I, like many others, am a frequent user of Facebook, not only for staying in touch with family and friends and work-related projects, but for entertainment as well. Today I just realised how much commercialised crap this kind of social media feed us with, especially if you are a woman. Let me introduce a selection of these ads: “Lashcurl- eyelash lifting treatment”, “S is for Studs- Cute Peter Pan collars and sexy studding are just so haute right now”, “Parlux hairdryers”, “Get slim with this trick!” And my favourite: “Diamond bra- your breasts are worth it”.
These ads tell me how to look, how to dress, that my eyelashes are not curly enough (Wait, what?!), that I need a slim belly and a diamond bra to look good (seriously, come on) to be accepted. We all know that sex sells and that women are being objectified in commercials, ads, movies, music and so on. You don’t have to be Sherlock Holmes to figure that out. But do we really know how much this kind of propaganda affects us? Adults still have responsibilities to explain to their offspring how silly this is, but the teenagers with their till-fluid self image, who are seeking solid ground while trying to break with their parents to become self contained and independent individuals at the same time, are more vulnerable to the suggestions of these kind of advertising.
Science has proved that this increase the risk of eating disorders, among both girls and boys, as well as of psychological problems such as depression. And I know because I’ve been there.
Until I was fifteen years old, I was a real tomboy and couldn’t really understand why everyone was so obsessed with boys. They were my friends and I didn’t really separate my female and male friends. I saw them all as individuals. But once I fell in love for the first time everything changed from being an innocent game to a serious play where everyone had to find a role. I was not a popular girl in school, I didn’t have the looks and I really hated myself, so I tried my best to fit in. It didn’t work very well so I decided to be the weird but funny girl, a comic relief.
So far, so good. It was all about finding your place and I struggled with it for years as a normal teenager. But one thing almost made me tip over. I didn’t have someone to love, and this was a big issue for someone who has grown up in a culture that teaches you that you have no value without a boyfriend. It is normal for a person with low self esteem to think that your existence as a person depends on how much others love you. This started a chain of self-punishment that I’ve been struggling with for years.
I became obsessed with all advertisements. All the beautiful bodies, white teeth and beautiful hair, but mostly the ones about healthy food and working out. I really wanted to look like all these amazing people, I wanted to be them. But most of all, I wanted someone to see me, ME. I worked out more than thirty times a day, while I at the same time ate as much as a seven year old. I hid my problems from others and blamed myself every time I didn’t have the energy for the last lap on the running track. It sounds silly now, but this was my way of having “control” over something in my life.
This is the every-day life of many thousands of teenagers all around the world, but the obsession about beauty is everywhere you go. I paid so much and got back nothing more than a feeling of emptiness. I luckily got rid of most of my problems, but there are still scars that I share with many women. This disease generates so many unnecessary deaths, but we are still chasing the “good” life. We are supposed to have Beautiful clothes and even more “beautiful” bodies, and we still believe that it’s needed to catch a man. But you know what? I don’t care if my belly is slim anymore. I don’t care about the colour of my hair or the whiteness of my teeth. I definitely don’t care about whatever I have diamond covered underwear. I chose to be me – warts and all – for my own sake.