In a present governed by images, the amount of photos we take every day with cell phones, those we see on social networks, those we upload, those that reach the chats, also end up turning us into images: we are a profile of Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Tinder, Bumble … We are a selfie that can like, swipe, we are an image enjoying a Sunday subject to the approval of a few or millions, we are a photo that someone took without us realizing, we are a video on a cell phone that sees only a friend or can become viral from one second to another. We are an account like any other or we are a certified account and that says so much about how things are measured today.
And capitalism has exploited the emotional aspect of our need for approval. Gyms, sportswear, supplements, paraphernalia around wellness in a present in which you have to look and feel good are not in fashion for nothing; and in times dominated by consumption, the media and social networks form the points that unite the perfect circle. How much we have constructed our idea of well-being from the capitalist point of view, from the point of view of consumption, how much we buy this and that – the new luxury is wellness – to see ourselves or feel good. And, above all, what does it mean to see ourselves or feel good today?
A few years ago the idea of well-being was different, not better, not worse, but different. Slimness was pursued, diets and aerobic routines had to be followed if not with colorful leggings, but now you have to be fit. The market has created an image that we must pursue so linked to self-love. Not long ago a video of actress Barbara de Regil became viral in which she criticizes women who take several vodkas one night and the next day eat fried tacos (which they crave), and shares the advice she gives a girl to love herself:
“You have to eat healthy, you have to exercise, you have to put on sunscreen, you have to take vitamins, that’s all self-respect.
But what idea do we have of self-love, how intricate is it to consumption, to buying, to transnational corporations, to buying, for example, a bottle of vitamins or expensive leggings?
- And what do we mean by “healthy food”?
- Does healthy eating mean being aware of the environment and our social environment?
- Are we empathic with the soulless and unethical animal consumption industry?
- How does our relationship with animals change from childhood to adulthood,
- how do we move from reading children’s books in which animals talk to us and move us to adult life in which we buy cookery books to learn how to cook them rich?
- Do our wellness practices imply that we ask ourselves how we reduce our carbon footprint on the planet?
- Do we think of the environmental emergency in which we live by seeking to eat healthily?
- And do we think of ourselves in these practices as part of a society or is it once again an individualistic capitalism that focuses solely on personal well-being?
On the other hand, how closely is fitness linked to heteropatharchy, how much do we seek “to be well” to please a male, to please someone else? I’m going to fly the ball into the neighbor’s garden, but I think he’ll give it back to me: this is one of the reasons why the relationship between femininism and capitalism is always tense, opposite, and it makes so much sense to combat the dictates of oppression in this idea of well-being, beauty and self-esteem.
And since we’re here, not for nothing, certainly, rightly, the actresses and women in the film industry in Mexico and Argentina have had such powerful voices in this aspect, in an environment in which that: the physical aspect, the hegemonic idea of beauty, of youth, the objectification of the bodies and the number of followers they have can determine their careers and the treatment they receive.
So what’s the idea we have of self-esteem? I am inclined to think that the idea of self-love is in favor of capitalism, in favor of a few companies, in favor of a few wallets, but not in favor of the collective and, therefore, neither, in contradiction, is it in favor of welfare. Yes, it sexualises us. And how important it is to question our idea of the desirable, of love and self-love as Tamara Tenenbaum (Buenos Aires, 1989) does in her lucid and very inspiring book The End of Love, in these times of images that come and go swiftly: “The legend of the beauty of Helen of Troy is several thousand years old, but the women of the eighth century before Christ only annotated themselves of its beauty through linguistic formulas, they did not see it.
The practice of comparing our bodies every day with those of other real or imaginary women is neither ancestral nor timeless: it is linked to a particular historical and technological moment”. How interesting to think of it in contrast to a beauty constructed of words so different from the present in which we are comparable images with others, almost products to compare, to choose.
[box type=”info” align=”” class=”” width=””]I also wonder how much the consumer society pushes us to seek even more voraciously the approval of others, how far we are from engaging in a conversation with the one next to us, how much our social context ignores, how much our political moment pales.
It seems to me that there is a space of resistance and it is in the opposite direction to capitalism. Perhaps social networks without likes would change the discourse. Maybe not spending so much time on phones and screens would help. I really like to run two or three times a week, and now I question where I do it from, why I do it.
And what is healthy eating? How many of the things we consume do we buy with a false promise of individual well-being? Perhaps giving importance to friendships, to networks of support among women will confront the patriarchal axis (since much of that competition between the images we have become originates in the competition for affections). Engaging in more conversations among ourselves and having fewer virtual interactions is politically relevant. Perhaps small gestures that end up changing the big map. Stop drinking water in plastic bottles or jugs, for example.
Ask ourselves what we mean by healthy food. Ask ourselves if well-being requires so many products, courses and expenses. Ask ourselves why our well-being does not include environmental well-being. And how can we address this issue in public policy in a country with high rates of obesity, where diabetes is the second leading cause of death? Can we rethink the individualistic quest for collective well-being?
I spoke on this subject with a group of friends, whom I thank for allowing me to see other perspectives, and one of them said something about possible solutions: “To rebuild the social fabric we need to reconnect as human beings beyond social networks and consumerism. And I think this phrase is a mirror in which we should look at ourselves a little more than at ourselves.