I don’t know if its the warm weather or the abundance of pollen plaguing the air but I can’t help but think about the summer which in turn makes me think of swimsuit season. UGH the dreaded words, the thoughts of self-loathing, the images of women that are prettier than you, skinnier than you and wear that bikini better than you that flood our minds as the ocean tides flood the beaches. As HannahGrace mentioned in her latest post, feminists sometimes have trouble admitting that we are not impervious to the images presented to us in the media that make us feel inadequate. I’m not here to talk about shaming other women due to personal feelings of inadequacy or turning to eating disorders or disordered eating. What I really want to explore is point where our societal beauty ideal transformed from one of a healthy curvaceous body to a thin one represented by 5% of the actual female population.
I don’t know about you but a far as I can remember thin was the way to be even though my mother told me I was beautiful no matter what physical phase I was going through. On our scales today the women on the bottom row of this picture would be considered “overweight” but have you ever considered over what weight? What is this tight imaginary box of poundage that we are supposed squeeze our way into?
I am 4’9″ and a little under 100 pounds but for my height I would be considered overweight because on average most people or children under 5 feet haven’t hit puberty and gained boobs, hips, thighs or a butt like mine. This concept of physical standardization across the board is remarkably impossible, I know this may sound cheesy, but because everyone is unique in their own genetically composed way. Marilyn Monroe was a prime example of this, not because she was rumored to be a size 12 but because she was obviously not the skinniest of her time and yet she was comfortable in her body. Her measurements didn’t make her a national sex icon but rather her acceptance and love for her body. Nowadays, women are questioning their bodies and beauty no matter how fat or thin they are, no matter how pimple free their faces are, no matter how little their thighs touch, no matter how much their underarms jiggle, no matter how big their nose is, and I could go on and on. (See Tina Fey’s Bossy Pants for extensive, all inclusive list.)
Beauty media is a consumer driven parasite that feeds off our insecurities further deteriorating our self image, a vicious cycle.
Women are not the only ones being fed images of how and what their bodies should look like…men are constantly presented with these ideas of how masculinity should be represented. The idea of masculinity has also transformed throughout the years where it used to be Sean Connery as the original James Bond, in a nice suit and a little gun.
Nowadays the epitome of masculinity is shirtless Rambo, who is muscular to the point of suspecting steroids with a gun that is bigger than is jacked up arms. Jackson Katz is an expert on masculinity in the media and in his film Tough Guise he interviews young men about words that describe masculinity and they are all revolve around strength and violence.
Men come in all shapes and sizes, just like women. When people make comments about my height, I tell them honestly that I would much rather be this short as a woman rather than a man because I can’t imagine how my masculinity would be questioned if I were 22 year old 4’9″ male in our society.
BUT, this is a big but hence the all caps, I do not think it is a coincidence that the ideals for men throughout the decades have made them bigger, stronger and more violent while women’s have encouraged them to become thinner, take up less space, smaller and ultimately physically weaker through those beauty ideals. I’m not saying that the media is consciously trying to make women thin and unable to fight off men but how is it that women have made so much progress politically and economically and yet physically we are allowing our…essence, who we are, to be dictated, molded and reduced to a shell of a woman. Women and men need to be willing to give a big middle finger to the beauty industry and media, also known as that little voice in the back of our minds, in order to reclaim our bodies as unique individuals of all shapes and sizes. Who’s with me?!