Wednesday, January 25, 2012

War of the women: beauty, bodies, and bullying

You've already seen the photo -- it's all over Facebook. The featured image shows the photos of four well-known thin celebrities and, beneath them, four Hollywood icons lauded for their beauty and figures. Between the two groups, a caption: "Since when did this...become hotter than this?" The image has become all the rage between women defending their idea of the "non-mainstream" figure being the definition of sexy, hot, and beautiful, that the thin bodies possessed by the highlighted celebrities and those who look like them are lacking in comparison to thicker hips, thighs, and breasts. The problem here, however, isn't the woman that's "too thin" or "too big," it's the woman that thinks she has to be either.

We’re well-aware of the idea of “fat hate.” The fat kid in the movie is always funny; the fat kid is real life is always made fun of. I would know, I’ve been there. Being overweight in a world that glamorizes thinness and advertises size 00s in magazines and commercials is like going to a Halloween party and being the only one in a scary costume (think Mean Girls!). But on the other hand, “skinny hate” is no different. The idea that it is socially acceptable to tell someone to “eat a sandwich” or “gain a few pounds,” yet taboo to offer smaller portions to an overweight dinner guest is completely hypocritical and wrong. Bullying, mental or physical, can occur at any end of the spectrum, and regardless of the circumstance, criticizing someone else’s body – the one and only body they can and will ever have – hurts.

The comparison photo is bullying. By posting this picture, you are saying that one body is beautiful and one is not. Let me rephrase – you are saying that one woman is worthy, acceptable of praise, and one if NOT. You are saying that one woman is unworthy and unacceptable. It’s the same as saying that if you look like “this” or you have “this,” then you are unsexy, unattractive, and unpretty. All of these “un”s! Last I checked, it’s not spelled “womun,” it’s spelled “women,” as in encouraging, enabled, and enduring, or “woman,” like angelic and anointed. Besides, at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if the “girl hate” is “fat hate” or “skinny hate;” when any are allowed, all that’s unifying anything and anybody is just pure hate.

We as women are consistently bombarded by sales ads, stereotypes, and standards that distract us from the issues that should be most important to us, like our health, our achievements, and our inherent beauty and strength. These advertisements tell us that instead of loving our body in its own natural healthy state – whatever that may look like – we should strive for what we are not. But what’s so funny is that, big or small, the message to all of us is the same, that we should be dissatisfied. They teach us that “thin is in,” but that “real women have curves.” Unfortunately (or perhaps more fortunately), skinny does not equal healthy and big does not equal noble or intellectual. Both can be irresponsible by taking for granted our gift of health and well-being, and both can hinder the world. Both can keep women from realizing their potential and understanding that what we are naturally is okay. Even more than okay, what we have, what we possess – whether it’s our big boobs, thin arms, our kind-of-there belly or our intellect, passion, and talents – is beautiful. That beauty can come in many forms, and it’s only in coming to love ourselves that we can fight the advertisements and be satisfied.

Keeping with the Mean Girls theme, it’s like the lesson Cady explains: “Calling somebody else fat won’t make you any skinnier. Calling someone stupid doesn’t make you any smarter.” Calling someone else’s body type unattractive or ugly doesn’t make you any more superior. In fact, it actually only makes you kind of ugly. And in your representation as a woman of women everywhere, it makes women look ugly. Just like the companies advertising their latest diet fad or make-up product, you’re representing a brand. You’ve heard your boyfriends and brothers say it, how girls are catty, jealous, petty. Is your advertising giving them this impression? Or are you, as a spokesperson for the brand of women, advertising your product as resilient, vivacious, and powerful?

This is why girl body bullying is so corruptive. It acknowledges, accepts, and – wait for it – PROMOTES the idea that one woman can be better than another. It accepts that woman, in all of her existence as a human being, in all of her beauty, intellect, and experience, is insufficient. It completely obliterates all of her successes and goals and sees only her flaws, and this invites men, the beauty industry, and any of our own challenges to keep us down. We’re setting the example for own they can treat women by how we treat other women. If all we draw attention to is our strengths and accomplishments, then the only example we set into motion is one that empowers those around us. It is up to us to recognize and advertise our beauty in all of its healthy, natural forms and love what each of us is able to contribute to the world. Past striving to defend our curves or our bones, it’s time to appreciate that inner beauty, opting for more than anything how we feel over how we might look. After all, when you feel good, you strive to help others feel good, and ultimately then, the battle of the bodies can become a teamwork effort that makes the world feel good.

So maybe we all can't be Kirsten, Bettie or Marilyn. Maybe we all can't be style icons or celebrities, and maybe we all can't have voluptuous lips or long hair or height. But in the realm of girl world, bodies, and bullying, one thing is for certain - no one ever said we all can't be beautiful.

1 comment:

  1. I love this post, and I agree whole heartily, I believe that women need to become more accepting of each other. It doesn't matter our body types we need to grow up and stop hating each other just because popular belief and media tell us too. - my post with similar topic.