if you have been even remotely listening to the dialogue surrounding the debate around the advertising industry’s depiction of women as well as the general conversations regarding body images and its issues, you know that women around the world struggle to accept their bodies and find confidence and love for and within themselves due to these depictions of female bodies. it’s extremely challenging as a female, particularly in contemporary society, to accept yourself, love yourself- deeply and truly- and to lead an existence filled with happiness and love, not only for yourself, but for those women around you. this battle for every woman and their self love is apparent in magazines, advertisements, commercials, tv shows, movies, and media everywhere. what is both depicted and communicated within the image of the media that is shared can be very detrimental and damaging, especially over a young woman’s lifetime.
i see this struggle as very evident, though others may not agree with me. i have had my fair share of internal conflict about my body, its appearance, my love for it, and its functionality for me in ways such as athletics. i feel the pain every woman, big or small, tall or thin, feels daily; every woman does.
but in light of this pain and contention, there has been so much change in the recent months- caitlyn jenner’s coming out process, the acceptance of the non-mainstream female image and identity, the progress of female gay rights and the gender fluidity of miley cyrus. additionally, there has been, in my small amount of time interacting with such media, a shift in the depiction of both women and the relationships depicted in popular magazines such as cosmopolitan. keep in mind, i’m making this conclusion based upon a short interaction with the cosmo channel on snapchat and intermittent viewings and readings of articles in the news and on facebook. i am not one to scour the stacks of magazines, looking for the next beauty secret or big fashion move. in fact, reading those magazines, as i used to when i was younger and in my teens (i’m 22 now) with 17 magazine and people developed a sense of self-deprecation.
flipping through snapchat’s cosmo channel just to find anything humorous or remotely amusing, i came across that which i’d never seen in a popular culture magazine before: images of a transexual woman, caitlyn jenner, depictions of a biracial couple, larger women who are yet proud and confident, images of women of color, though their skin is still rather light, and biracial models.
it’s no secret (obviously) that women of color with dark skin and a general mix of women from different, diverse ethnicities and backgrounds, shapes and sizes is a very sparse depiction within mainstream media. it has, though, appeared, in my humble opinion, to have shifted, though slowly, towards growing inclusion. this limited representation of the identities, racial, sexual, gender-related, and otherwise, renders that which i have already touched upon: a lack of acceptance of women who have an identity that is either not represented or misrepresented and an influx of self-deprecation and self-hatred. the inclusive depiction of women of diverse backgrounds, ethnicities, sexualities, genders, and what not, i feel, is extremely important, as it speaks to the acceptance of non-mainstream, non-normal identities. i mean, hell, the lack of acceptance of abnormal identities is apparent everywhere, particularly in cosmo, as the magazine speaks exclusively to sex between a man and a woman only, relationships between two people who are both cisgender, and women who are of a certain, mainstream identity.
cosmo excludes so many identities that it’s almost terrifying. for example, i feel like a relatively ‘normal,’ mainstream, young woman, yet when i engage with magazines such as cosmo or people, i feel that my identity, sexuality, passions, interests, fashion (or lack thereof), myself as a human are under attack because i simply cannot and never will fit a mold that is designed for, well, practically no real human woman.
taking all that into consideration, i have seen, in the few years i’ve slightly glanced at popular magazines and in my lifetime of engaging in popular media and culture, a shift towards the positive, the inclusive, the more and more accurate depiction of women in america and across the world. coming across even the representation of a biracial couple on cosmo’s channel today made me so excited! we are on the road to improvement as a society, though we have a long road ahead of us. positive movement, positive progress.
all that being said, i work to feel comfortable and confident in my own skin, and it can be a daily struggle. i work for my body, namely in the face of athleticism, but i work to feel my version of sexy, confident, happy, able, successful, comfortable. every woman should.