Three deeply disturbing recent headlines about women and body image got me thinking.


First, there were the F-cup cookies of Doom. Apparently, three teenagers who “thought there was no harm in trying them” fell ill after trying these magical bust-enhancing cookies.


Then, the Miss World brand CEO was “shocked” at the brand’s dilution here. Shocked! The organizers would like to make it more “classy.” Now, we can’t blame this (completely) on Ris Low, though I can see how the infamous interview video from RazorTV would frighten the brand CEO of the pageant. It frightened me too, but probably for different reasons.



Yet another disturbing headline caught my eye: “More Teens go under the knife”


My general reaction to these articles was: “When are you ladies going to wake the hell up?”


1) F-cup Cookies Of Gastrointestinal Doom


Firstly, these girls were silly to try them in the first place. Anything that contains chemicals potent enough to mess around with your hormones so much that your boobs grow exponentially  is probably not going to be good for your health. Very simple logic, no? But they’re fairly young, so let’s give them the benefit of the doubt.


It’s the rationale behind buying and consuming the cookies that is disturbing. If they really just wanted to eat the cookies because they “also taste quite good” they would have dropped by the nearest Famous Amos to get their cookie fix. At $56 bucks for a box of 30 cookies – that’s $1.80 a cookie, folks – people are not just buying the cookies because they are “tasty.” They are buying them in the hope that their boobs are going to grow magically. Men falling at feet optional. What the hell do you need considerably larger boobs for? Flotation device? Personal airbag in case you crash into someone on the MRT? Making the office bitch so insecure about her own mammary glands that she moves to Nepal to be an apprentice Sherpa and never shaves her legs again for the rest of her life?


2) Miss World pageant to get classy makeover


Leaving Ris out of it, the adjective “classy” is a particularly moronic oxymoron when applied to a beauty pageant, for crying out loud. I laughed out loud when I saw the headline for precisely this reason. I may have inadvertently frightened the old man next to me on the MRT, but I couldn’t help myself. According to our friends at Merriam-Webster, this is the definition of ‘classy‘.


How is parading women in swimsuits (‘tasteful’ or otherwise) and assessing their physical attributes a refined or dignified activity?


You’re basically objectifying them. Exactly what is dignified about that? If that’s not bad enough, you’re objectifying and comparing them to other women based on their physical attributes. Like racehorses. I don’t know about you, but I get pretty pissed off when people treat me like an animal. Bonus for them if they can play the piano, recite a poem in Swahili and avoid blurting out abjectly idiotic responses about the correlation between map ownership rates and geography skills of their countrymen. That is one talented racehorse – er, I mean, contestant.


Now, I believe there is nothing wrong with admiring the human physical form, absolutely nothing at all. When in peak physical condition, both men and women’s bodies are things of great beauty. However, pageants take away the thing that makes people (men and women alike) truly attractive, which is theirpersonality.


Reducing them to nothing more than slabs of flesh to be pored over with a clipboard is degrading enough in itself but doubly painful to see considering that the participants think it’s an honour to be objectified and given a sparkly diamond crown because their body parts are X% more proportionately pleasing and toned than the other contestants’.


3) More teens go under the knife


Yes, it’s nothing new. Neither are eating disorders and body image problems, so should we let those alone, too? Hey, come to think of it, child abuse, rape, and domestic violence aren’t new either, so we’ll let those slide. I’m not saying body image issues are equal in any way to these horrific acts. I’m just pointing out that “It’s nothing new,” is a piss-poor excuse.


I empathize with these teenagers, I really do. I suffered from an acute case of microscopic mammary glands when I was a teenager. Being a teenager is traumatic enough, what with hormones and falling deeply in and out of love every five nanoseconds. Worrying about how you look on top of all that just isn’t fair.


However, the knife is not a solution to self-esteem issues. So what if your nose isn’t perfectly straight? So what if your boobs are a size smaller than you would like? So what if your butt isn’t as perky as you prefer? (The solution to the last one is pretty simple, by the way. Start working out.)


The argument that one needs surgery, recognition by an international committee of clipboard-wielding buttock inspectors, or F-cup Cookies of Gastro-Intestinal Doom to be attractive to the opposite gender is ludicrous. It’s unadulterated stupidity, to be brutally honest.


So, you really want to be with a guy who is going out with you because of your body parts? Really? What happens when he meets a girl with a more impressive chest? Or when he finds someone whose face is 3.564% more symmetrical than yours? Dang, that was a waste of money on the nose job. Quick, find a new plastic surgeon! Preferably one who can crack your jawbone with a blunt, heavy surgical tool and reshape it so that it’s 6.742% more aesthetically pleasing than 99.478% of the women in Singapore.


Yeah, you can laugh at the decimal points, but the fact remains that once you start viewing physical attractiveness as the major  factor – or worse, the only factor – in your romantic hijinks, you are starting down a road that is going to end in tears and even larger self-esteem issues.


Now, I’m not saying that we should slob around, eat food that we know is bad and fattening, or consistently leave the house looking like zombies with a really bad hair day. Your personality and the other things that make you unique, such as your brain and your sense of humour, no matter how wonderful, are no excuse to avoid personal grooming. I’ll admit it – I’m vain! Most people are, to varying extents. A healthy amount of vanity ensures that we leave the house looking decent – at least decent enough so that we don’t cringe and hide under the seat on the MRT when we see a really cute guy on the train.


Healthy vanity ceases to be healthy and becomes a body image problem when you peg your self-worth to how you look – and solely to how you look. And before anyone starts whining about how difficult it is to find a great guy, and thus, you need an edge in the form of physical attractivenesses, blah blah blah…. allow me to remind you that a man who is only going out with you because of how you look is not a great guy. He’s probably not even a nice guy. You can bet a large amount of money that he uses his crotch to think, instead of his brain. You really want to be with the kind of guy who humps anything that breathes?


I know it’s difficult to find great men in Singapore. I KNOW. I’ve lived here all my life, and I am familiar with this fact, thank you very much.


I also know that I am more than the (perfect decimal point score) sum of my (body) parts.


This means that I damn well rock whether or not I am in prime physical condition. An inch more or less on my waist, bust or any other random body part does not in any way affect my worth as a human being, with unique personality traits and other groovy imperfections that make me… me. Like my nose. I love my nose. It has a bump in it, so it’s not perfectly straight, but it’s small and it suits my face. I wouldn’t change it if I was paid to, because then it wouldn’t be my  face any more.


Of course, “I rock because I’m more than the sum of my parts” is no excuse to be unfit and overweight. Being unfit and/or overweight not only lowers your self-esteem, but doesn’t do your body justice. I started running again recently after stopping for the most of last year thanks to a shoe-related knee accident (shin splints prior to this have made me paranoid about running injured), and I’m loving the feeling of steadily working towards my pre-hiatus fitness. I don’t run to be skinny so that men will adore various body parts that happen to belong to me. I run because I love running, and I like having a toned and healthy body. The post-run endorphins really hit the spot, too.


You can keep your boob jobs and your buttock inspection committees – er, beauty pageants. I prefer to exist as a happy, unique individual who is more than the sum of her parts, instead of a miserable racehorse/ slab of meat who is obsessed about her body parts.