The ‘ideal’ body doesn’t exist

By Sara Stammer

When sending out a survey about body image, I must admit I was skeptical. I not only feared that no one would answer it, but I feared it would not be taken seriously. Contrary to expectations, the survey was a complete success and in reality, eye opening. Faced with questions pertaining to the “ideal” body image and the health of individuals to reach that ideal, participants in the survey were not shy with their answers. Though the majority chose a blue eyed, white, brunette (male, female, transgender, other), a respectable amount of people chose the “other” options declaring there to be “NO IDEAL!” adding that “variety is good.” Scouring the internet for a concrete answer to the question “What aspect of another person do you find most attracts you to them?” phrases such as “physical attraction” appear almost as common as money, financial security or material objects.
This is quite startling, but there is hope, material possessions came up with zero votes in the survey. Even when dealing with all the physical options (eye color, hair color, body type) combined, personality came out on top with a remarkable 67 percent. Why then, does 31 percent of the people surveyed use 10 or more products in a given day, the clear majority in the survey?
Around 10 percent of Americans and Europeans develop cosmetic allergies, according to the Aukland Allergy Clinic reports. From the reports gathered from our survey, 34 percent of participants have had “any sort of allergic reaction to one” or more of the products they use.
Only a few instances required hospitalization. In terms of labels, 79 percent of people surveyed read the labels for food products before they consume them sometimes, often, or always. When asked the same question about the labels of cosmetic products, a meager 49 percent read labels sometimes, often or always. This means the majority of people have no idea what they are actually exposing themselves too. We care a great deal about what we are putting in our bodies, but it should be equally important what we are putting on them. If given the proper information, 59 percent of people surveyed would seek healthier alternatives to the products they are using, and another 19 percent would seek healthier alternatives if the price is right. Only 8 percent of the people surveyed would stay with their current products feeling that nothing bad has happened so there is no need for change.
In 2007 alone, the U.S. spent $50 billion on cosmetics (according The Penguin Atlas of Women in the World by Joni Seager) which is not unbelievable considering 43 percent of people surveyed spend between $15-$30 a month on products, 24 percent spend between $31-$45, and 11 percent spent between $46-$60. In a given year, 11 percent of people surveyed could be spending an upwards of $720.00 on cosmetics and other body products alone. Making minimum wage in New Jersey would require a person to work 99.31 hours to make $720.00.
If you take anything out of this article, consider removing image from body image and take a step back from the harmful chemicals in cosmetics and other products. Take a healthy approach to living. Want ideas how? Like “Body Image on the College Campus” on Facebook — facebook.com/BodyImageOnTheCollegeCampus or pick up Kim Erickson’s book Drop Dead Gorgeous and don’t forget to stop by the Feminist Forum on April 19 to see Body Image on the College Campus’s table.