I was eating dinner with my sister when she said to me, “Man, I am so fat.” I reeled. She is not even close to fat. She weighs 125lbs. When I tried to convinced her she wasn’t, she stared at me like I was crazy and insisted she was. She showed me her belly.
125lbs with a belly. No pancake abs, no buns of steel, no Michelle Obama arms or Stockard Channing legs, but beautiful and nowhere near fat. I was instantly struck with two quotes.
The first, I despise: “Skinny feels better than food tastes.”
And one I don’t despise by the amazing Tina Fey, “Every girl is expected to have Caucasian blue eyes, full Spanish lips, a classic button nose, hairless Asian skin with a California tan, a Jamaican dance hall butt, long Swedish legs, small Japanese feet, the abs of a lesbian gym owner, the hips of a nine-year-old boy, and the arms of Michelle Obama. The only person close to actually achieving this look is Kim Kardashian, who, as we know, was made by Russian scientists to sabotage our athletes. Everyone else is struggling.”
But as we well know, the Tina Feys of the world are few and far between. So why is that? Why are girls who weigh so little and already look so good starving themselves because they’re “fat”? Why does it take so much strength and self-awareness for a woman to be happy in her own skin?
Well the obvious answer is pop culture. It has been the reason for unhealthy body image for years and years and years. And despite Dove’s “Real Beauty” campaign and other attempts to convince everyone they are beautiful, there isn’t a really significant change.
Now, I am by no means a fan of Kim Kardashian, a woman who has made her living off her body image and perpetuates exactly what I’m talking about, but let’s really analyze this cover.
“Kim’s Worst Nightmare.” Translation: You should literally be terrified of being fat, it is literally your worst nightmare come true.
“Dumped at 200lbs.” Translation: If you are fat, you will never find love and if you gain weight, you will lose love. Stay skinny to keep love.
“Five desserts in one sitting, hiding candy & bingeing later.” Translation: Don’t eat a lot and DEFINITELY don’t let anyone see you do it. They will think you’re fat.
“Her tearful breakdown: I’ll never get my body back!” Translation: You are only worth what you look like.
And yes, not everyone is going to read this magazine cover and read into it the way I did above, I understand that not everyone has the insecurities that magazine covers like this feed upon, but my little sister does. My 16-yr-old high school aged sister feels she’s fat and then sees this kind of magazine cover and gets even more fearful about being fat. If Kim Kardashian is getting made fun of through a magazine, whose to stop her getting made fun of in the school halls? And I know my sister isn’t alone in this.
When I was in high school a boy I liked told me I would probably be pretty if I lost weight, that he’d probably date me if I wasn’t so fat. Without strength or some sort of shield against that kind of attitude (mine was sass and anger), young girls are suspectible to self doubt and that can lead to self-esteem issues and then eating disorders.
If you won’t take my word for it, here are some statistics from (http://www.state.sc.us/dmh/anorexia/statistics.htm)
- Anorexia is the 3rd most common chronic illness among adolescents
- 95% of those who have eating disorders are between the ages of 12 and 25
- 50% of girls between the ages of 11 and 13 see themselves as overweight
- 80% of 13-year-olds have attempted to lose weight
And what further angers me about the Kim Kardasian cover is that she is pregnant. Either these tabloid writers are failing to remember that or they’re saying, “No, you can’t even gain weight while you’re carrying a small human. You must continue to be thin and graceful or we will tear you apart.”
All too soon after the Kim Kardashian cover and the same night of my dinner with my sister, I saw another magazine cover:
Now this isn’t the first time Star has done a “Best & Worst Body issue” but it’s the first time I’ve really looked at it and violently responded with, “What the hell is this shit?” It’s probably because I am very protective of my sister and suddenly very aware of what these magazines can do to her self-esteem. Star is literally pitting women against each other based on their BODY SHAPE. Not their talent, intelligence, achievements, or kindness, but what they look like. And if you really pay attention to the magazine, these aren’t fat women, they’re just not society’s ideal of a “perfect (looking) woman.” I made the mistake of buying the magazine and looking inside. Even my self-esteem was a little bit bruised by that and I wouldn’t recommend it.
I don’t really have a solution to this problem. I think if there was a solution it would have been figured out and implemented long ago. Dove is trying, and I really give them credit for that, but the tabloids are winning. Media is winning. And our girls are suffering.
I will leave you with two things to ponder, a must-watch video from the Dove Real Beauty Campaign and a quote by the absolutely inspirational Diana Vreeland.
“You Don’t Have to Be Pretty. You don’t owe prettiness to anyone. Not to your boyfriend/spouse/partner, not to your co-workers, especially not to random men on the street. You don’t owe it to your mother, you don’t owe it to your children, you don’t owe it to civilization in general. Prettiness is not a rent you pay for occupying a space marked ‘female’.” – Diana Vreeland
Monday: The Fault in Our Stars and why you should read it.