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.
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…
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?
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….