Measuring Women's Worth by the Pound Gold Essay

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Measuring Women's Worth By The Pound

Gold. Diamonds. Tin cans. Even fertilizer. Most things are worth more when they weigh more. That is, of course, unless you are a woman. If you are a woman, the more you weigh the less value you possess. As such, the bathroom scale is an object that not only provides a numerical weight, but also tells a woman how much she is worth. The bathroom scale, therefore, reflects powerful cultural attitudes about women in contemporary American society.

In the late 1800s, the first coin operated scale arrived in America from Germany. People seemed fascinated by the idea that they could drop in a penny and see how much they weighed. While at the time, the fascination with weight was a novelty, it has since evolved into a nationwide obsession. Scales have evolved into a standard home appliance and the technology continues to become increasingly accurate. In fact, according to Deirdre Blanchfield "Today scales can measure not just weight but also body fat. These scales send a mild electrical current through the person's feet and up the rest of the body. The more quickly the signal travels through the body, the less fat. Software is also being developed that allows the scale to keep track of a person's weight loss or gain" (1). Clearly, the scale is a central part of our cultural existence.

The Significance of the Scale

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The typical bathroom scale looks harmless upon initial inspection. It is small, flat and simple, and it rests innocently on the bathroom floor in almost every home in America. But for many women, the bathroom scale is a source of pressure, fear, anxiety and turmoil. Whatever weight appears in that little window can determine a woman's mood for the day, and can have a significant effect on her self-esteem. If she has lost weight, she is liable to feel a bit of a 'high' and if she has gained weight, she is likely to feel depressed, frustrated and angry at herself. All of these emotions being attached to a simple little number on a simple little object make it clear that the bathroom scale weighs more than flesh and bone -- it measures heart and soul as well.

TOPIC: Essay on Measuring Women's Worth by the Pound Gold. Assignment

According to Bell Hooks, in Black Women: Shaping Feminist Theory, "a central tenet of modern feminist thought has been the assertion that 'all women are oppressed'" (5). The implication here is that in order to experience something universally, women must share a myriad of commonalities. Hooks also quotes Benjamin Barber's observation that "suffering is not necessarily a fixed and universal experience that can be measured by a single rod: it is related to situations, needs and aspirations" (5). While it may be true that suffering in general cannot be measured by "a single rod," suffering due to the pressure on women to be thin can indeed be measured on a solitary scale. Men's idealized version of what women should look like, compounded by the media's affirmation of it, has made the scale something that literally measures suffering for the vast majority of women in America.

The Effects of the Scale

In modern American society, a tremendous amount of pressure is placed on women to look like a supermodel and to rid themselves of every ounce of fat on their body. From the fashion magazines to the television to the silver screen, women are bombarded with messages that tell them that the thinner they are, the better they are (and hence, the fatter they are, less worthy they are). So it is no wonder that when women step on the scale, pressure and anxiety are boiling beneath the surface. How much they weigh essentially defines who they are, and so there is a great deal riding on the number that this little appliance reveals.

The idea of being fat for many women is such an abominable thought that they literally starve themselves to death just to avoid being what they view as repulsive. According to eating disorder specialist Sharlene Hesse-Biber the women she has studied have "engaged in calorie restriction, chronic dieting, binging and purging, and the use of diuretics or laxatives. Some also used extreme exercise to control their weight, becoming overly dependent on a rigid workout schedule to make them feel 'alive'" (82). These extreme actions are all rooted in the desire to "live up to the cultural mandate of thinness" (82).

This so-called cultural mandate has become a source of major profitability in the United States, leading one to wonder if all of this 'thin is in' propaganda is nothing more than a way for corporate big wigs to line their pockets. All one has to do is tune in to any commercial break on any channel to see the contradictory images that are being presented; first they are showing a close up of a big, juicy cheeseburger and thirty seconds later they are advertising the greatest new diet pill or exercise sensation.

These contradictions present a perpetual cycle of profitability as women rush out to purchase the greasy fast food that has tempted them, and then feel forced to invest in the latest diet trend to assuage their guilt. The fast food industries and the diet industries may seem to be on opposite sides, but in reality, they are both feeding each other's bank accounts. In the meantime, the American public, particularly girls and women, are being tortured and judged and confused to the point where they base all of their self-worth on how much they weigh. As Kristen Anderberg explains, "Women's Body Esteem is big business. Billions of dollars are spent on the 'weight loss industry' yearly. That industry is solely dependent on women's self-hatred. Women are reduced to size, told to be less, told to shed big chunks of themselves for acceptance" (54).

The idea that women being told to be as thin as possible is a way to reduce their actual physical presence on this earth is a core tenet of feminist thought on America's obsession with female thinness. In general, the media is the most powerful perpetuator of these ideas. According to Bloom et al. The media's "most powerful, secret message is to remind them of their subordinate status as women, still judged on the basis of their bodies. They must take up less space, fit into prescribed molds of standardized beauty, restrain their desires by disciplining their hungry bodies. No one wants a fat woman, someone out of 'control.' In these ways the ideal of thinness plays its role in efforts to negate feminist resistance through the absorption and degradation of its symbols" (12). Ultimately, it is the bathroom scale that provides the quantification for those symbols.

Of course, it is not just men who glorify the value of thinness in women; women have also been brainwashed into thinking that 'less is more.' Women are actually some of the diet industry's most vociferous mouthpieces. Not only do many women view the word "fat" as one of the worst insults they could possibly hurl at another woman, but they reinforce the connection between weight and self-worth every time they use "fat" as if it were a four letter word. Moreover, they virtually hand permission over to men to use their weight as a means of judgment and discipline. A wife making a statement to her husband (while catching sight of an overweight woman) such as "If I ever get that fat, divorce me" may seem harmless on the surface, but on a deeper level, declarations such as this ingrain these types of cultural values into both men and women. These values are then transferred to the children, and the cycle continues.

According to Emma Goldman, "the institution of marriage makes a parasite of a woman; an absolute dependent" (339). It is… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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