Being Thin: a brief historical Pop Culture analysis

Ok, so something I don’t often do is discuss body image…

And why not, you ask? Well, because I’m a firm believer that if you point to an issue and talk about it loudly for all the world to hear (er… read), then it becomes part of your identity. I do not want to be “that chubby girl who writes that blog.” Because, really, I have pretty good self-esteem – even for someone who has been overweight forever and rides the lose/gain roller coaster often.

I know that most girls who weigh what I weigh have poor body image. But certainly all of us do not. If you were to browse around Pinterest or Tumblur or any social media sites, you will find a wealth of images portraying beautiful women who are not rail thin (check out Girl With Curves or my Pinterest board b-YOU-tiful ). I’m also crushing on The Mindy Project on FOX, because Mindy Karling is gorgeous AND curvy, and her character, while wanting to lose weight, doesn’t let it stop her from being awesome. “Fat” Amy in Pitch Perfect is pretty awesome as well, although I’m not sure I’d call her a good role model for young girls.

In the media, however, we are inundated with images of models who are very thin. That, to me, does not promote a healthy lifestyle. It seems like just the opposite end of the spectrum from obesity.

What about MY body?

Getting closer, but this is an ad for skin firming cream…

Our Bodies: History in the making…

How did we get here? My theory is that we are on a pendulum. In the 1800’s, curves were desired – women wore corsets, bustles, and hoop skirts.

By the 1920’s Depression Era, mass weight loss took us the other way on the pendulum, and clothes had straighter lines, and fewer embellishments. It was finally okay to show legs, too.

When the 1950’s rolled around, women brought back the corset and poofy skirts, creating desired curves. The War was over and it was okay to indulge in fashion again. Which also made Marilyn Monroe an acceptable icon with her “size 14” frame and D-cup bras.

By the 1970’s, Feminism made it okay for women to wear pants and go without the constricting undergarments of our predecessors. It was a come-as-you-are age, and fashion worried more about fads (bell-bottoms and Afros), than shape.

Women in the 1980’s began dressing for the workplace, which was still new. It was almost required that your pant- or skirt-suit was baggy and shapeless. In fact, everything was baggy and shapeless. Except for the Spandex (and I’m not even going there). In some circles, it was even okay to have a big butt – Baby Got Back – 1986.

It’s not until we get to the late 1990’s that we start seeing the super-skinny models and actresses. Jennifer Aniston and Shannon Doherty were the icons of pop TV, and both lost weight to try and fit the “skinny is better” image of their shows. I remember reading about Calista Flockhart’s eating disorder when I was in high school. That, to me, seems like when the downward spiral really began. Actresses and models just got smaller and smaller using any means necessary. It was a trend. A fad. Just like Slap Bracelets and Nike Airs. And, unfortunately, some trends take longer to die out than others.

What really bothers me is the effect this trend is having on young people. My generation grew up thinking that to be popular meant being skinny and that fat was bad. It’s why I was bullied in school. It’s why Jennifer Livingston is still being bullied by strangers. And it needs to stop. We are a culture who puts a lot of stock in appearance. We do judge the book by its cover. We all have prejudices and stereotypes. Tabloids, magazines and E! TV aren’t helping things, either…

Oh, really? That must be why she’s a Weight Watchers spokesperson.

I think most parents want their children to grow up in a better world, but what are we doing to make the world a better place? What are we teaching children by allowing the media to continue the “skinny is better” trend? What does it say about our society that we put shows like Honey Boo Boo on TV so that we can make fun of those people? What happens when it’s your child who’s picked on because he or she happens to be overweight? Are you as fed up as I am?

Amen, Sistah!

I think that to fix the problem, we all need to promote positive body image. Children need to know that it’s okay to be different than their friends. They need their parents and teachers to be the models, not the media. I’m not a size 4, and I’m okay with that. Does it mean I don’t want to lose weight? No – I’m working on that, actually. But I don’t need my students to see or hear me with bad self-esteem because I don’t fit into the “thin trend.” I’m also not going to walk around in a “FAT AND PROUD” T-shirt. What’s wrong with just being okay with being who I am?

Teach your children well. That is all.

Until next time….


See Also:
Curvy Boards
curvy girl revolution
Love Yourself Campaign
Love Your Body
Love Your Body – NOW Foundation
10 Fun Ways to Love Your Body


13 thoughts on “Being Thin: a brief historical Pop Culture analysis

  1. your hand on a pumpkin and your dress makes you look a bit chubby too..can not be a showstopper..but we get the message..all it weighs down to is..weight is a p physical aspect of life.let it not out weigh your self esteem..good point and good post..Marilyn monroe always looks awesome

  2. Very good post. I am not a Victoria’s Secret model either, but I am also old enough not to want to be one anymore. I do try to be healthy, but “healthy” doesn’t look the same on everybody. This is what I have to keep emphasizing with my pre-teen daughter. She’s not overly worried about body image issues yet, but I’m keeping a wary eye out because that’s one of those things that can get out of hand really quickly once it takes root. And the media and pop culture are definitely sending out some poisonous messages, so I do my best to counteract those but it’s tough to do when it’s so overwhelming, particularly in the shows and publications that appeal to kids my daughter’s age.

  3. Well I was returning to your blog to comment again about the post below (get to that in a minute) but as I was scrolling down, I caught a glimpse of Marilyn Monroe, so I read the post lol. Two things came to mind while I was reading, both pertaining to articles I read within the past year or so regarding fashion for young girls. 1. Abercrombie & Fitch selling bikini bathing suits with padding in the top for 7 year old girls. 2. I remember seeing a shirt for girls also pulled off the racks, forget the designer or franchise, but it said something about ‘I don’t need to do math, my brother will do it for me’ So yeah, I’m thinking it’s very ingrained in society to train girls to evaluate themselves based upon appearance. Which is sad because confidence, personality, and intelligence go so much further, and last so much longer. And yeah Marilyn Monroe, even at her highest weight (perhaps in “The Misfits” ?) she is still renowned as a sexual icon, so that says something. …ok now to respond again below…

  4. Love this! Not just some fat vs. skinny war, but appreciating the bodies we have. It’s so hard to teach my kids because it’s counter culture and something I still struggle with myself. Thanks for a great reminder.

    BTW, You are beautiful and pumpkin-commenter schmuck just illustrates your point: we’ve got to stop the shallow judgemental attitude that is blind to true beauty.

  5. Totally agree with your take on the issue of fatness. Each year designers and photographers trot out the same promises about not using super-thin young models for catwalks and magazines, yet they continue to do it. From where I’m standing some of them might even have paedophile issues to deal with, as the girls’ bodies often look too underdeveloped. But I suppose that’s a tabu theme.

    We all have different bodies, different appetites and different metabolisms. If the media and parents didn’t make such an issue of weight I doubt whether their kids would, and we’d all fit into sizes and weights that made some sort of sense instead of continually obsessing about stuff that isn’t so important.

    Imagine if all the column inches devoted to fashion and size were devoted to issues like world hunger, the banking crisis, climate change and the senselessness of war. They are real problems.

  6. If it makes you feel any better on the VS campaign thing, I am so small that none of those bras come in my size, either. It may seem like the media caters to the super skinny, but the truth is, when you’re very petite and wear very small sizes, your life isn’t any easier. I was a small teenager and I was picked on for being a “skeletor” and “a runt” and was always being told to go get a sandwich. I remember one boy snapping my bra strap and asking me why I was even wearing one (and I was 17 at this time), and another boy commenting that I would be kind of pretty if I ever filled out. (Which I never did.) I think a few things need to happen. We need to be hammering it into girls (and boys!!) that health is paramount to beauty, no one stays drop-dead-gorgeous forever anyway. Youth and beauty are fleeting. We need to drop the “skinny is better” and “real women have curves” battle cries. Every woman is built differently and not everyone is going to fit a standard, whether that standard is Karlie Kloss or Marilyn Monroe. Real women come in all shapes and sizes. Lastly, we need to be putting a lot more emphasis on women’s achievements over their looks. High fashion models get paid to be hangers. They wear clothing. That’s what they do. They are not really good role models for how our lives should be lived. Of course, we are visual creates and the emphasis on looks will probably never go away, but we can make it so looks aren’t paramount.

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