Jes Baker is one of our fave body image bloggers. Her website ‘The Militant Baker’ often posts critiques and thought provoking prose on how society, the media and advertising have done a wonderful job of making us all feel unworthy and horrible in our bodies. That goes for men too, because the pressure on us to look good and feel “beautiful” seems to outweigh the media’s importance for nurturing honorable qualities.
That’s why bloggers like Jes are so great and clearly very popular, because she is willing to challenge the status quo. If you are thinking her name or face is kinda familiar, that’s because you probably saw the awesome Abercrombie & Fitch ad she controversially re-created, after the CEO Mike Jefferies made a comment stating they wouldn’t make clothes in plus size because they only sell to the “cool kids”. Well turns out those cool kids don’t like un-cool brands and their sales have been rapidly declining. Figures.
Jes is also the creator of the Body Love Conference which is held in Arizona, where she resides. After the most recent conference, Jes was asked to give a TEDx Talk and spoke about body image and how we can revolutionize the way we think of ourselves.
Her overarching theme and message was that true body confidence comes from changing our world, not our bodies. It that’s true, we need to examine our world a little closer and find out where the problem stems from, which she so eloquently did in her video below.
Jes cites a global statistic which says only 4% of women are willing to call themselves beautiful, and for men (calling themselves handsome) it is pretty similar. If that’s true, then what is happening with the other 96% of us, and where did all our confidence go?
“The way we view our bodies determines the way we participate in the world,” she says. So if 96% of the world’s population is hindered from doing social good because of poor body image, then we have an even bigger problem than we think. Yikes!
She goes on to cite even more statistics which show a steadily declining view of our physical bodies from the age of 10, where 81% of kids surveyed said they were afraid of getting fat, all the way to adulthood where 91% of women are unhappy with their bodies and resort to dieting.
The media plays a huge part. Only 5% of people naturally possess the body type portrayed in American media, which means 95% of audiences are left without accurate and diverse representations.
Having low self-esteem can affect us in a number of ways. From relationships, to jobs, and even something as extreme as an eating disorder or suicide. These are all consequences of body image. It’s crazy to think that the media and advertising has been given such a powerful hold over our self-image. It needs to be reversed, which is why bloggers like Jes are so popular: they say the opposite of what we see in the media.
“As a fat person in society, I am put into boxes. I’m a cultural deviant, I’m a freak of physical nature, I’m an embarrassment to society, when they moan and groan about the obesity crisis in America, they’re talking about me. I’m the reason you diet, I’m the reason you go to the gym, I’m your ‘fitspiration’ because you do not want to end up like me,” she says.
“I was unwillingly put into these boxes, but because I was, I had to make a black and white decision: will I hate my body or will I love it?”
Having made the decision to love who she was and share her journey publicly online, Jes says she has touched millions of people’s lives, people who are crying out for a role model and representation to tell them who they are is ok.
After talking about why body love is important to ourselves and to the world, she gives the audience ten tools to help us commit to a change.
“Happiness is not a number on a scale, it is a state of mind where we say ‘I’m ok just the way I am.’ ”
Jes says body hatred is a learned concept, and if it is something that was taught to us at some point, then we can un-learn it, and immerse ourselves in something positive instead.
A quick look back into recent history gives us a glimpse as to where the power of consumerism earned it’s hold over our identities. After WWII when women went back to their traditional roles of running the household, marketers saw this as a prime opportunity to cash in and sell goods. Beauty and age were the two things that they were able to capitalize on by playing on women’s self-esteems.
“They created this perfect woman that does not exist and said ‘You should be this’ and we bought it, because to this day [those industries] make billions of dollars.”
The notion that overweight or fat women talking about body image means promoting obesity (a common argument used) is something Jes touches on by mentioning a book called ‘Healthy at every size’.
“If skinny people can be healthy and fat people can be healthy, and if skinny people can be unhealthy and fat people can be unhealthy, it takes weight out of the equation.” The concept of treating our bodies well because we love them, as opposed to wanting to change them, is a really powerful piece of advice.
She brings up mental illness saying it is important to break down stigma. Even though statistics say one in four people will experience mental illness, we all have brains and knowing we have the power to rewire our neurological pathways and teach ourselves positive thoughts about body image was a great point.
And our favorite piece of advice? “We need to diversify our media and add in images of reality. So that we don’t think there’s one standard of beauty.”
Can we get an ‘Amen’? Take a few minutes out of your day to watch Jes’ full TEDx Talk below, we promise you won’t regret it.