Today brought about a very interesting discussion in my Idea Development class; we were discussing changing perspectives and someone brought in a picture of Marilyn Monroe, in all of her size twelve* glory, to make a comment on society’s changing feelings about the “ideal” weight and body shape. Over the course of the discussion my professor decided to ask the women and then the men in my class how they felt; are they attracted to “hanger-women with all of their ribs sticking out” or women on the “curvier” side. Most were quick to bash rail-thin models and defend the idea of a “healthy” body image. My professor felt vindicated by this conversation exclaiming, “See girls, we’re winning!”
The image that my classmate presented.
Body image should never be a battle. Although it is true that the ideal weight, as defined by the mass media, has been shrinking in recent years I am more disheartened by this attitude of “winning” and “losing” than I am by the media’s glorification of a nearly unattainable body. People are losing sight of the real problem maker, the media, and aiming their frustrations at each-other by splitting off into teams of sorts ; us against them, skinny against fat, muscular against frail… it just doesn’t make sense.
While I am 100% behind the Fat Acceptance Movement and all of the more generalized Body Acceptance Movements, I cannot get behind their unintentional exclusion of certain body types. For instance, the phrase used by many FA Activists, real women have curves**, really bothers me. Real women have curves? How about; real women have vaginas? Or even better; all women are real women, whether they were born female-bodied or not. (Edited 7/22 to fix some transphobic phrasing that I wasn’t aware of at the time of writing.) By excluding women of a certain body type from being “real” women these groups are participating in the same exclusion they protest… that hardly seems like winning to me.
These images, while total opposites on the size-hate spectrum, are both equally damaging as they deny people their right to feel comfortable with their body, regardless of what shape it is. One sentiment may be more mainstream than the other, however, this doesn’t make either statement right or justifiable.
It seems to me that everyone, no matter how thin or how fat, instinctively finds reasons to dislike their body. Larger women and men may feel self-conscious wearing shorter clothing, or more fitted clothing, they grow tired of the constant barrage of weight-loss messages from the media and those around them (even though diets rarely work and super-healthy people are often fat), they feel frustrated at the lack of clothing made in their size. Skinny girls feel self conscious too, they worry about clothing looking to baggy, about the constant pressure from those around them to eat more (although some people just can’t gain weight, regardless of what they eat), be more voluptuous, more “curvy.” Slimmer men often feel pressured to ‘bulk up’ more, to be more muscular and “manly.” The people in the middle feel it too obviously… how can we help it?
We live in a society that makes money off of making us feel bad about ourselves, after all people who are 100% content with their body don’t go on expensive fad diets or purchase tons of expensive beauty supplies.
Freedom from this body-hatred lies in realizing that, there is no perfect body type, only perfect body attitude. If we all can find so many differing reasons to hate our body… it stands to reason that we can just as easily find thousands of reasons to love our bodies, reasons as unique as each and every one of us are, inside and out.
So, challenge yourself this month; every time you say or think something negative about your body stop. Think about what you just said, now, turn it around: regardless of your physical appearance, consciously replace that negative thought with something positive about your body!
Its time to join together in a community of body-confidence and do away with the judgmental attitudes, the jealousy, and the cattiness that come from insecurity and the us vs. them mentality it can create. Who knows what we can accomplish when we simply stop resenting those with the bodies that we desire, and start loving ourselves both inside AND out.
* Size standards, of course, have changed over time and Marilyn’s weight did fluctuate; still, its obvious to see that she does weigh slightly more than most mainstream “sex symbols” today.
** Not to mention ‘curvy’ is a body type, it is not dependent on weight; both fat and skinny girls can be curvy, depending on their proportions.