Women have to be attractive and physically appealing to men – or so the society has made us believe. However, a more relevant question to ask back would be what exactly is meant by being attractive. Deb Franko, professor of Counselling and Applied Educational Psychology at Northeastern University, has co-authored a paper titled “Considering J. Lo and ‘Ugly Betty’: a qualitative examination risk factors and prevention targets for body dissatisfaction, eating disorders, and obesity in young Latina women”.
Franko’s paper enumerates four factors that are significant to the body images that women have of themselves. The first one is cultural disparities when it comes to what is considered an ideal body. While the Caucasian community that most Latina women interact with on a daily basis consider the skinny and lean image as desirable, Hispanic traditions hold curvaceous bodies as attractive, parents belonging to these traditions often failing to understand why their children would want to restrict their diets or reduce weight. The second factor consists of the kind of information that has been provided to women about body ideals by close ones like peers and family. The third factor in the paper is the difficulty in being able to monitor one’s diet and have a regular physical routine given the college life. The last factor that has been pointed out is the influence that peer groups have, especially potential male partners, on what an ideal woman’s body should look like.
While the final three can be applied universally, the first one is a problem majorly associated to the Hispanic tradition. The authors of the paper suggest that “integrated prevention programs” should be organised to address both overweight and underweight issues together. It is also important for women to learn skills like assertiveness and problem solving, and become more secure in who they are by reducing unnecessary body comparisons.
N Malavika Mohan