Why Are You So Obsessed With Me.
Our culture has created an obsession with being perfect, thin, strong, curvy; but why? We can claim that these opposite and contradictory labels are stemmed from current society – but what if it is much deeper than that? Is the idea of perfection in the physical body embedded in our old history as humans? The rooted idea of strength and obsession is rooted from our ancient history that was buried from the introduction of Christianity. The gymnasium began as a place to aspire to be like the Demi-Gods and Gods. Beauty and human appearance was the original sign of morality and spirituality. It began as a place upon worship of the body and strength but was buried after the ideal of Jesus of Nazareth came. There was many reasons the church wanted to ban the practices of the gymnasium culture, but history seems to cycle and repeat itself. In the 1930s and 1940s, this idea of the hommes phenomemos found its way back on the shores of Santa Monica, California. The first few modern gyms would reappear in this area as weightlifting ‘freak shows’ would occur to preoccupy the minds of the broken from the war and recession.
‘Coincidentally’, around this same time, Batman appeared in comics as a super man, super hero, and human phenomenon himself, to inspire those going to battle. The ideas of man have always shifted more in human history, even in fashion; more so than women. In fact, during ancient Greek culture, and throughout most culture, women couldn’t even attend events that showcased this strength.
In the late 1930’s women like Jane Fonda, and Abbye ‘Pudgy’ Stockton came to show up the men, and forever change the course of weightlifting for women. However, shortly after this time period, women became the target for enhancing their beauty, naturally and unnaturally. They became a way to sell products, and became quickly objectified in the media and in their professional world. Women didn’t just get objectified unwillingly, in fact many women bought into the idea of plastic surgery, cosmetics, and hair care, believing they had to be a certain type of beauty.
The idea of obsession, working out, and the gym as spirituality is rooted in Greek and Roman culture as well as homosexuality, but the culture goes back deeper with the male sex than it does female. When did the switch occur that women became obsessed? Why must we feel the need to attempt to be our best selves and be perfect when we are not given the condition to be? Roman art and ancient paintings always fantasized and romanticized upon the body but never accurately depicted every roll of fat or every flaw within sight.
As current culture goes on, we too have romanticized imagery, and it is proven that women are often quickly to dismiss the reality of it, however most men will believe the imagery even if they are told it is unreal. Our society as of late, has honed on the idea of perfection particularly in women. As new products come about, sex, bodies, and thin models are the ideal way to sell these products. Women feel as if they must be thin, toned, curvy, and beautiful, as men feel they must be strong, toned, and masculine. However, unlike ancient Greek culture, we are not aspiring to be Gods, Demi-Gods, or Heroes, so why is our obsession with body imagery so intense?
The music in this video is a representation of today’s pop culture and it’s need to be deemed ‘beautiful’ for someone, or any one. It is a way also to reference Hannah Black’s My Bodies piece. Black’s video discussed body image and race in a completely different way, however her reference to pop culture is undeniable. The more confident and proud women become, the more society finds a way to make it so they are confined by something. The 1930s was the beginning of women weightlifting and body building, and it happened mostly behind closed doors. After being able to work in the workplace due to WWII, and then having to go back to the home because the men came back to the United States, feminism began to charge in full force in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Ironically within the next 10 years the beauty industry would rise, plastic surgery would take off, and women would begin to become laid off from their jobs from not obtaining a particular image.
Today’s lyrics in most music talks about ownership in a way, to another being, or a male companion, as a way of attempting to make them proud by being ‘beautiful,’ or dressing more feminine than an every day outfit. Even those of us that are aware of the need to be ‘beautiful’ for someone else, still somehow are apart of it. Jane Fonda began her feminist career around the 1980s, and although she advocated for particular rights and was well aware of her surroundings, she also contributed to the beauty myth that was occurring.
Today’s obsession seems to be with being fit, dieting, working out, or contributing to FAD diets.
Obsession with working out? Obsession with reward? Obsession with beauty.
Audio by: Ashley Paige Young
Some Pop Culture References
Chaline, Eric. The temple of perfection: a history of the gym. London, UK: Reaktion Books, 2015.
Orenstein, Peggy. Cinderella ate my daughter: dispatches from the front lines of the new girlie-girl culture. New York, NY: HarperCollins, 2011.
Wolf, Naomi. The beauty myth: how images of beauty are used against women. New York: W. Morrow, 1991.
Wrangham, Jennifer. Self-objectification and its clinical correlates among women. 2000.