Jump directly to the content
Sports Illustrated Can't Turn Us into Swimsuit ModelsThe Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas / Flickr
Sports Illustrated Can't Turn Us into Swimsuit Models

Sports Illustrated Can't Turn Us into Swimsuit Models


Feb 19 2013
How the beauty culture blasphemes our bodies.
I absorbed magazines, TV, and movies uncritically and prescriptively […] everything about my appearance seemed wrong. But in America, the possibilities of individual determination are endless—you can become as rich and as thin as you determine to be!—and so I sought to change my body through all the ways that advertisements teach us is possible: the chromium picolinate supplements, the protein shakes, the NordicTrack, the chirpy aerobics videos, the Velcro-fastened ankle weights.

All that effort toward getting a certain look adds up to big business—more than $20 billion annually in the U.S. on cosmetics alone. It comes at a high price in terms of mental health, as numerous psychological studies have suggested what discerning parents have known for a long time: the more media images of stylized, retouched models a woman views, the more likely she is to become depressed and disordered in her eating.

That was me. For years, I struggled with an eating disorder that was undramatic because of its very ordinariness; I was mostly of normal weight, but almost never ate normally. I'd spend hours in front of the mirror, hating myself, and I was unable to receive one of God's primordial good gifts: the gift of food. I viewed food with suspicion and fear—like food as ordinary as bread and butter was conspiring to make me fat and therefore unworthy of respect and love—instead of gratitude and pleasure. I was unable to join others joyfully at the table; I was alienated from others, from God, even, somehow, from myself and from the fuller life I knew I could have if only I could stop chasing false images, and a false source of self-worth.

But there's hope. Various researchers have found that openly critiquing the thin ideal and media images of idealized beauty while affirming and accepting one's own body had a powerful effect on mood and on eating disorders. Others have discovered that in families who eat meals together and homes where self-deprecating "fat talk" isn't casually bantered around, children can better resist cultural pressure toward thinness and beauty. Ultimately, though, I think the power to reject the swimsuit issue as the bible can come from the Bible—the one that insists that humans are the very image of God; that bodies and food, like the rest of creation, are very good.

Blasphemy isn't too strong a word for what images like the ones in the swimsuit issue suggest about the meaning of human life. Is it not blasphemy to reduce an image of God to an underfed, overstyled, de-contextualized, sexualized, Photoshopped ideal—and, then, to say that attaining that look is possible, given the right purchases and pursuits?

Support our work. Subscribe to CT and get one year free.

Comments

To add a comment you need to be a registered user or Christianity Today subscriber.

orSubscribeor
More from Her.menutics
Don’t Call Me Out at Your Wedding for Being Single

Don’t Call Me Out at Your Wedding for Being Single

The church can model a more inclusive community, one that doesn’t divide over marital status.
Why Google and BuzzFeed Need the Church

Why Google and BuzzFeed Need the Church

When big corporations make big moral decisions, where is the church’s voice?
Timehop Helps Me See God’s Providence

Timehop Helps Me See God’s Providence

How a social media app reminds me of God’s faithfulness in my life.
How Grandparenting Redeemed Our Family

How Grandparenting Redeemed Our Family

This Father’s Day, I celebrate my parents’ choice to move close to my kids.
Include results from Christianity Today
Browse Archives:

So Hot Right Now

I’m a Woman Who Got Kicked Out of Women’s Bathrooms

Our zealous policing of gender norms can have unintended and hurtful consequences.

Twitter

  • RT @DailyKeller: 201cGod doesn't just love you unconditionally. He loves you counter-conditionally-in spite of your conditions.201d
  • RT @michellevanloon: What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us. - @AWTozer_
  • @JBsTwoCents d83dde17 Keep up the great work!
  • Timehop can offer us more than nostalgia https://t.co/3f6VdMUTeM
  • Shoutout to @sarahthebarge for her words of wisdom about navigating wedding season as a single person https://t.co/KW00sw9ghU


What We're Reading

CT eBooks and Bible Studies

Christianity Today
Sports Illustrated Can't Turn Us into Swimsuit Models