We have it from no less an authority than Cheryl Strayed that, after four decades of feminism women are not comfortable with their bodies.
Being a good blogger and best-selling memoirist Strayed is as qualified as anyone else to opine on the subject:
But rather what’s on the other side of the tiny gigantic revolution in which I move from loathing to loving my own skin? What fruits would that particular liberation bear?
We don’t know—as a culture, as a gender, as individuals, you and I. The fact that we don’t know is feminism’s one true failure. We claimed the agency, we granted ourselves the authority, we gathered the accolades, but we never stopped worrying about how our asses looked in our jeans.
Strayed does not go quite as far as New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his fellow congregants at the Church of the Liberal Pieties. She does not blame it on the fashion industry and the images of perfectly slim females that grace the pages of the fashion press.
One does not know whether Strayed would support Bloomberg’s new effort to use advertising to improve girls’ self-esteem. Ads are going to appear at bus stops and in subway stations all over New York. It’s going to have a girl telling other girls: “I’m beautiful the way I am.”
Bloomberg failed to ban the Big Gulp, but he did succeed in filling the streets of New York with shiny new rent-a-bikes, the kind that will help you to metabolize New York’s air pollution faster. He also banished smoke from New York’s bars. One suspects that he sees the female self-esteem campaign as his last hurrah.
Truth be told Bloomberg has been a good mayor. His successor will surely make us miss him.
Yet, Bloomberg has often compromised his credibility and his prestige by embracing trendy leftist causes. Apparently, he has drunk too deeply of behavioral economics and believes that government must nudge people in the right direction in order to help them to improve their conduct and their lives.
Yet, the new campaign ignores the fact, as all the research has shown, that self-esteemist solutions tend to aggravate, not to solve, problems. I recently posted on the topic in detail, here and here.
Telling a child that he is brilliant no matter what he does will make him underperform. It will sap his initiative by making him believe that he does not have to work hard to achieve great results.
Telling a child that he is a hard worker will instill the value of perseverance and make it more likely that he will rise to a difficult or challenging task.
Admittedly, Bloomberg’s campaign will include fitness and nutritional counseling, but isn’t it clear that when you tell girls that they are beautiful the way they are, they will first know you are lying to them, and second they will come away thinking that they need not do anything special to make themselves look beautiful.
Any husband can try this at home. He can tell his wife she looks beautiful after she has put together just the right outfit and created just the right look to go out to dinner or a party. Or he can tell her she looks beautiful when she is lying around the house, her hair unkempt, her makeup fading, in a tee shirt and sweat pants. True enough, she might look beautiful to him no matter what, but if she has made no effort to look her best she will immediately think that he is either patronizing her or wants something from her.
Women like to read fashion magazines. Women study fashion magazines for the newest look. They work at fashioning their appearance. Women apply what they have learned from these magazines. They spend a considerable amount of time and effort and money putting themselves together in order to look their best. Often they follow fitness and diet regimens to improve their appearance.
A man who fails to notice the amount of effort a woman puts in to looking her best is being insensitive. A man who thinks that a woman is beautiful no matter what she does is simply not telling the truth.
When a man compliments a woman on her appearance he is rewarding her for the work she put into creating her look. Woe be unto him if he fails to notice.
What’s all about, then? Obviously, feminists are shifting the blame. They do not want to take responsibility for feminism has wrought, so they blame fashion magazines.
For over four decades feminists have been telling women that they are victims of male sexism, that they are victims of sexual abuse and sexual violence and that they are being systematically oppressed by men the world over.
Is there anything about the message that would make a woman feel good about being a woman? After all, a woman is attractive if she likes being a woman. Perhaps we should be encouraging women to look at fashion magazines and not to feel guilty about working to look their best.