I have a friend who is a model. Literally. I don’t mean that in the same way that people say, “She’s a rock star,” to mean that she is just an awesome person. I mean literally, people pay money to take her picture, and then they use it in advertisements and stuff. Also, she’s done some runway work, so you know it’s not just that she’s pretty easily Photoshoppable. She looks good no matter what she’s wearing, what face she’s making, how she’s standing, or what her hair is doing. She really is just that gorgeous and perfectly proportioned.
She’s also pretty outspoken against Photoshopping models, models being required or pressured to be unhealthy-skinny, and body shaming in general. I appreciate that about her a lot. I think it’s VERY important for the people who are being hired to advertise clothes to be real people with real bodies and not some unattainable, computer-manufactured shape and size. I think it is crucial to the future of our society (not just girls and women) that we get a more realistic idea of what is normal and healthy and beautiful. And anyone or anything that promotes a healthy body image and encourages girls/women to love their bodies is fine by me.
However, I wonder how effective the message is when it comes from girls who already have what most people would consider an ideal body type. Earlier today, my model friend posted on Facebook about the recent Target Photoshop faux pas, saying that it’s not ok to do that to a girl’s body, especially when you’re selling bikinis to impressionable, self-conscious, teenaged girls. 100% agreed. Later, she posted this handy chart of bikini bodies, which I think is great. But part of me responded to the latter with, “Easy for you to say. Your body really does belong in a bikini.”
Here’s the thing. It’s nice and warmfuzzy and girl-powery and all to say that any body with a bikini on it is a bikini body, but what would we really think if we saw a 350-pound woman with lower back hair and stretch marks jiggling her way around the pool? Really, if we’re honest, what would you think? What would I think? Would people say, “You go girl,” or would they take a picture of her as inconspicuously as possible and tweet it with a mean caption about a beached whale? Would people walk up to the deck chair next to her and ask if the seat is taken, or would they keep their distance and be uncomfortable that she’s there at all?
Y’all, we live in a culture where public breastfeeding makes people antsy, offended, and downright nasty, and where pregnant women are considered unfit to wear bikinis. It is ridiculous.
I honestly don’t know how to fix this problem because if a thin, busty, hairless girl says all body types are beautiful, the girls whose bodies are less than ideal (societally speaking) will say, “That’s easy for you to say. You don’t have to deal with this.” But if a fat, lumpy, stretch-marked and/or hairy girl says that all body types are beautiful, then a lot of people will say, “Yeah… Yeah, whatever you have to tell yourself. Now please cover up/bleach your mustache/pluck your chin hairs/wax your happy trail.”
I am absolutely in no way saying that there is anything wrong with skinny girls, busty girls, fat girls, hairy girls, models or the Loch Ness Monster. What I’m asking is –
Who can fix this?
Who is currently deciding which women are beautiful, which women deserve to be seen by the masses? Who is currently telling us that we must have a gap between our thighs? Who decides how much of a woman’s body to slice off with Photoshop? Who is telling our 11-year-old girls what they’re supposed to look like in five years, how they’re supposed to control the shape of their bodies at a time when their bodies are completely unpredictable and out of control? Whoever is in charge needs to take responsibility for what they’re doing to us, how they’re making us believe outright lies about ourselves and others, how they are shaming us, and how they are causing immense amounts of pain.
How can we get to these people and convince them that all body shapes and sizes really are beautiful? Or to speak their language, how can we convince them that they’d probably sell more clothes if people could see how the styles will really look on their body type? How can we get our society to believe that all women are beautiful and valuable, that there is no wrong kind of body, and that we’re all ok, even if our thighs do rub together?