Full figured women have long been under assault. They aren’t represented on television, in movies or in print. And if they are, they aren’t the heroine or the love interest. They are the friend. If the media were to be believed, the average woman would be a size 2, white, straight, and carry a $3000 handbag.
The desire to push back against that vision of what society says is the ideal body type is natural. And it should be challenged. Lately, I’ve been seeing images accompanied by text on facebook that seek to elevate the status of women with curves. They look back to the period of Marilyn Monroe to show that thin, or very thin, wasn’t always in. And that’s wonderful. Celebrate healthy bodies of all shapes and sizes. Sing it loud and proud. But, this particular image which I’m linking to because copyright precludes me from posting it, while trying to rage against what society says is beautiful, is truly an example of what is wrong with society. It shows our lack of a way to discuss our bodies without judgment and without competition.
When I look at this image, I see two beautiful women. Marilyn, of course, was the biggest sex symbol of her time and is undoubtedly lovely. But the woman on the right, the woman who this image seems to despise, is not sickly. In fact, if you look at her legs, you’ll find muscle. If you look at her stomach, you won’t see ribs poking out. You’ll see a toned abdomen. It’s true that she’s thin. That she fits the size 2 image of woman that is unfairly represented in media as the only desirable figure. But to say that the woman on the right is less attractive simply to advance another body type? That’s not right either. Demonizing one to glorify another isn’t the way to have a real discussion on the female body. In fact, it’s part of the problem.
The real question is, why must it be one way or the other? Shouldn’t we all be striving for healthy bodies? And that means a different shape for every woman. The media has us all chasing our own tails in the search of the perfect figure. No matter where you look, you’ll find a reason to believe that your body can never reach perfection. The idea that perfection actually exists is the real myth.
It’s obvious that we have an issue with weight in this country. As a teacher, I’ve met ten year old girls without an ounce of fat who are dieting. They hate gaining weight even though they are getting taller and growing up. That’s unhealthy. We also have a nationwide obesity epidemic that’s putting our children at risk for diseases like type 2 diabetes. That’s also unhealthy.
The sad thing is, I’m not seeing this image posted on men’s profiles. I’m seeing it posted by women and commented on by women. They are relishing in the comparison between Marilyn and the woman on the beach. They are loving this moment of hate towards the woman in the bikini. It’s true that women who don’t conform to the narrow vision of beauty seen on TV are ostracized. They are angry for being given less importance and less of a voice in society than size 2’s, and they should be angry. However, why does this anger automatically turn into criticism of the other body type? Shouldn’t we as women be banding together to insist that a larger group of women be represented? Shouldn’t we be taking the fight to the media who is largely responsible for only showing one type of body? One woman, after noting that she’s the same size as Marilyn was, wrote, “So IN YOUR FACE all you haters who think women need to look like stick bugs to be attractive.” Why must this woman verbally assault the size 2’s and call them stick bugs to make a place for the size 12’s? Isn’t there a place for all of us?
What should be attractive? How about healthy bodies. Whether they come in the form of a size 2 or a size 12, a well loved and cared for physique is what we as women should be striving for. By all means, challenge the idea that obtaining runway model size isn’t the only way to be beautiful. Demand that the full range of woman be represented in film and in print. But tearing someone else down to demonstrate your point does a disservice to all women. It’s time to celebrate our differences. To realize that there is no one correct image of beauty. To do away with notions of perfection and instead, enjoy life as healthy confident women. It’s no easy task, but with a little love and self-acceptance, I think we can do it.
UPDATE: The response to this article has been phenomenal. We are blown away by all your insightful comments, and a follow up piece is on it’s way. In the meantime, if you agree that we can treat both others and
ourselves better than we do now, spread the word on this article with the hashtag #bodybashing and keep the conversation going.
Ali Berman is a writer/teacher/activist. She works as a humane educator for HEART teaching kids about issues affecting people, animals and the environment. She is also the senior editor for Ecorazzi.com and a fiction writer.
Image above via interesting article on men’s size preference in theage.com.au
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