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Women in the Modern World

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Today we live in a world where a woman's worth is judged by fashion and the steady decrease of a woman's dress size. A disturbing trend, however, is that these superficial standards hold stronger for women than for men. What seems to be most distressing of all, is that masses of people whom you don't even know are affecting what the fragile women should eat, how much they should weigh and what they should wear. Both Reberta Seid, in her essay, "Too "Close to the Bone": The Historical Context for Women's Obsession with Slenderness", and Fatema Mernissi in her essay, "Size 6: The Western Women's Harem" stress the very important issue of women's self-oppression by their own physical self-expectation. Both these passages serve to shed light upon the all-too real truth of our societies in which women are suffering from a debilitating epidemic: society's expectations of what women should and should not be.

The society we live in today has set standards for how a woman should look, what she should eat and how she should dress. Mernissi, while shopping at a women's department store in America, was told that she was too big to shop at this store where she replied, "I am too big compared to what?" (179). The store clerk was, obviously, referring to Mernissi's weight in that she thought was simply too big to be shopping in that particular department store. As Mernissi continued her narration, it turned out the clerk was indeed truthful and did not have anything her size in the store. What seems inconsistent is that initially Mernissi tells us she is of an average weight but when in this department store, she was called fat and was not able to find one skirt her size. Contrastingly, when Mernissi would go back to her homeland she would never have this kind of experience, where her size would allow or disallow her privileges from shopping in a particular store. Many people view Eastern countries as oppressive, but the oppression placed on women in the West is of different magnitude. The women that are from the west have their self-esteem hanging on a thin thread when they walk into stores while being called fat and are told that they should be fitting into, at many times what seems to be the clothes of a fourteen year old. Women's obsession with their weight has almost become like a religion as Seid says, "Our culture is swept up in a web of peculiar and distorted beliefs about beauty, health, virtue, eating and appetite. We have elevated the pursuit of a lean, fat-free body into a new religion"(162). Women need to wake up and realize how much harm they are doing to them selves by following such a cult-like obsession that has, in essence, taken over the entirety of their lives.

I assume the problem began with women looking at weight as a sign of age. Many times it happens that if a woman is larger, she is assumed older and we all know that old age, or at least the signs of it, is something women have been trying to escape for centuries at a time. Now, when women try to hide or escape signs of their fleeting youth they do so looking and dressing the way currently portray beauty in the media. In this way, these women are going to great lengths to conform to society's definition of what beauty is instead of accepting the fact that they have grown old and that their beauty has taken a new form in these later years of their lives. Mernissi constitutes this concept in her work where she says, "framing youth as beauty and condemning maturity is the weapon used against women in the west"(182). In the future, hopefully when we look back at this time in our history we will realize the error of our ways where Mernissi also states that, "future historians might conjecture that Americans had fallen in love with death, or at least with mortification of the flesh" (171).

What seems lost in the western society is the age-old phrase that "beauty is in the eye of the beholder". There is nothing wrong with making ones own self look beautiful except when this attainment of beauty is being dictated by the fashion industry through varieties of magazines and ads. These advertisements try to depict the perfect woman who is, at many times, underweight and sickly but they exude this radiance that reminds the women that these models are what they simply cannot be. Mernissi goes on to make a comical yet accurate statement when she says, "How can you stage a credible political demonstration and shout in the streets that your human rights have been violated when you cannot find the right skirt?"(183). Its ridiculous how blindly women follow such ways in which they subconsciously objectify themselves only to be accepted within the societies they live in. In many extreme cases women are causing harm on their bodies just



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