December 27, 2011

The Real Body Project: Modern Eugenics?

Last week in my post a reader, Lucy, left a comment that started my mind racing:

I immediately thought of Hitler, the Nazi who exterminated six million Jews, due to the belief of Darwinism and the fear that the inferior races will contaminating the Aryan gene pool. In a way, this is what the beauty ads and concepts have done to us. Slowly making us feel unworthy as if , if we are not tall, thin with flat belly, we are the inferior who will contaminate the world.

A follow up comment brought up this:

Eugenics are at work here in a different way and it is something we don’t even know we’re doing.


These ladies are onto something. Eugenics is considered to be a bio-social movement, or even an applied science that is aimed at improving the genetic composition of a population. Eugenics has been in action at various points throughout history, the most famous of which was during the Holocaust, but it is still actively used throughout the world. Segregation, forced sterilization, and genetic testing to name just a few techniques.

So how does the digital alteration of the human body fall into being a type of eugenics? It isn’t at work in such a defined way as it has been throughout history, as it doesn’t alter the gene pool, but I would argue that there are grave physical and mental repercussions from the constant bombardment of an illusionary view of the human body. Aren’t these images altered because we aren’t good enough as human specimens?

A couple of weeks ago H&M publicly owned up to Photoshopping models heads onto a digitally created body because they have:

“a body that can display clothes made for humans better than humans can”.

Doesn’t that speak to the idea that we aren’t good enough? These ads idealize a certain body type, size, shape, and often skin tone. If we don’t fit that bill we get the message that we aren’t right and that in order to be good enough we should buy these clothes, follow these crazy diets, workouts, and go under the knife. These markets prey on the fact that as long as they can create an ideal that we can never live up to people will buy into whatever it is they are selling.

Lives are filled with the relentless pursuit of perfection, resulting in mental anguish, physical exhaustion, the perpetuation of eating disorders, and at times even death. The methods of eugenics could even be at play here.  Segregation because we are never enough to be worthy of shining bright or sterilization through unhealthy bodies be it too fat or too thin because our bodies are too abused to easily have children. A slow and silent eugenics.

I argue that as long as there is a market these images are going to be here and they aren’t going to get any better. What to do? We can create a force that is louder and brighter. We can be heard in our truth.  In our reality!

The Real Body Project as it is in its infancy serves to empower women and men to look at themselves, at their bodies at a deeper level and see that they are more than their exterior and discover what lies within. True beauty and strength can’t be seen in the images we are bombarded with and isn’t found in a perfectly flat stomach, massive biceps or impossibly small waist. Beauty is found in our truth.

Do you want to be a part of this? Send a picture of your belly with your hands in a heart mudra.

Show your self-love on the outside, whatever it is you look like and embrace your human essence. Tell the story that your body would if it could talk. How have you treated it over the years? How can you thank your body and your belly? How has your view of your body and yourself evolved? Trials, triumphs, please share! Indicate if you are comfortable with your photo and information being used publicly.

All submissions should be sent to hannah.siegle[at]gmail.com

Photo Credits: jbwid.com, Hannah Siegle

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