The diet and beauty industries don’t stumble into making billions of dollars. They employ very specific strategies, one of which is their cycle of disempowerment.
The cycle goes like this:
Step 1: They Create The Message
The diet and beauty industries tell us what is good/beautiful based on the products they sell (essentially, they create “problems” out of things that are completely normal – fat bodies, grey hair, wrinkles etc. – and then sell “solutions”)
This happens through a lot of different mediums – advertisements, billboards, fashion magazines and more. We are
told sold a stereotype of beauty rooted in white, thin cisgender, able-bodiedness.
Step 2: We Internalize The Message
We start to believe that the (completely made up) stereotype of beauty is reality. We start to believe that bodies, and people, are better the more closely they approximate the stereotype. We even start to believe that only people who can fit the stereotype of beauty can be talented.
Step 3: We Enforce The “Standard” On Other People
This happens in so many ways. It happens when we engage in negative body talk against other people. It happens when we care more about what an actor is wearing than the work she did that got her nominated for an award in the first place. It happens when we insist that people should dress in “flattering” ways (which is to say using clothes the create the optical illusion that we look closer to the stereotype of beauty.) In this way we become walking, talking, peer-pressuring advertisements for the diet and beauty industries.
Step 4: People Are Disempowered, The Diet And Beauty Industry Profit
This cycle is incredibly profitable for the people who sell the promise of bringing us closer to the stereotype because, as my friend Courtney Legare likes to say, they are in the business of stealing our self-esteem, cheapening it, and selling it back to us at a profit.
We can break the cycle though, and we can do it in a lot of ways. We can stop engaging in negative body talk of any kind, we can interrupt other people when they start engaging in negative body talk (or we can just walk away.) We can examine our own prejudices and privilege as they relate to people who fall outside of the stereotype of beauty. We can purposefully celebrate bodies that fall outside of the stereotype in everything from our social media feeds to the art we have in our homes. We can ask ourselves if the things that we buy, the bodies we celebrate, and the choices we make are supporting or challenging the current paradigm.
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