instead on the world as a whole, we can be more effective in serving each other and God.