How real women continue to struggle to reach the fictitious goal of having the perfect body.
Women often joke about having a bad hair day or how they can find nothing to wear, but as Engeln (Psychology/Northwestern Univ.) discovered through her intensive research and numerous interviews, our culture holds women to an impossible standard of perfection. The struggle to reach that pinnacle, even when women acknowledge that it’s impossible, is creating a sector of society that is fearful and anxious about body image from a very young age. Women spend hours fussing and primping their hair, makeup, and nails and planning the perfect outfit and almost every waking moment worrying about their weight and body image. Engeln calls this pervasive situation "beauty sickness”—“what happens when women's emotional energy gets so bound up with what they see in the mirror that it becomes harder for them to see other aspects of their lives.” Furthermore, she writes, “although we hear the most about beauty sickness in young women, it's a malaise that affects women of all ages." From as early as age 5, girls fret about their weight and appearance, and they quickly discover that what they wear can affect their chances to play like their male friends. As girls move into adolescence and young adulthood, the objectification intensifies, and women discover that they must walk a fine line between feeling powerful, sexy, and attractive and being considered slutty for wearing revealing clothes. It’s a double standard that can affect women in every area of their lives. As Engeln points out, change starts at the individual level, with women taking possession of their own thoughts. Her solid ideas, mostly related in the final section, “How We Can Fight Beauty Sickness,” will help women think positively about themselves regardless of body shape.
Thorough research and helpful personal stories effectively relay the dilemma that nearly all women face on a daily basis.