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The Positives of Being Assertive in Western Culture Research Essay

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Assertiveness allows one to speak up for themselves without being threatening. Assertiveness can be especially useful when others question your body image. This paper is based on two essays by Pigott (1990, pp. 92-94) and McClelland (2000, pp. 98-100) which show people’s perceptions of body shapes and colour vary with different cultures. These authors present examples depicting the different perspectives on beauty and how beneficial assertiveness is for those sticking up for themselves. This essay will examine the concept of assertiveness with the help of these essays and two secondary sources by Perloff (2014), and Mayo Clinic Staff (2017).

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Pigott’s (1990) essay tells a compelling story about her experience in both African and Western cultures. First, Pigott mentions that the African women were not impressed with her being thin. She then explains to the African women that where she is from, women who eat a lot are not attractive, and women who are thin are beautiful. The African women related being thin to poverty, droughts, and starvation. Pigott began to believe that Africa’s image of the perfect body was more realistic than the western image. The African women then nicknamed her “Chicken-Hips” and started to feed her hearty meals so that she would gain weight. (Pigott, 1990, pp. 93) Later, Pigott returns home and preaches that self-love has nothing to do with losing weight. However, family members suggested she would feel better if she joined a gym, which she did a few weeks after returning home. Finally, she reverted to yearning for slimness and being more fit than she was.

McClelland’s (2000) essay presents multiple stories regarding self-hate. She starts with blaming the Western world for other cultures succumbing to our terms of beauty. McClelland notes eating disorders date back to the medieval period, yet 30 years ago there was a significant increase in the white middle to upper class. She uses a study to prove that previously ethnic minorities were immune to eating disorders due to their strong ties to community, today’s multicultural college students who have been alienated by western culture are also prone to the same pressures as their white counterparts. McClelland also discusses a study done in Fiji after western television programs were introduced. Fijian’s believed a sturdy, and large body, meant it is strong, hardworking, and healthy. Thinness and sudden weight loss meant social loss or neglect. Three years after western television was introduced in Fiji things changed: 29% of the locals now had eating disorders. When interviewed about why, the locals said that the West equals success, and they want to be successful (Also mentioned in Perloff (2014). McClelland then talks about a black television host was discouraged to apply for an on-air position because she was “chocolate and cream” instead of “peaches and cream”. (McClelland, 2000, pp.100)

Pigott (1990) in Chicken Hips, and McClelland (2000) in Distorted Images are both great examples of writers who disagree with Western culture’s standard of beauty. Being assertive is a beneficial attribute because you are less likely to get bullied, you can let people know how you feel without bottling it up, and it builds confidence. Pigott (1990) advocated self-love had nothing to do with being skinny, she was being assertive and let anyone who would listen how she felt. No one should be afraid to speak up for themselves or voice their opinion. Perloff (2014) suggests social media sites should take some initiative with young girls, and help deter them from the excessive body shaming, and self-worth with your body image. In McClelland’s (2000) essay Dhanani’s story is told, at the end she blames Western media and says, “When you have no role models to counteract the messages that fat is repulsive, it’s hard to believe you are a loveable human being.” (McClelland, 2000, pp.98). Yet, this young girl did not stand up for herself, not when she was 7, 13, nor 17. At 19 she took control and decided that it was okay to be heavier, it does not make you ugly (McClelland, 2000). Success is attributed to being thin, and there is a stigma around being anything but thin. Which is a fallacy, there are plenty of people who are successful whom are not thin. Sheryl Underwood, Melissa McCarthy, and D.J. Khalid are all successful despite their colours or sizes, and they are all assertive. These people do not shy behind it they are assertive and speak out which also helps reduce stress, feeling like a victim and resentment passive people experience. (Mayo Clinic, 2017).

McClelland (2000), and Pigott (1990) give you great examples of people who could have used assertiveness in their lives. Be honest. Be assertive. Express how you feel and why you feel that way. It is better to tell people the way you feel, than allowing everything around you converting you into something you are not. Learn to be assertive, show your own unique perspective on what is beautiful to you.

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