Seems we can't blame the media for making women seek super-svelte bodies. Recent scientific studies paint a painful picture of aggressiveness by women towards 'rivals.' In his article, "A Cold War Fought by Women", John Tierney cites experiments that point towards 'mean girl' behavior by college women. Women compare themselves to rivals, and are particularly likely to bully someone who looks likely to win a game of sexual competition. Very retro notion, but one theory is that in our modern society women are casting a wide marriage net - hence, more rivals! Check it out in the NYT: 11/19/2013, Page D2.
A favorite part of my community tv show for women is at the end, when I ask Guests what advice they would give to their 25 & 40 year-old selves. The half-hour show, Mid LIFE Matters (www.wpaa.tv - Video on Demand) is designed for accomplished women to share their stories.
Guests are often wistful, sometimes strident -- 'Be Brave' - 'You are Beautiful' - 'One foot in front of the other' - 'Don't Flinch' - 'Don't let anything stand in your way' - 'Everything Changes'.
Anna Fels' remarkable book, Necessary Dreams: Ambition in Women's Changing Lives paints a sobering picture of the cultural obstacles for women before they reach midlife. My advice is to make this book required reading for educators, parents and mentors. Maybe create a core curriculum course for high school girls about how critical it is to develop mastery and receive recognition over a lifetime.
Marriage and motherhood, in Anna's book, are shown to be powerful forces that often contribute to women giving up on the dreams of their younger selves. I think today girls are dreaming bigger, but the realities of the workplace and the homefront are still daunting.