Dangerous Curves Ahead
Body image is a major issue in America. Even people who don’t have significant body image issues have a moment or two when they look in the mirror and gripe about how much weight they’ve gained during winter. Or we whine to our friends about how we wish we had a “bikini body” or that our behinds are a little on the large side lately. Times are changing, and our country’s body standards are changing, so many people are starting to question body standards. Why can’t curvy be attractive? What’s a “bikini body” anyway? Wait… do men have body image problems too? I’m writing this little article to explore the changing ideas of body image and standards, and the body standards that still need to change. Dangerous curves ahead… do you dare read on? Can you handle these curves? I hope so.
When we’re standing in line at the grocery store, we often notice magazine covers. They’re telling us how to drop 5 pounds in a week, how to make ourselves look younger, and how to get a “cute butt” before New Year’s. Most magazines invite us to criticize our bodies and feel like we have to change our weight and appearance in order to be accepted by society. A website called Mediasmarts.com says that both women’s and men’s magazines have a strong influence on how we think we should look. We look at these abnormally thin, photoshopped models, and set this as a goal for ourselves. This isn’t realistic. Men’s magazine promise them the secret to “getting ripped”, then present the reader with a picture of a skinny yet creepily ripped photoshopped man. For women, Instyle Magazine shows high-fashion clothing that doesn’t exceed a size 10, with only Ashley Graham’s one to two page spread “Great Style Has No Size” section providing style advice to normal-sized women. I like to imagine a world where magazines advise us to accept the bodies we already have instead of telling us to reshape them into somebody else’s twisted ideal.
Normal-Sized People are too Fat???
On the subject of normal-sized women, I thought I’d add that the average American woman is a size 14. Back when that was my size, I was trying on a dress at JC Penney, but it only went up to a 12. Some high-end brands only go up to a size 10. A women’s website called Refinery 29 said that middle-sized women such as Mindy Kaling, Amy Schumer, and Ashley Graham often get overlooked. There are two extremes: either you’re a stick figure or you’re plus-size meaning over a size 18. Ashley Graham is a size 16. In a TED Talk, she stated that most people are considered to be “plus size”, because society looks at normal-sized people as being too big. And yet, the plus-size fashion industry sees middle-sized women as being too small. Ashley Graham was shamed for working out, and now she’s thought to be too thin, when in reality she looks like every American woman. I’m a middle-sizer myself, at 5"9, about 198 lbs, I’m the size of Ashley Graham. If I call myself skinny I get laughs. If I call myself plus-sized I also get laughs. I guess I should just go around saying I’m a middle-sizer? Or maybe not. I don’t feel the need to label myself.
Times are changing, and larger figures are becoming more accepted, but the high-fashion industry is still maintaining a very unrealistic view of body image. Many women in our country are overweight or obese, and the average woman is a size 14, so what’s the point of showing us size zero models? That doesn’t even make sense. As the years pass, people are getting bigger, so pretty soon nobody except the models will fit into those tiny high-fashion clothes. Hopefully fashion designers will finally see the light and start making clothes that actually fit actual women.
Body Standards can be Scary
Girls and boys both grow up with toys that show examples of unrealistic body image and body standards. Action figures show boys that the ideal male is unnaturally muscular, and fashion dolls show girls that the ideal female is unnaturally thin with size DDD boobs. Both of these examples are equally unrealistic. I collect dolls, especially Monster High Dolls, and I can’t help but notice the bizarre and unrealistic body types that these dolls have. Monster High dolls are meant to not look human, but they still show a very unrealistic, almost disturbing body standard for both men and women. Barbies have changed recently, with the new Fashionista line, which includes Plus, Petite, and Tall body types, but the featured Barbies that a space explorers, spies, and super heroes all still have the classically warped Barbie body. The curvy Fashionista dolls made me very happy, because I finally have a Barbie body. But why should I want a Barbie body in the first place? Shouldn’t my own body be good enough?
Body Image is an Issue for EveryBODY
In the video above, I included both male and female dolls for a reason. Body image is an issue for men too. One of my Twitter Followers said that he used to be an admin on a forum for people with eating disorders, and men were very embarrassed to admit that they had body image problems. The more you read online, and the more you hang out around guys, the more you realize that men complain about their bodies as much as women do. Men have unrealistic standards presented to them in the form of super heroes, athletes, models, and popular male celebrities. A chubby woman can still be attractive, but a man can be turned down just because he has a gut. I used to work at a car dealer, and many of the salesmen would eat salads for lunch and tell everyone that they couldn’t eat carbs, and shame other salesmen for being too heavy and tell them how to lose weight. This seemed funny at first, but after learning more about male body image issues, I realized that it’s not funny at all. It’s a very serious problem.
I interviewed a girl at school named Anna E., and asked her about her views on body mage. I thought it would be interesting to hear the opinions of a complete stranger. She had some interesting things to say about both female and male body image. Her most interesting quote was “Every year, people are getting bigger.” I totally agree with that. Times are changing, but society’s standards still have some catching up to do.
Big and Beautiful?
I don’t like it when bigger women are put into their own category. Even Ashley Graham doesn’t like being called “Plus Size.” We don’t want to be labelled. Pretty hefty men can buy clothes at regular stores, but a woman who is a size 14 sometimes has to shop at large size stores. Ads for places like Catherine’s Plus Sizes say things like “We Fit You Beautifully.” I can almost detect a hidden message there “because nothing else fits you, because you’re FAT!”
A woman doesn’t want to be told she has a “pretty face”, and that’s the only things she has going because her body isn’t too great. Terms like “Big and Beautiful” aren’t too nice because a woman should just be beautiful, and she shouldn’t have to be sorted into a specific category. “You’re pretty…for a big girl.” I once came across and article on some fashion site about size 14 and 16 models and it called them “Hot Fat Girls.” I was disgusted. Since when is a size 14–16 fat, and who the heck has the right to call women fat? Putting the word “hot” in front of it doesn’t change anything. It’s still body-shaming.
Changing Times, Changing Bodies
As Anna E. said in my interview, people are getting bigger every year, so curves are becoming more and more accepted. Some curvy women still stand out, especially in the fashion and film industries. Tess Holliday was the first plus-sized model to be signed to a major modelling agency. And Ashley Graham was the first plus-sized model to be featured in Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition. Curvy women are working to change body standards and eliminate body shaming. Below is a slideshow featuring just a few of the women working to change society.
Love Your Body
I’ll wrap this up by saying that you are good enough the way you are. Exercise for health, don’t starve yourself thin, and find your confidence regardless of what you look like. I dream of a world where anybody can be a model and a superstar. Hopefully if I wait long enough, my dream will come true. Or I can just start accepting myself right now. And I highly advise you to do the same.