At War With Our Bodies

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!”

I disagree.


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. 04_mirrorSkinny 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.

9 thoughts on “At War With Our Bodies

  1. Yay! Finally, some sense. As a skinny girl who is always hearing the ‘real women have curves’ sentiment I squeal with delight at this article. I think most of the stuff is well intended but this image that only curvy girls are ‘real’ and ‘sexy’ is just as damaging as all the other archetypes of beauty in the media. So again, YAY!

  2. God, but those hokey Dove ads bugged me–a bunch of women so in love with life and Dove product they can’t help but stick their asses in the air and yowl.

    As for the body acceptance movement, it’s the same sort of stuff moms have been telling their kids for millennium (“You’re pretty in your special way, sweetie”). Children need this kind of unconditional praise maybe, but an adult woman who needs this kind of coddling seems like a whiny sad sack. Part of growing up is being able to come to terms with the fact that gifts aren’t distributed evenly–some of us are smarter, more talented, more athletic, richer and, yes, more beautiful than others. There is something childish and self absorbed about all this fretting over images of women who are better looking than us.

  3. While the Dove Ads may not be the best bit of entertainment (I’ll give you that they’re a bit hokey) I still think there is something to be said for a society where everyone can love their body.

    Eating disorders and body dismorphia are serious issues that come out of a culture that teaches us there is only ONE way to look beautiful, and that one way is unattainable for most of us – and its always whats most unattainable, for instance years ago chubby and pale was considered sexy because it was a sign of wealth (because they could afford to eat well and not labor outside.)

    I don’t see what could be wrong or “whiny” about wanting a society that appreciates many different types of beauty.

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  7. I agree, different women are different shapes and sizes and different men are atteracted to different shapes and sizes. Not all thing girls are annorexic and not all woman over a size 8 are fat, and both types are equally acceptable. I think the main problem in the media is that they tend to perpetuate the idea that only one kind of body should be considered beautiful, that there is only one kind of “sexy” and any thing that deviates from that is ugly, instead of portraying the female gender in all it’s beautiful variety.

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