Vail Daily column: More than skin deep
I sat nearly alone in a sea of women, way out of my water.
The Vail Symposium put together a panel to discuss body image. Talk about your loaded topics. The conversation spanned beauty, fashion, health, sexualization, media, ethnic as well as gender stereotypes, inadequacy, competition for attention and giving men all too much of the reins to validate women.
The program began with a poignant video with a song I like called “Try,” by Colbie Caillet, but had never paid attention to the lyrics. This time it took me behind the eyes for a glimpse of a girl looking out at her world.
Caillet asks, “Wait a second. Why should you care, what they think of you? When you’re all alone, by yourself, do you like you? Do you like you?”
I saw a whole reality apart from mine, not that this tiny window touched any nuance of what women navigate daily.
The sheer pervasiveness of body image, all the internal tensions, all the power of belief in oneself tangled up in notions of beauty and that man-woman thing, well, I had no idea. I guess I should admit here I’m dense even by the low standards of men.
The organizers paired a professor who studies sexualization of women in the media with an editor at Glamour, along with a psychologist (Jill Squyres, the lone local) who explained eating disorders and a college student who lives the B.S. that Muslim women have to put up with in the West.
I felt both barrels pointed at me, a white dude from that boogeyman The Media.
Maybe even worse, too: There was a fair amount of discussion about “size zero” models representing an impossible ideal for girls of so many shapes and sizes.
Well, I married a size zero who had modeled as a youngster and whose older sister made a good living as one of those models. Now, she barely crested 5 feet, so she stepped short of the ideal. Still, she was altogether striking and turned a lot more heads than mine.
Her issues as a teen had more to do with trying not to stand out, wearing baggy clothes, avoiding makeup, taking the brunt of envy. I know, we all should have such problems.
But maybe this just highlights an obsession with beauty that plagues the supposed “winners” as well as “losers” in the standard of the moment — pushed by that devil The Media.
The media lens fascinates me in all ways, particularly in an age of so much fragmentation of mediums and competition for economic survival. I thought the professor and some in the audience missed widely in blaming The Media for creating the ugliness around beauty.
The Media certainly amplifies, fosters and encourages ideas, including those about beauty and sex. This carrier infects the whole beast, from backwaters like the local paper on through Glamour and Hollywood. Not that the local paper is exactly sexy, mind you.
But The Media can’t make you read, look or listen to what does not interest you. Media outlets have to attract your attention. They can’t force you to do anything. How I wish I could you make your eat your civic peas in the pages of my paper and website, believe me. That’s just not going to happen.
We live in this soup of sexualization, stereotype, painful ambivalence and confusion because of us, ourselves. We have done this to ourselves. That monolith The Media can’t create. Only reflect.
Our brain power may not help much with something so elemental in us. Dealing intellectually with instinct means bringing a rubber band to a duel with a machine gun. Maybe the beginning of wisdom — and change — is realizing this.
A clue might lie in Caillet’s psychologically wise song about who you see in the mirror and learning to like you for you.
Editor and Publisher Don Rogers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and 970-748-2920.