How Does Body Image Influence Mental Health: Essay

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Throughout history, women have dealt with body image in a sense of violence trying to be the perfect figure that society portrays to be the “ideal woman”. Women who deal with serious conditions like breast cancer develop a negative perspective toward their body image due to the drawbacks of chemotherapy. This can be a form of violence for themselves trying to keep up their image and fight a deadly condition. Even within different cultures, women tend to have issues with their body image trying to fight the “ideal woman” society romanticizes while not going against their own culture.

Women who face a life-threatening disease can affect them physically and emotionally. While fighting breast cancer women face different issues during treatment to cure cancer. Body image has a large impact on their life. Overall women generally tend to be concerned with their appearance, weight, and body.

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According to the article “Body Image Issues in Women with breast cancer” by Rebecca Helms, it stated that in 1987 Psychological Aspects of Breast Cancer found patients demonstrate self-depreciation, inadequate body image, and weight gain. Helms explained how weight changes in women with cancer. One condition that is very rare for women to come in contact with is cachexia, which is a “wasting” disorder that causes extreme weight loss and muscle wasting and can include loss of body fat despite maintaining a normal diet. Since it is a rare condition majority of the women who face breast cancer gain weight, at least 80% of the women do. For women gaining weight can hurt their self-esteem and undesirable rationales concerns. For example, they hurt quality of life, weight-related disorders, and breast cancer risk may increase.

Different types of treatments result in women who are fighting breast cancer gaining weight. One of them is adjuvant chemotherapy increases fat accumulation distributed in fat. Then there is hormone therapy which denies estrogen cells and results in weight gain. According to research, at least 1.3 women gain at least 10 pounds during the early stage of cancer. Due to adjuvant chemotherapy as a result sarcopenic obesity can occur which is “weight gain without concurrent gains in lean body mass”. During treatment, researchers noted that women who take their treatment with unrestrained and restrained diets gained weight. Therefore women with unrestrained diets used food as a coping mechanism for psychological distress.

Another effect that women with breast cancer are the loss or mutilation of the breast and hair can have negative psychosocial consequences. Hair can be very symbolic for a woman and has value in many cultures. It can affect them through their religious affiliation, beauty, gender, maturity, and age. For many women losing their hair and breasts can associated with a loss of sexuality, attractiveness, and individuality. Hair loss in a woman is a short-term effect, a lot of them use accessories to cope with baldness or take pride in having no hair as a symbol of fighting breast cancer. Now physical changes for example after breast surgery, can make women less comfortable with themselves. It can change the hormone level which may affect the patient's sexual interest or response. As a result of women adjusting to their body will in treatment or after surgery for breast cancer they start to invest a lot of money into their appearance. Investment in body image can be a factor in emotional disturbance. Women pay a lot of attention to physical looks post-treatment and they have higher mental health difficulty than the ones that do not. Younger women cared more than older women. However, older women take longer to adapt to their bodies after the surgery.

One way that women who have cancer invest in their looks is through tattoos. After losing hair they also lose their eyebrows. After breast surgery, they also lose their areola. There are plenty of artists that help survivors of cancer fulfill that part they are missing. One of the most well-known artists Piret Aava created an empire dedicated to microblading eyebrows. Which is a semi-tattoo by disposing of pigment just beneath the outer layers of the skin. She then was inspired by tattoo artist Amazink’s 3D semi-permanent tattoos mimicking the areola for survivors of breast cancer. During breast reconstruction, women usually have the option to not include the areola or nipple. Nipple reconstruction is one option for survivors to keep a similar feel of the breast. The results never come out the same or still look a little different. Tattoo artist Aava believes that tattooing the areola is the most natural option to have a similar effect on the reconstruction of the breast. She learned to recreate the areola through several courses and lots of practice. She mentioned that the three-dimensional areola is very realistic and that to distinguish that it is a flat image you have to come up close. She had shared her artistry on her main account through Instagram where she promotes her eyebrow microblading and flag for “nudity”. She was not offended but was complimented on how realistic her artwork looked. Aava stated that she wanted “To impact someone’s life so positively and make them feel better about themselves, it’s the best feeling”. Her job is very important because it gives back that confidence that women lack when they go through traumatic diseases like this that also affect their body image.

Overall women who have breast cancer face a lot of body image issues due to their condition due to multiple treatments. The result of the treatments is loss of hair for a temporary time and the reduction of breasts to remove the cancer or minimize the cancer. They have a lot of drawbacks after surgery. They tend to lose their identity themselves, women also can lose sexual interest after surgery which can lead to unhealthy mental dysfunctions as a form of violence. One way to cope with the lack of confidence in themselves is by investing in their looks by tattooing parts they lost during the journey.

Women of different ethnicities and cultures can also be exposed to issues with their body image. This can be a form of violence for them because it can interfere with who they are and their culture. Relating the issue with women who are dealing with body image due to breast cancer. Women of different cultures specifically American American women, have this pressure to compete with society's standards of the “ideal woman”.

In the article “Beauty and body image among African American college women” by Gemini Award, the research targets women of color about body image issues from hair, body, and complexion. Black women’s bodies and beauty have been devalued and rejected by mainstream culture in the United States. Society has labeled “fair skin tone to be the ideal woman”. Throughout history, American Americans have been given labels like “ugly, undesirable, and less feminine”. These words can be very hurtful and bring women of color's confidence down. In the article, they composed research to discuss issues related to both evaluation and investment in aspects of the skin and hair. Within the research, they discovered that women of color are more likely to engage in skin bleaching, excessive hair care, and financial debt due to the maintenance of their image. Women of color would rather spend most of their money on hair or they would have to overcome this social cost if they keep their appearance natural. Women of color keeping their appearance natural is a form of discrimination and violence. Also a form of racism and colorism, which is a system where people prefer lighter complexions.

During the research the first component of the research was hair. They mention how hair has a big impact on the black women community. One of the participants mentioned how when she has her hair right or straight not textured she has a high level of confidence. The women in the research mention how they are willing to sacrifice a lot of hair which is time and money. They gave scenarios of how women would rather pay thousands of dollars to get their hair done and not have money for food. Another participant mentioned how she had to take out a loan to get it done before school started. Women of color correlate to an argument discussed in Carroll's article by Iris Marion how the positive valuation of identity-based differences, and how the recognition and accommodation of the needs of oppressed groups enhance justice. Marison was referring to women of race and class coming together to support each other in a political aspect. Comparing it to the research black women seem to understand the struggles of protecting their hair or changing their hair. But other races that are not black seem to question it. Therefore the theme of hair continued with society being ignorant towards black women's hair as a form of microaggression. Black women are always a conversation started due to their hair because people question the different styles they have. People also continue to assume their talents due to the hairstyle they have. One of the girls in the research mentioned how she was asked if she could sing or do poetry because her hair was left natural with curly hair. Their hair can be an expression of individual style, it can also be used as a way of stereotyping Black women into different roles. From this part of the research, women are shown to deal with sacrifice and racial microaggression due to their hair. But depending on the individual women can also take pride in their hair. They used the term versatility, to have different options of hair styles and have the opportunity that other people do not have to change their hair.

The second aspect of the research was their complexion. This is a very important role that takes part in body image and beauty because it introduces validation or invalidation to the environment they are in. Black women can get overwhelmed by the preference society has for light skin that persists and deeply affects the way that they think about themselves and others. This brings in the term colorism which was present in both Black and White communities. It also affected different areas of their lives because of color consciousness within families, mate selection, and desire for lighter-skinned children, and it attracted the ability to achieve the discussion of issues related to skin color preference.

The third part of the research was their body. Their body was described in the subteams as thick, toned, and curvy. The girls in the research explained how attending a primarily white school they were influenced to be skinny and fit. Women were impacted by the way white bodies are formed but when they went back home they were the ones to stand out because they did not fit in with the rest of the family. They had to overcome this violence of satisfying the ideal body at school or what society defined as the “ideal woman” and what their family thought of them. Usually the gaol in a black community the body should be fit and thicker in certain parts to look attractive. They also described their body to be Hypersexualization in ways in which Black women feel that they are sexualized, regardless of their intentions, because of the way others perceive their bodies. Black women have a more curvy figure and the stereotype against them is that they want to have sex.

In the final part of the research the,y questioned the participants about how they perceived body image and beauty. One of the popular responses was that in Balck families they usually perceive beauty ideas through family. The women reported that their family's concern for appearance was directly related to how important appearance is in terms of achievement. Another aspect of how they perceived beauty was through media. They identified how in commercials they represent women of color which is not always realistic. They promote black women in a way that their complexion is lighter than the ideal black woman. Or their hair is never natural like most of the women in the black community. They also mentioned how black women in music videos are also seen as creating a particular standard of beauty for Black women. These women in the music videos make black women more self-conscious of their bodies for them to perceive something that they might internalize like interpersonal relationships towards men in the music video. Over all the research brought important key points on how black women deal with body image and beauty.

Throughout the research of Gemine, they covered the topics of body image and beauty. How women perceive it can be a form of violence due to all the struggles they go through to present themselves in a way that others are willing to accept them. For example, Kimberle Crenshaw stated that structural intersectionality is a form of how women of color do not share the same experiences as other people. Women of color are oppressed by society by their judgment towards black women. Therefore the article went in depth about how women of color struggle with body image and beauty due mostly society's standards.

The way women deal with body image and beauty can be very toxic for them as an individual. They feel like they are entitled to look a certain way because of how society portrays the ideal of what a woman should look. But in general, women already care about their appearance. Women who are facing long-term issues like breast cancer are also affected by the mentality of keeping up with their appearance. The sense of violence in trying to fight both cancer and keep up with their appearance to feel comfortable with themselves and not be an outcast. They struggled to spend lots of money to get microblading on their eyebrows or the tattoo of the areola. Same as women of color, they keep up their appearance to be validated by others. They perceive their body image and beauty through media and family. Spending lots of money to maintain their hair and look presentable for others. Overall the women face struggles and issues with body image and beauty because of how society pressures women to look a certain way.

Work Cited

    1. Awad, Germine H., et al. “Beauty and Body Image Concerns Among African American College Women.” Journal of Black Psychology, vol. 41, no. 6, Dec. 2015, pp. 540–564, doi:10.1177/0095798414550864.
    2. Crenshaw, Kimberle. Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, identity politics, and Violence against women of color, Los Angeles, Stanford Law review, 2012
    3. DiCenso, Dina, and Erica Fischer-Cartlidge. 'Nipple-areola tattoos: making the right referral.' Oncology Nursing Forum, Nov. 2015, p. 661. Gale OneFile: Health and Medicine, https://link-gale-com.libproxy.csun.edu/apps/doc/A462899391/HRCA?u=csunorthridge&sid=HRCA&xid=7c711550. Accessed 14 Dec. 2019.
    4. Helms, RebeccaL., et al. “Body Image Issues in Women with Breast Cancer.” Psychology, Health & Medicine, vol. 13, no. 3, May 2008, pp. 313–325. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1080/13548500701405509.
    5. Tamar W. Carroll, 'Intersectionality and Identity Politics: Cross-Identity Coalitions for Progressive Social Change,' Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 42, no. 3 (Spring 2017): 600-607.

 

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