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“Size 6: The Western Women’s Harem” by Fatema Mernissi portrays one woman’s difficulty in her efforts to purchase a skirt in an American department store. As the protagonist is told that her hips are too large to fit into a size 6 and that there are no clothing items in the store that will fit her, the author delves into the essence of a prevalent standard placed on the woman. The author expresses an understandable concern in respect to the critical and uncompromising preconceived notions of a woman’s size in America. In our country today, there is an extremely harsh stereotype associated with the weight of women. Discrimination against heavier women is well documented and steadily increasing at a rapid pace. Studies have confirmed that women who try to achieve the cultural ideals of beauty in America are more susceptible to developing eating disorders.
We live in a world of stereotypes, judgments, and assumptions. Although we may not have taken part in creating the prevalent social attitude toward the bodies of women in America, we are still influenced by it. Conscious acknowledgement of harmful stereotypes such as judgments based on appearance, beauty, and size is the key to shifts in attitudes and actions. There is no denying that influential beauty stereotypes exist; whether they originate from a Western specification or a more deeply rooted cultural expectation, they fill the pages of magazines, television programs, and retail stores.
More importantly, sociocultural standards of feminine beauty fill the hearts and minds of women, both young and old, all across our country. The media bombard women with images of what is considered to be the “ideal body.” These standards of beauty are virtually unachievable for most women. B...

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...o either squeeze ourselves into molds that don't fit, hating ourselves all the while, or we just give up entirely. (42)
In closing, the pressure many women in the United States feel to measure up to a certain social and cultural ideal of beauty can lead not only to the development of poor body images but to their having to withstand the unforgiving stereotypes associated with their weight, discrimination, and the impacts of conforming to these societal standards, which lead to eating disorders. Many foundations, nonetheless, are working toward changing the ways both girls and women think and talk about beauty and body image. We can be optimistic that the extensive research studies focused in this area will ultimately be able to help women overcome destructive stereotypes and truly embrace healthy, genuine, and realistic ways of being beautiful.
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