Carol Alt is a super model who recently agreed to pose nude for Playboy magazine at age 47. Part of her reasoning for the shoot is to show that it is possible to look good when you are her age, if you want to work at it.
I read a letter to the editor of the Ottawa Citizen which was from a 49 year old woman whose husband wants to buy that edition of Playboy! She had a number of points to her letter but those that jumped out at me were:
a. the reasons why the writer could not look like Carol Alt were that she can’t afford a personal trainer, she doesn’t have the willpower to eat raw food and she doesn’t want to have cosmetic surgery;
b. the fact that this is somehow sending a negative message to kids today about their self-image; and
c. why aren’t there more pictures of “real” women with flab, cellulite and stretch marks.
Where to begin?
Our society has reached a point where excellence is attacked and mediocrity celebrated … how strange is that? Our kids are not allowed to “fail” any more. They are congratulated for “taking part” and they get medals for “showing up”. Their parents apply for jobs for them … AND complain to the hiring company when little Johnny doesn’t get the job! Their parents go to the University to straighten out their professors, so they can understand that “Sally” is really smart and they should be getting better grades.
The Ottawa Citizen letter writer thinks Carol Alt showing her body in a magazine is a bad image for women, not because of the moral issue but because she doesn’t represent “real” women. My view is that she is absolutely a positive role model who is merely showing what is possible. Maybe nobody is going to be able to look like her … but if they make an effort then they may do better than if they subscribe to the couch potato theory that I can’t do anything about how I look or feel!
The writer says that she can’t get to look like Carol Alt because of money! Wow … if she is overweight it is because she eats too much … period! If she is flabby with no tone it is a good bet she does no exercise. It does not cost much money to buy a pair of runners and to walk/run do stairs, stretch, do ab exercise etc. The ONLY thing missing is the willpower, or the desire. If she chooses her body image on purpose that is her right, but why knock people who make different choices?
She suggests that magazines should show “real” women. I won’t get into the business aspects of selling magazines but I think that “real” women (and men) come in all shapes and sizes. It is their decision about how they look and they are entitled to that decision. If someone wants to invest the time and commitment to look good then more power to them … I do not consider them to be a poor role model, quite the opposite.
I think that as a society we need to start encouraging our kids to strive for excellence. There is nothing wrong with having heroes and role models who inspire us to do better, try harder and perhaps raise the bar on our own performance. We need to reward effort and success and not sugar coat failure. Life is full of wins and losses, and the losses can be great learning experiences if we use them correctly.