A comment on my previous post drew attention to the body-image pressure facing women in America and suggested we might ease some of this pressure if men understood the food/body struggle that most women experience daily. While it might be helpful in some regards (my husband would finally understand why "I absolutely cannot go out looking like this"), I don't think the problem can be fixed by making men taste the same bitter drink. Whoever the ambiguous "they" driving this engine, I honestly don't think it is men. Yes, one could invoke the law of supply and demand and say that what men want is what is put out. But I think that men get caught in the claws of the monster, too. They are actually taught what to find attractive in a woman. And with advertising and film as sexualized as it is, it's hard to not want what we see.
Often, to be honest, we women perpetuate the feminine "ideal"; we claim to despise the idol and then bow down to it. I've several times quoted a female speaker I once heard who said "All mothers should be at least 15 lbs. overweight", but in the end I wouldn't mind too much if my children had to lean on a bony shoulder.
Women also make resistance to societal pressure hard for one another. We are very critical of eachother. We compare ourselves to eachother. We measure every woman against the Cosmo Goddess. When a guy is with a woman who is less than ideal we wonder "why is he with her?" but when we see a beautiful woman with an ugly man we assume he has "character". I am more afraid of what women think of me than of what men think.
Back to the "Ambiguous They". What it comes down to is the dollar. Men and women alike shell out extravagant amounts of money in pursuit of phantom perfection. But if gold is the fuel for the engine, who is the engineer? It's us, it's them, it's advertising firms, it's the fashion industry, the movie industry, it's the giant of consumerism itself; all of which are made up of ordinary men and women. The whole seems to be greater than the sum of it's parts. That's why it's ambiguous.