Want to see your body clearly? It might be a good idea to give the bathroom mirror a break because there’s a pile of research stretching back to the 1970s that suggests most women aren’t assessing their bodies fairly or accurately. One research study in the early 90s concluded that most women overestimate the size of their waists, hips, thighs and cheeks by about 25 per cent.
Why are women so susceptible to this peculiar form of visual impairment surrounding their own bodies? It’s not immediately clear. But some argue it may be the natural result of a lifetime’s worth of comments from family members (I’m still recovering from my father’s belief that I’m ‘built like him’, i.e., a tank), friends, strangers, and a ‘bikini body’ obsessed media culture. Put it all together and it’s not surprising that most women feel like they’re looking into a Funhouse Mirror when they step out of the shower.
How do you help women see their bodies realistically, perhaps for the very first time in their adult lives? One new website is taking a novel approach to tackling the problem: they’re showing women how good they look by posting pictures of other women’s bodies. It’s a compare and contrast approach that may help women see how good they look after all.
The website is called My Body Gallery (via jezebel.com) and its mandate is to “build a collection of photos that will help more women see themselves more clearly.” In order to do so, it allows users to search the database for pictures of women who are of the same proportions. For example, if you’re 5’7 and 155lbs, you can search for similarly sized women and see what that looks like minus the self-hatred. (The website is also looking for people to post anonymous pictures of themselves to build the database up.)
I plugged my coordinates in and was pleasantly surprised. For one, I didn’t look anything like my father in a bathing suit.