Does you remember Spice Girls? I do. I remember not only singing “Wannabe” at the top of my lungs with my other 6-year-old friends, but also how much I obsessed over the way they looked.
I’d like to mark that as first time I became aware of how other, older women in the media looked. After Spice Girls, I began paying attention to Britney Spears, Density’s Child, Christina Aguilera, and Jessica Simpson. The boys had *NSYNC, Backstreet Boys, and 98 Degrees for their male influence in the media. In addition to awesome musical interests, I started looking at teen retail and fashion magazines later on in elementary school and was faced with ads depicting thin, heavily made-up women and half-clothed muscular men. At quite a young impressionable age, we were learning what society expected us and the opposite sex to look like.
Soon, I started feeling uncomfortable in my figure skating and gymnastics leotards and by middle school I was faced with very low self-esteem and embarrassment over my weight and size during gym class fitness tests. In retrospect, I wasn’t very high above average weight for my age and it was body’s way of telling me to switch to contact sports and start using my “thunder thighs” for checking over-confident hockey guys in the boards. But, of course, I didn’t realize this then.
With half of my life story out of the way, we come to the crux of an issue. We, as a society, are slaves to the judgments of others. We allow ourselves to be told how to look, act, and be. We are unfree. Jean-Jacques Rousseau in “Discourse on Inequality” introduces the idea of amour-propre; a concept that conveys a self-love that depends upon the opinion of others. He writes that our comparative love in a competitive society leads to a bad social contract. Meaning, by being completely dependent on others and allowing the government to support our dependence, we are perpetuating our inequality.
“It now became the interest of men to appear what they really were not. To be and to seem became two totally different things; and from this distinction sprang insolent pomp and cheating trickery, with all the numerous vices that go in their train. On the other hand, free and independent as men were before, they were now, in consequence of a multiplicity of new wants, brought into subjection, as it were, to all nature, and particularly to one another; and each became in some degree a slave even in becoming the master of other men…”
Rousseau states that our increasing amount of interaction with others leads us to judge ourselves, and ultimately love ourselves, influenced solely by the opinion of others. He says that men who were previously not under the subjection of other men become slaves to society in a quest to be superior. It is in Rousseau’s opinion and my own that we are all naturally unfree in our society because of amour-propre. Do you agree that we are all naturally unfree because of comparative love? Is there any way to truly free ourselves? Additionally, do you believe that current self-love campaigns such as Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty or U of M’s Body-Peace Corps is enough to undo all of the negative influence in the media?