Why is it okay to call me skinny (generally accompanied by a disgusted face) and it’s inappropriate for me to call a heavier woman fat? Both comments are equally hurtful (depending on the individuals’ insecurities). And of course, this incessant debate stems from the current expectation that women should be thin and not weighed down by extra weight. But why is extra weight deemed unattractive today? Why is being thin shameful and envied? Why can’t both be mutually accepted and admired?
What people tend to forget is that no one has the same body structure or metabolism. We all come from couples that have unique body chemistries and even our siblings have different characteristics than us. For instance, I have three siblings and each of us have dissimilar body types than one another. Body diversity is a beautiful thing and it’s time that we all embrace it because no one’s body will ever be the same and fit into the mold society has set out before us. It’s not fair or rational to be upset with someone because they effortlessly (or with effort) embody the current fad of what makes women sexy and appealing today.
The ideal female body is a myth that continually changes in society with each time period. You will notice that during the Renaissance, curvier women were highly coveted; other cultures have marveled at women with mustaches (of all things), and Victorians admired pale women because they symbolized a sense of delicateness. Of course, this list can go on, and in other cultures and nations women are renowned for assets that Americans find odd. Even today when we look at the past few decades, there are startling differences in desired body shapes and beauty. So this trend with thin women will change and (especially with the many movements and campaigns created to promote women of all sizes) society’s tastes are expanding to accommodate curvier women, and those new groups of thin women not fitting the ideal figure will yet again be alienated by society. And all of this has been perpetuated by the media, beauty industry, and archaic ideas of fitness and health.
When we pull out our phones, laptops, etc., we are immediately confronted with impeccably beautiful women. These women tend to have slender physiques and flawless skin. We idolize these women because they look perfect and allow our minds to desire looking like them. It’s obvious the women in these pictures and commercials are re-touched to appear more attractive than they are naturally; we revere them because they are what’s expected of us. It’s a never ending cycle of realizing models are caked with makeup and/or re-touched and vowing to remember this, but it is our inherent need to fit into the mold the male gaze (coined by Laura Mulvey) has designed for us that keeps us at the will of society’s presumptions.
I personally find curvier women sexy even though it’s not my body type; this expectation that only slender individuals are sought-after by men and women is absurd and disproved in many ways.The expectations of sexiness stem from our patriarchal society and I find it surprising that being slender is in right now considering the high adoration put on hourglass figures. Contrary to this, we are lead to believe that women with smaller breasts, a narrower frame, and a definite thigh gap are attractive due to the media and how celebrities (who have personal trainers, chefs, and nannies) look. However, as the media is streaming these ideas into us, we are being brainwashed with flawlessly airbrushed pictures and videos designed to target our insecurities and make us buy makeup to cover our imperfect and un-like model skin, purchase diet systems/foods, buy workout equipment and videos, and so on. Society preys on our existing insecurities and creates new ones in order to fill a capitol need and maintain control through objectification.
So before you shame your body, remember that it’s unique. Although most of the women you see in the media are thin, remember that they’re not the entire female population; they were picked out of thousands of women just like you to maintain the female body stereotype and in almost every case, their appearance is not natural. Before you see a thinner woman and think, “She’s so skinny. I bet she never eats,” remember that that woman may have a health issue preventing her from gaining weight or maybe she’s struggling emotionally and needs support. And before you see a heavier woman and think, “She’s so fat. She needs to lose weight,” remember that she may have a health issue making her gain weight or is struggling emotionally and needs help. It’s paramount that we don’t judge because we don’t understand what other women are going through and it’s not our job to evaluate how well they fit in society’s frame of the ideal woman.
When it comes to our bodies, let’s look inward at ourselves and dig for our redeeming qualities; this’s not always easy, but essential in building our confidence and having the strength to appreciate the various appearances of others too. Let’s not compare ourselves to others, but appreciate and accept that we’re all unalike and that’s okay.
Mara Martinson is a freelance editor, creative writer, and graduate student. She received her Bachelor’s degree in English from UW-Superior and is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in Rhetoric and Writing at SCSU. She teaches ENGL 191 and in her free time, enjoys writing, reading, knitting, crafting, and spending time with her partner and family. Her creative work has appeared in journals including The Nemadji Review, Kaleidoscope, and The Upper Mississippi Harvest. Mara describes her work for Collective Feminism as feminist, capturing the occasional brutality of life and the emotional struggles we all face.