Ara is a 15-year-old from Edmonds, WA. She enjoys blogging, spending time with her family and hopes to somehow incorporate her passion of writing into what she does in the future.
Teenager Cynthia de la Vega was thrilled when she found out that she would be representing her country, Mexico, at the 2011 Miss World pageant. Nineteen year old De la Vega proudly accepted the crown at the Nuestra Belleza Mundo Mexico pageant last September. Then, after a weight gain of six pounds, de la Vega‘s crown was taken and she was told that she could no longer represent her country in the pageant.
Although some people believe that Cynthia de la Vega’s weight gain shows lack of discipline and dedication to the pageant on her part, most agree that it was completely unnecessary for the pageant’s organizers to have to have taken such drastic measures over such a miniscule, and for the most part insignificant, issue. “It was a lack of dedication and discipline, she did not comply with the recommendations and goals agreed upon for her preparation,” the pageant organizers claim. But, de la Vega argues that the weight gain was strictly due to the fact that she was under large amounts of stress and pressure while preparing for the Miss World pageant.
It’s a well known fact that the Miss World pageant is supposed to be compiled of the world’s most beautiful women, but why does a certain shape, or number on the scale, have to determine who is considered “beautiful” and therefore allowed to participate in this pageant? Also, it seems absurd that a six pound weight gain should completely alter a girls’ ability to participate; de la Vega was at a weight that was considered very healthy even AFTER the weight gain. In addition, you also have to look at how an issue like this can send mixed messages to teenagers—We are told to respect our bodies and try to keep them as healthy as possible, yet we receive a completely different message when we see something in the news or media about body image, such as what happened to de la Vega.
Talking to teens about pressure from the media:
The media has a huge impact on how we see the world, on our development, opinions, values, and knowledge. So it is scary to think that the media often promotes underweight females as being the most attractive. The average model today is 25% smaller than the average female. Sometimes it is hard not to see a thin girl in the media and not begin to feel as though thin equals attractive; but, something as simple as a reminder to your teenager that the size of women in the media is often unhealthy and unrealistic, and that simply being healthy is more important above all else, can help a teenager look at the topic in a rational way, rather than just assuming that what the media is portraying must be the definition of beauty.
So all of this makes us question, why would girls subject themselves in the first place to such ridicule just to be given a crown and a silly title? Other than the obvious answer of just winning or being “accepted” or “liked”, there are quite a few contributing factors. The most significant factor is definitely how we view ourselves and how secure we are with ourselves as individuals; we live in a society where it seems as though there is no question as to whether we should strive to look the way that people tell us to. Therefore, a lot of the time, when teenagers face ridicule and insults telling us that we should be a certain size, such as de la Vega did, we wrongly consider it our fault that we haven’t lived up to a certain standard, rather than just evaluating what’s going on and saying “Hey, not all girls are meant to be the same size or built the same way, so as long as I’m happy and healthy, who cares about what the media says I’m ‘supposed to look like’ or what other people think?”
Overall, it’s important that you talk with your teenager about body image and how the media plays a big part in it, as it is a subject that they are reminded of and bombarded by on a daily basis. By simply speaking to your teen about the topic and reminding them that what they see in the media isn’t necessarily healthy or the “definition” of beauty, you help them to develop a positive, healthy outlook on their own bodies.
Photo credit: Michelle Sidles from Flickr
If you liked this article get more Radical Parenting in our new book: Do I Get My Allowance Before or After I’m Grounded?