Written by Paige Farnworth | Media by Thomas Hajny
“We’ve officially made it,” I overhear one of my classmates say. The two young women listening to Meghan Trainor’s “All About That Bass” enthuse loudly about their love for the song as they enter the buzzing classroom. They are thrilled that society has finally come around to accepting that ‘curvy’ is a beautiful and fashionable body type. “This song is my anthem!” they gush.
I smile and quietly sing along as my classmates pass by to take their seats, but something about their conversation doesn’t sit right with me. They’re right, song lyrics and celebrities are now embracing the “thicker”, curvier look in women and are receiving tremendous positive feedback from the public. Beyoncé, Nicki Minaj, Meghan Trainor, and Demi Lovato are just a few celebrities that young women are looking up to for this sort of body image empowerment. However, we must not overlook the fact that we are still facing impossible body standards, body bashing, and disrespect.
As we all know, these troubles aren’t new. Think back just a handful of years. If women didn’t look model thin they weren’t represented in the magazines or on the red carpet, because it was fashionable to be thin. And eating what you wanted? Forget about it. “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels” right? Of course women like Jennifer Lopez and Kim Kardashian were never labeled as “ugly” for not being stereotypically thin, because they were the sexy celebrity exception to the rule. But for the average girl, this skinny standard was a heavy weight to bear. It should have been no surprise, then, when this standard only fueled the fire of horrible body image and eating disorders among women.
These issues have not gone away of course, and most women still desire to be thinner. But society is currently near the end of this “skinny trend”, so with skinny moving “out”, curvy is “in”! Hooray! Now women with curves are gracing the covers of magazines! Celebrity and role model, Jennifer Lawrence, has voiced her love for eating and her desire to always promote a healthy body image. Women are reaching out to others about the dangers of eating disorders. We have songs on the radio that unite and flatter curvy women. Finally the fashion world agrees with Sir-Mix-A-Lot and recognizes the beauty that is a prominent behind! So, does that mean we’ve “made it”? Women can love their bodies now that our society is accepting of all body types, right?
Wrong. Unfortunately, with this movement against eating disorders and impossible skinny fashion standards comes hypocrisy and hate. Women that are naturally thin have received passive aggressive hate on social media and are often accused of having eating disorders. Facebook has been the home to many hateful viral posts such as the phrase “No one wants to cuddle a stick” accompanied by an image of a curvy woman underneath the covers. When the most recent Miss Indiana graced our televisions at the 2014 Miss USA pageant, she earned public praise for having a “normal body” . Twitter users loved her for not being a “bag of bones” or a “twig” and for looking like a real and normal woman, even though she is far from average (The Daily Beast). Even if these comments were meant to discourage the idea of starving oneself to work a bikini, their words were generally hateful towards those who rocked the thin look- those who apparently didn’t count as real women. Naturally, thin women are not the only ones facing this type of abuse. Girls with more of a boyish shape are shamed for not being as sexy as those that have hips and curves. Women that are more than just “thick” are ridiculed and are still cruelly labeled “fat”. Look around you. Very muscular women are still talked about as being too “manly” to be beautiful, and yet women that don’t hit the gym aren’t hot because they aren’t toned enough. Celebrities and models still have their bodies Photoshopped to eliminate the appearance of the extremely common wrinkles, cellulite, and veins. The “plus-size” models of the fashion and entertainment industry are toned, tanned, and must abide by strict body proportion standards. Don’t even get me started on how larger actresses aren’t getting the lead roles in movies unless it is for a comedy that uses her size as a punch line. This new “healthy body image” we are spouting is anything but accepting; don’t be fooled. This “acceptance” only recognizes the beauty of a select group of women, leaving other women facing body hate. We have yet to learn how to accept everyone for who they are. Somehow, we always end up in an us vs. them scenario.
Yes, it’s fantastic that curvy women are finally getting some love for just being their beautiful selves, but that should not be at the expense of those who are thin or overweight. When society tells us how to look, it’s not acceptance, it’s not loving, and it’s not healthy. It has taken us too long to realize the harm we have caused by perpetuating the idea that skinny is the only form of ideal beauty. We can’t let this happen again with the thick and curvy ideal. Women are still being hurt and pressured. When Nicki Minaj and Meghan Trainor negatively slam thin girls as “skinny b*******” are they really empowering girls everywhere? How do women who don’t identify themselves as “fat bottomed girls” feel listening to these songs? Isn’t it hypocritical for us to condemn those who are “skin and bones” when we say it is a cruel thing to call someone “fat”? Just because someone is beautifully thin doesn’t mean they don’t have insecurities just like someone who is gorgeously curvy. Picking on someone’s insecurities to make ourselves feel empowered is not strength; it’s cowardly weakness.
You may be thinking that this isn’t as big of a deal as I’m making it out to be. But it is happening right now, and this isn’t the first time. Did you know that years ago advertisers were telling women they were too thin and gave skinny girls ways to “gain weight fast” and make them attractive to men? (Huffington Post). The desired body image is constantly changing throughout history and it never feels good to be on the opposite end of the shaming. It’s happened before, and it’ll happen again. Society may now accept a big butt and a curvier look on women, but it is not accepting of all body types. More often than not, what’s celebrated is the Sir-Mix-A-Lot favorite where a woman is “little in the middle but she got much back”. This doesn’t embrace bigger women; this has women add another requirement to the list of things they need to be. Curvy body, a “she squats” butt, flawless skin, a nice smile, Disney Princess hair, a year round tan, the list goes on. This may not be what every man looks for in a woman or what every woman wants for herself, but when society tells us what is wanted and expected from us, we want to add it to our own little to-do list. We want to be beautiful. We want to be loved and we’re being encouraged to achieve this in a degrading and superficial way.
Here is my challenge for you, readers: Love yourselves, respect yourselves, and treat your body right. Do not compare your body to others’, for comparison is the thief of joy. Consider other people’s feelings when speaking. Remember that if we want acceptance and representation of all of our body shapes, sizes, and colors in the media then we need to practice what we preach. And although these songs may be fun to sing along to, we should recognize that they are not empowering girls; they are degrading them. They do not promote a positive body image or healthy relationships. Whether you’re a size two or a size 12, tall and lanky or short and thick, pear shaped or an hour glass figure, toned and muscular or round and soft, YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL. That is one thing I like to sing out when listening to the radio: “Every inch of you is perfect from the bottom to the top”.Body shaming and hate are not only cruel but they essentially tell everyone that our bodies are something to be desired, owned, and used. We’re supposed to have a body like THIS so that others will want to have sex with us. According to the Christian faith, our bodies are not something for others to consume. Our bodies are not things for others to judge, use, and abuse. We are worth so much more than that. These songs are not steps forward for women, if anything, they’re steps back. Heck, they’re a step back for men as well! When a so-called empowering song like “Anaconda” has a music video that is nothing but twerking and sexual innuendos, we need to take a step back to think about what we’re saying to young men and women. By making confidence and positive self-image something that depends on the opinions of men and the tearing down of other women, we dig ourselves a deeper hole. At this shift in time, we have the power to stop the body bashing and degrading and embrace who we are as individuals. The only way to end this vicious cycle is to truly be accepting of all body types, and the “imperfections” that come with them. As Christians, we should remind ourselves and others that we were created by God with purpose. We can love our bodies, no matter what they look like. Not only should we love the bodies we are given, but we should also love those that are different from our own. What would happen if instead of placing our worth on what others think about us, we see ourselves as God sees us? If we could see his beautiful creation and our inner selves more than anything else, maybe we wouldn’t fixate so much on what our bodies look like as society seems to. Besides, looks don’t last, so creating our self-worth based on looks is a recipe for an ever decreasing image of self.