There's a new trend that has been gathering steam these past few weeks and it seems to have the image-obsessed media completely terrified. A handful of women have begun to engage in mirror fasting, an idea pioneered by bloggers such as Kjerstin Gruys and Autumn Whitefield-Madrano, in which you give up looking in mirrors for an extended period of time (a few days to a year) in order to let go of any obsessions that you might have with your appearance.
As Whitefield-Madrano told the Guardian:
"I'd become aware that I had a 'mirror face. Whenever I saw my reflection I'd open my eyes a little wider, suck in my cheeks a little and tip my chin down in an effort to make myself look more like I wanted to. It made me feel really vain."
Thus, in 2011, she decided to give up mirrors for an entire month:
"I didn't want to do it because I felt bad about myself per se –- I was just concerned about how often I was thinking about my appearance. I wanted to see how much my mood was affected by the way I perceived my looks."
After a month with no mirror, Whitefield-Madrano felt "calmer and more serene" and now makes mirror-fasting a yearly event with several women following suit.
As mirror-fasting slowly gains in popularity, it has inevitably caught the attention of the media: the Huffington Post, Daily Mail and New York Times have all covered the trend. Their take has been subdued, however, in comparison to that of broadcast media, which has come off as either bewildered or horrified that anyone would be willing to give up the ol' looking glass for any period of time.
Anchors, beauty experts and even NBC's chief medical editor Nancy Snyderman have all confronted the non-issue with a confusion so profound that it's almost humorous. "How do you put your make up on?" asked a worried Savannah Guthrie as Whitefield-Madrano joined her and Snyderman for a discussion on mirror fasting for this morning's Today Show. A near-defensive Snyderman further emphasized the importance of knowing what you look like at all times, saying, "How we present ourselves opens up the doors for job interviews and dating."
The concept was met with similar reluctance a few days ago on Good Afternoon America in a panel discussion that, naturally, included Tyra Banks. Says Banks, "I'm not for that. I always tell women that the mirror is not the enemy." She then added, "I started Top Model to expand the definition of beauty. Oh, and also me me me me MEEEEEEE."
But why are they all so threatened and immediately defensive around a woman who, at no risk to anyone else, has decided to stop looking at herself in the mirror? Surely, they must know that they don't have to participate. Is it that they are in such an image-driven industry that they cannot fathom not caring about your appearance? Or, more cynically, could it be that much of the money that they bring in through advertising is tied up in products meant to keep women concerned with their appearance?
Either way, this one dinky exercise in women's self-perception has got the media running scared.
Image via Vadym Drobot/Shutterstock.