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What Women Think Of Their Bodies Is Based On What You Think

You know that we live in a time of unprecedented “fat acceptance.” Everywhere you look, popular culture and entertainment is telling you that it’s okay for a woman to be a fat slob.  Songs on the radio tell women that they are beautiful no matter how big they are, and that they need not worry about their size. It seems that if you are female, you are basically told that you deserve to be seen as pretty, even if you are not. Somehow, all this body-positive messaging never seems to quite make it to the actual men who are doing all the asking out.  The funny thing is, men are attractive to pretty women, and even the men who like “thick” women basically like women who are well shaped and in proportion.   As it turns out, though, women’s opinions of themselves are easily shaped by what we think of their bodies, which means they are much more susceptible to our opinions than they would like us to believe.  Or, maybe it would be more accurate to say, they are much more susceptible to their opinions of our opinions.

A new study has found that, at least among straight women, they feel better about themselves if they’re carrying a few extra pounds and they’re told that men like them better that way.  To put it another way, women’s sense of happiness with their own body image is directly attributable to what they are told men are thinking about them.  The study was done by some folks at Southern Methodist University, which is located in Texas.  The lead researcher, a woman named Andrea Meltzer, came right out and said it. Female body image is totally dependent on female opinion of male opinion of that body. Who’d have thought it, eh?

What’s more, those same straight women hold some preconceived notions about what they think we want.  They’ve been told for years that men like stick-figure thin models, so they assume that’s really what we’re into. Television and popular entertainment reinforces this every possible chance the TV and movies get to drive the point home.  The implication, of course, is that you can totally manipulate a woman’s happiness with herself by telling her… pretty much whatever you want about what men want.  A woman who likes herself tends to treat herself better overall, so in that way, a positive body image tends to be a self-fulfilling prophecy.  The better you think of yourself to start, the better you’ll treat yourself overall in matching that expectation.  At least, if you’re a straight woman.

Women who have negative body images get sex less (most likely because they are less attractive and carry themselves that way) and tend to treat themselves less well. This is a vicious cycle. A woman who thinks she is unattractive will overeat and not exercise. That means she ends up less attractive, and this makes her feel unattractive… and the cycle begins again.

Honestly, I’m not entirely certain how any of this is worthy of a study, or how the researchers justified saying to anyone that they’d actually learned anything.  This seems to be how the entire industry of research studies works: you spend a great deal of time and money learning something that everybody knew already anyway, the underpinnings of which are generally considered common sense, and then you announce the results of the study as if some groundbreaking fact had been revealed.  The study is then reported in news outlets,  who are always thirsty for studies to promote. And then the new cycle takes the news for a couple of days. In a few days after that, a new study that uncovers some other piece of common knowledge will hit the cycle, and everything begins over again.

Apparently even in the study that was done, it isn’t really known just how long you can manipulate someone for. In other words, there’s no telling how long the “positive image” effect lasts.  It’s an interesting idea, though, and says a lot about how the female mind works.  It might be of use to you on your next date.  Or it might not. Because, honestly, does it tell us anything we don’t already know?

Women want to feel attractive.  The desire to feel attractive is probably one of the most universal drives that all women share.  And it is responsible, in large part, for a lot of their behavior. Look at the ads sometime in any television program that is targeted to women.  You’ll see a common theme. There will be plenty of commercials for diet products, fitness clubs, and so on.  And these are going to be couched in such a way that the delicate feelings of the target audience won’t ever be harmed.

Remember all those special gyms called “Curves?” They were intended only for women. That’s right: They were gyms that, even if you wanted to go to them, you couldn’t if you were a man. But the dirty little secret behind Curves was that you wouldn’t have wanted to go to them if you were a man, because you would just be wasting your time.  People didn’t really work out and get healthier at Curves.  They sat around telling each other affirming stories and feeling better about themselves.  If Curves built anything, it was self-esteem. It was geared towards making insecure women feel less insecure, and removing men — the people these women thought were judging them for their appearance — was the first step in creating a “body positive” environment.

This is, of course, all very silly.  It’s a fact that if you are in better shape, you are more attractive. If you are in less good shape, you are less attractive. Trying to over think it and make it more than that is just a waste of time… time you could be spending improving yourself, regardless of who is listening or watching and who is not.  It doesn’t really matter who is looking at you are judging you.

 
 

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