Is There Any Point in Swimming Against The Tide?


Some days when I look around the world, I wonder if all the passion and commitment of wonderful body-acceptance activists and bloggers are making a difference to the way we women think and feel about our bodies. Some days I wonder if I am bashing my head against the media wall for no net result.

For example in the last week a couple of items crossed my path that left me feeling confused. I wanted to write about them but honestly didn’t really know how to put them into words.

Today it came together in an unexpected way, I hope you’ll follow along and share what you think…

A Role Model Falls

The first one was a business woman I follow talking about preparing for the launch of a business-changing new product. I’ve been reading about her product and I really admire that she came from a background that could only be called challenging, and by any measure she’s a huge success.

Yes I’m not linking here because when I read about the way she was preparing herself for the launch, I realised that I wouldn’t be buying her new product. It became glaringly obvious that her approach to life was highly inconsistent with what she was saying it was.

She was having new photos done for the product launch and to get ready she was buying a new outfit, having her hair and nails done, probably picking up a new lipstick – I get that, we’d all go there right?

But then I tripped…. because ‘of course’ she was having botox so she would look her best.

Many of her followers were applauding her commitment in ‘going all way’ as demonstrated by the botox!!

After I picked up my jaw I had a big think – her whole business is based on training other business owners about being authentically you, warts and all, so that you can achieve the success you want in business and in life.

And yet, that authenticity evaporates when she put herself on camera, where her main objective is to be Official Body sexy.

I’ve struggled with the line between professional presentation and over-gilding the lily, and I think I’ve settled on a line for me.Clearly her line is in a very different place to mine.

And I know I often talk about how judging others damages ourselves but I can’t seem to get past this one – how can you be authentically yourself in business and in life if you also feel that to present yourself as a successful person you must paralyse the life out of your face with poison?

So I was left feeling pretty unhappy that we have this weird kind of double-standard about behaving authentically in what you say but behaving the opposite in the way you present yourself. Or perhaps the way she presents herself IS authentic for her and while it makes zero sense to me, to her it’s logical? See – I’m confused.

Nutty Weight Loss Claims

The second incident popped up in an online business group.

I love the interactions in this group, it’s highly supportive and really helps me stay focussed on keeping my business healthy so I can pay my bills and keep doing this work that I love to do.

Another member of the group was launching a program to help coaches to get more clients.

Again, this is a product aimed at increasing the number of clients for a coach in any field.

It started with “Lose Ten Pounds and Gain Ten New Clients”.

Like, what?

Losing weight is a client-attracting strategy?

I started to read about her program but I just couldn’t continue. I was so gobsmacked by the connection of these two ideas that I was starting to feel queasy.

I Don’t Do Weight Loss, I Do Health

Business mentors of mine often say “Just do the weight loss coaching, it’s what everyone wants!”

But I can’t.

I know diets don’t work past a few months, that any weight lost soon finds you again and brings friends unless you live your life severely restricting your eating and over exercising, and that women’s self-esteem and sense of their value ad human beings dives lower with every failed diet.

And you know, every diet fails.

I can’t join in the false-hope brigade. I won’t contribute to making women feel even worse about themselves.

What I can do is help women recognise their unique and powerful beauty, recover their sense of self and their worth, and remember their dreams so they can create the strong healthy life they want in the body nature gave them.

Maybe It’s Me…..

And then I have days when stuff like the above makes me wonder… makes me question if *I* am the one who has missed the memo about what being a woman really means, who is out of step with society ….

I mostly read self-acceptance or feminist media (sometimes these two are the same thing :)) and rarely watch TV (because my TV reception is poor and I rarely think about having it fixed), plus I’m a big Media Diet fan.

So I avoid a lot of the normal fat-shaming and you-must-be-perfect crap on TV and I’m much happier for it, to be honest 🙂

And then today this little gem popped into my wave, seeming to be swimming in the same direction as me!

The editor of one of the biggest girls’ magazines in the UK is making a conscious choice to move away from constantly promoting celebrity- and sex-worshipping culture into one that is more about possibility and achievement, highlighting female role models other than pop culture celebs.

Editor Bea Appleby says their readers helped them see that the “creeping disease” of hyper-sexualising celebrities and advertising in general was having an impact on girls.

She knew research said the increasing sexualisation was contributing to increased numbers of eating disorders, low self-esteem and depression.

The magazine’s own research both backed that up and made the editorial team wince: their readers most admired celebrities. High-achieving professional women were nowhere to be seen in the survey results. Girls were more interested in being seen as pretty than as clever, brave or strong.

And here’s where my interest was really piqued because I’ve long advocated that every woman would gain health and happiness by going on a media diet: the editorial team decided that their magazine was part of the problem.

“This was proof that we had to take on some responsibility for our readers’ attitudes and make a change. We had to accept that we’re the ones feeding them the celebrities they admire. We had to show more than pop stars, hairstyles and kittens. We had to inspire them to have confidence, ambitions worthy of their potential and a sense of their rights,” she says in an article announcing the change.

Of course timing is everything in the media – if it didn’t make commercial sense, we’d still see the same old woman-as-object stories month after month.

They’re taking things slowly too – they’re still very pink, still giving away nail stickers, but starting to introduce stories about inspirational women who are changing the world with their actions, and asking big questions like, “Why isn’t there more female sport on TV?”.

And they’ve come up with their own version of a promise to help girls focus on the bigger picture:

  • I will love myself the way I am
  • By working hard I know I can achieve great things
  • I will accept others for who they are
  • I will have confidence to stand up for my friends and other girls
  • I believe girls are equal to boys

So I have a great wave of hope washing over me right now.


Hope that women are finally saying, “Enough! This is not the world we want our daughters to grow up in.”

Hope that this action will get so much attention from other sectors of the media that they will start to follow suit and we’ll see more diversity of size, age and race.

Hope that women in business will be able to focus on really giving other women a hand up without modelling that they first need to inject poison into their muscles or lose ten pounds.

And maybe even hope that we’ll one day live in a world where women won’t feel like they need to do these things to be successful.

What do you think? Hope, or hopeless?


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  1. vestavictoria on April 11, 2014 at 5:41 pm

    Until each and every woman accepts individual responsibility in the struggle to change how women are treated and thought of in all the various spheres of life, there will be no progress. We cannot blame “The Media”, “The Patriarchy”, “The Culture”, etc.: we have to be our own agents of action and change. And the sine qua non in effecting that, in my opinion, is facing up to our own women-on-women competitiveness and judgementalism. We do it to ourselves when we want to be Queen of the Heap. And me being Queen of the Heap means you’ve got to be less and lower than me, so I’ve always got to strain to rise up whilst simultaneously, oh-so-subtly (or not) kicking you down. Until we all admit to that and stop doing it, we are forever vulnerable to manipulation from without. This sounds horribly harsh and Darwinian, I know, but I feel we deny the power and influence of those old unconscious biological forces in our supposedly enlightened lives, minds and times to our peril.

    • Sandy Ross on April 12, 2014 at 7:36 am

      Jan, I think you’re so right! We all hold up the system that teaches us to compare ourselves to one another, and create some kind of pecking order. The purpose of that – god only knows? Change starts with each one of us – but it’s hard to stay consistent when there are so many contradictory messages out there. A reader emailed this morning about this same article – she’d watched an episode of Dr Phil where a couple were having problems. The husband hated that his wife’s weight changed, constantly tested her eating patterns, and was constantly critical about her body. This despite her being the breadwinner in the house and the mother of two small children! Dr Phil was saying that it wasn’t okay that he treated her that way, that no one has the right to think they can control another person, etc. I popped over to the Dr P site to watch the episode, to make sure I got the point my reader was making.

      So after saying all that…. they whipped her off for a mega-makeover!!! Changed her hair colour, the lot! So on one hand we have this influential man saying ‘you own yourself’ and on the other hand, the same man says ‘you must use your time, money and energy to present yourself in the most attractive way possible or you have no value’.

      No wonder it’s so bloody confusing hey? This reader said she felt very angry about it, and then very depressed because she doesn’t have the funds to spend on a makeover or on maintaining it – so what’s the point? Sigh… you’re right, we need to keep talking about it, calling OURSELVES out, and staying aware… it’s huge though isn’t it?

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