A Hope for the Future: An Open Letter to Lady Gaga
Dear Lady Gaga, Let me start off my prefacing this open letter. I'm not writing this in the hopes of pulling at proverbial heartstrings nor am I hoping to gain unwanted attention. I'm writing this to thank you. Over the past few weeks you have been maliciously attacked because of your appearance. To say this is unjust would be an understatement, but being in the public eye each and every day, you know this more than anyone else. What you do need to know is that many of us, women, men, children, regardless of age, socioeconomic status, or other discerning factors, understand your pain. We are all body snarled - by a magainze at a check-out of a grocery store, through diet ads in fashion magazines, or even when on a scale beside unflattering mirrors at the gym. Perhaps we can't understand the hurt caused by tabloid magazines, but we can relate to the struggle. As Michelle at the Huffington Post so poignantly states, "the body mass index continues to be the gold standard measurements of success," regardless of what other triumphs we may have achieved. We are all alike, in that regard. We are all alike because 80% of us struggle with concerns about weight, and thus a skewed perception of ourselves. The multi-billion dollar dieting industry profits because of our collective self-loathing over our lack of perfection. Worse still, body dissatisfaction heightens our risk for developing more severe health issues; well over 10 million of us, our friends, family members, and loved ones battle an eating disorder. They are all-encompassing and debilitating illnesses, regardless of how they manifest. Sadly, eating disorders are far too often negatively perceived; deemed as blameworthy, self-inflicted, and attention-seeking, many of us struggle in secrecy and unassisted. Too many of us lack self love of ourselves and our bodies. What's worse - we do so feeling as though no one understands our worries, our fears, our lack of compassion. The war against body dissatisfaction and eating disorders can be won, but it's an uphill battle; care is limited and funding is lacking. So many of us lack a voice; the wall of stigma must be shattered. In protest, you launched the Body Revolution to provide Little Monsters everywhere the opportunity to post photos and stories, battling against unrealistic societal norms - and the 80% sorely need it. You have provided an outlet for self expression, a positive gathering ground for those with like concerns. Most importantly, we have a role model. Sure, we may not always want to wear a meat dress to our functions - but you've given so many a voice, so I'll overlook the steaks. Fellow bloggers and even professionals in the field see this as a wonderful thing. Sure, there is some backlash; questions have been raised as to whether such a movement promotes physical beauty over the internal and, if so, should it be regarded as a 'revolution.' Imagine if society could see through skin and quantify our internal selves first - wouldn't that be incredible? However, it's not realistic - not right now, anyway. Besides, we all want, as Maya at Feministing explains, "to feel attractive; it's impossible to live in this world and resist that." There is absolutely nothing wrong with feeling beautiful. So, for right now, we can follow in your footsteps and begin to take swing at societal conventions. We can refuse to accept that 'flaws' are innately ugly. Moving forward, I see your work as trying to accommodate everyone's own individual beauty; your message is that we all need some love, and I can support that. That, to me, is revolutionary. This is my hope for you: take care of yourself. Just like the 80%, you are human. I truly hope you choose not to 'diet,' yet these choices are so personal that I cannot, at the end of the day, pass judgment. But I hope that you make good choices for you, and no one else. You can't take care of your Little Monsters without being healthy yourself. The ability to think critically, uncover truths, combat injustices, and give voice to stigmatized problems can make an incredible difference. You have pointed us in this direction. So, thank you. Keep fighting for your own health and advocating for the silenced millions. - Kathleen For more information about eating disorders, visit: The National Eating Disorder Association - in the United States The National Eating Disorder Information Centre - in Canada Beating Eating Disorders - in the United Kingdom Photo Credit petercruise via the Creative Commons License.