Sunday, 11 September 2011

What makes a woman?

The average woman spends 2 hours and 12 minutes getting ready in the morning. This adds up to 32 days a year of perfecting ones image. The average British woman carries £57 worth of make-up in her handbag and that figure does not include the toolbox of products left at home. There is no denying that for the majority of women beauty plays a massive part in their daily lives. I for one will not leave the house without having my make-up done, even if it means being late. I panic if I leave the house without my powder compact. Part of me believes I would feel less panicked if I forgot a piece of course work.
For some students it is about more than just trying to look good, for some it borderlines on obsession. For them, getting ready in the morning can be a strategically planned decision making progress, with the Scottish weather not making this task any easier for the fashion conscious. Many “critical” decisions are made in the morning about hair and make-up for the sake of looking good. But it’s not just at the start of the day that these decisions are being made. Student Amanda Hunter says that before going on a night out she will try and eat as little as possible to make herself feel slimmer, and if she is wearing a tight outfit her meal of choice is soup as it still does not leave you feeling bloated like some other foods would.
The female body survey commissioned by Grazia magazine (Grazia questioned 5,000 women in over 200 cities throughout the UK) found that only 2% of women in the United Kingdom are happy with their bodies, and that seven out of ten think their life would be greatly improved if they had a better body. But it is not only women who have issues with body image, men do to. A survey conducted by the BBC’s Radio 1’s Newsbeat found that 20 per cent of men in their early twenties have taken protein supplements in an attempt to “bulk themselves up”. Student James Frew feels he is not as attractive to the opposite sex since he is rather slender in build, and therefore feels he needs to go to the gym to try to make himself look bigger. Dr Stephen Edwards, a psychology lecturer at Swansea University, highlights that “muscularity is not an issue for women whereas it is for men,” and that “being ‘too’ thin is not a problem for women, whereas for men this would be equated with being weedy.”
After readings statistics such as these it should come as no surprise that the cases of eating disorders increased by 11 per cent between June 2009 and June 2010. Dr Terry Apter, a psychologist at Cambridge University, says that “this does signal a great dissatisfaction with the body, a concentration on the body and a sense that there’s some ideal which they should reach”. Being thin is also increasingly being linked to being successful. This can cause university students to feel stressed about not succeeding in life if they are not a certain size.  The media and advertising play a large part in this as they portray successful people as being slender and good-looking. Research has reported that women’s magazines have ten and a half times more advertisements and articles promoting weight loss than men’s magazines do, and that 1/3 of all women’s magazine covers feature a line about how to improve the female body in some way.
The media is constantly dissecting celebrity body images and highlighting their flaws, and as much as we all like to see that celebrity’s are not that different from normal people, it also heightens our insecurities. This is because the “problem areas” being highlighted on these celebrities are also “problem areas” a lot of regular people have.  But are they necessarily flaws? Are they not just a part of being human? After all, 90% of women will suffer from some form of stretch marks and cellulite in their lifetime. Does this not then make it the norm?

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