Regular readers and followers of The Rational Ram should already know that I am a fan of classic television. One of my favorite classic television series is the original Twilight Zone (1959-1964).
While I cannot agree upon an absolute number one favorite episode of Rod Serling’s Zone series, the sixth episode of the second season, “Eye of the Beholder” certainly makes my top ten list.
I count this episode amongst my favorites not because it is well-written and thought-provoking, per se, but because of the salient and timeless piece of wisdom it conveys.
To summarize the plot of this episode, a woman named “Janet Tyler” has undergone the eleventh and final medical procedure “to make her beautiful like everyone else” in a fictional “state” where “normal” and “beautiful” is having large, thick brows, sunken eyes, swollen and twisted lips, and a wrinkled nose with extremely large nostrils. Being ugly is looking like the actress who who played “Janet Tyler”, Donna Douglas (“Ellie May Clampett” of Beverly Hillbillies fame), who obviously was not ugly by any stretch of the imagination, especially back in 1960.
I will tie in why this episode of the Twilight Zone is germane to the point I’m going to proffer in this post, but now I should probably address the elephant in the room (so to speak). The photo I opened this post with…
The woman on the left is clearly overweight and the woman on the right is clearly emaciated, ostensibly due to anorexia nervosa.
The old saying that a picture is worth a thousand words is a bit of an understatement with this photo. This photo sends a powerful message that I cannot adequately put into words. However, when I saw this photo on a good friend’s Facebook timeline, it motivated me to write about what the photo brings into my mind.
The photo immediately made me think of the aforementioned Twilight Zone episode. It also made me think of the following quote…
The opposite of courage is not cowardice, but conformity.Earl Nightingale
Far too many women try to conform to an impossible standard of beauty.
Society, through the media, continuously spoon feeds men and women alike that you have to conform to a certain aesthetic in order to be considered desirable.
This cultural conditioning influences what men think is beautiful about women and programs women to go to extremes to fit that programmed aesthetic.
This paradigm leads to at least three outcomes that are not psychologically (or in many cases, physically) healthy for women:
1. Some women will become the woman on the right (anorexic).
2. Some women will give up and either “resign to their fate” and accept being overweight by advocating or joining the body positivity movement and/or become miserable in the skin they are in (like the woman on the left).
3. Will succeed in conforming on some level, which may be good or bad depending upon their attitude and how they treat those who can’t or won’t conform.
Let’s address the second outcome first…
Body positivity is a noble effort, but in my humble opinion, it is just a coping mechanism that ignores the fact that while being overweight does not necessarily equate to being unhealthy, in most cases being overweight IS unhealthy.
Body positivity, at least from my perspective concerning the movement, is nothing more than a means to shame the people who fat-shame. Not a productive objective for a movement that is supposed to address the well-being of its followers and empower them to be the best version of themselves for themselves.
Now let’s address the first outcome…
I don’t think I need to go into too much detail about why a woman should not develop an eating disorder, especially in a desperately vain attempt to conform to a contrived standard of female beauty. Methinks the dangers of starving oneself for any reason are self-evident.
As to the third outcome, I quote the closing narration from the previously mentioned Twilight Zone episode:
Now the questions that come to mind: “Where is this place and when is it?” “What kind of world where ugliness is the norm and beauty the deviation from that norm?” You want an answer? The answer is it doesn’t make any difference, because the old saying happens to be true. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, in this year or a hundred years hence. On this planet or wherever there is human life – perhaps out amongst the stars – beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
I add to Serling’s poignant closing narrative by saying that happiness comes from within.
When you are happy with yourself and you work on being the best version of yourself, for yourself, external validation from others becomes uselessly superfluous.
-The Rational Ram