Sunday, 3 June 2012

Argentinean Aesthetics

Argentina is famous for many things: the steak, the football, the landscape and of course, the women. The country has a reputation for having of the most attractive female populations in the world, but, upon closer examination, this honour becomes a dubious one when one considers the high price at which it comes.

Notoriously preoccupied with their image, Argentinean women are unusually concerned with their weight. Argentina’s culture has adopted the obsession with appearance. It is standard practice for the stores to carry sizes significantly smaller than the international standard, causing women to believe they are bigger than they are. A 23 year old student of healthy size and weight who had been on exchange for her studies remembered shopping overseas with fondness. “I remember I went into the store and tried on the XL and they were all too big for me – I tried a medium – a
medium and it was fine! I remember calling my mother to tell her, mom, in London, I’m an M! I’m never leaving!”

The wonderment at average sized being labelled as average is a symptom of a deeply rooted psychological disease in Argentina. According to the Association Against Bulimia and Anorexia (ALUBA), 1 in 10 Argentineans is afflicted with an eating disorder ; a natural result of such aggressive cultural brainwashing. It is normal for the women to calorie count and restrict their meals and the local celebrities, more often than not, have undergone significant (and at times drastic) plastic surgery.

This is not a localized problem; globally, standards of beauty have become more unattainable, and consequently, more psychologically and physically damaging. Argentina in particular may be unusual in how visible the problem is, but the psychological manipulation of women to hate themselves – through the media, through society, through shows and magazines and advertising –is indeed a global problem.

Luckily, work is being done to combat this. Campaigns have been launched by independent organizations and major companies (such as Dove’s now-famous ‘Campaign for Real Beauty’) to expose the ridiculous nature of modern ideals. Argentina itself has advocates, working for a cultural shift. Three years ago, a law was passed enforcing stores to stock larger sizes than was then-standard practice. One of the nation’s major newspapers, Clarin, ran a feature advertising the few stores that sold larger-sized clothing and featuring healthier sized models. Said the editor Andrea Rabolini, "We have never received such a tremendous reader response as we did in that one issue..It was like a huge shout of liberation."

We can only hope the trend of embracing our bodies as they were meant to be will gather momentum. After all, it is a form of cruelty to shame any woman into denying herself the enjoyment of some of the best that is available to us; of fullness, of health, of food, of life.

By Farahnaz Mohammed

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