This is another piece from Bethany. The woman can’t seem to stop writing fantastic stuff. She called this her “rant.” Ranting is sometimes the best:
Fat can be powerful.
If wielded just so, fat can send a message. Plus size women have access to and permission to use a whole set of powerful words in reference to themselves. There are specialty stores. There are magazines. There are groups of people fighting for and celebrating the thicker, curvier woman.
And of course we all know how powerful skinny can be. Skinny dominates our media. Skinny is the key to eternal happiness. Skinny women are admired and applauded, envied for their perceived self discipline and focus. Studies have been conducted that indicate that a large percentage of women would trade actual years of life in exchange for guaranteed thinness.
So, we have skinny and fat. We have big, bold, powerful fat and strong, determined, wanton skinny. We have Queen Latifah in one corner and Kate Moss in the opposing. Both look stunning, of course.
So where does that leave me?
No one ever talks about being average. I don’t know of any Average Advocacy groups. Being a size eight? Who cares? Blah, boring, whatever. What is there to say about a size eight? The only thing that I can think of is that it falls neatly between six and ten.
Even the word “average” sounds plain. When I hear the word “average”, I hear a lot of other words behind it: unremarkable, without distinction, standard, ordinary. It makes me think of the color beige, a big bowl of naked oatmeal, a glass of tap water. I’m neither fat or skinny, curvaceous or waiflike. Too big for Wet Seal and too small for Lane Bryant. I guess that puts me at JC Penney’s.
It bothers me (a lot more than it should) that I don’t have a group to identify with. My group is lost, all mixed in with a crowd of more noticeable, memorable women. I wonder if other women feel this way? Does anyone else feel like they simply serve as a backdrop for all the body image drama and raving beauties and rivaling body parts?
In our society today, we’re supposed to stand out. As women, our specific burden is to stand out physically. We each have a duty to find the qualities and features about ourselves that “pop” and do everything we can to highlight and exaggerate those things. Well, what about those of us who just don’t have features like that? What then? The only logical conclusion is that we go broke and crazy trying to obtain them. Sounds like fun.
This is a new feeling for me. I was once one of those voluptuous women. And I was once one of the thin ones. I know what it feels like on each side of the fence. As a larger woman, I was encouraged to flaunt what I had and be proud of it. I had cleavage to display and boundaries to push. As a skinny person, I was envied and my advice was hungrily sought after. People assumed that I didn’t eat and lived at the gym and I sort of relished those misconceptions.
Now, I’m just regular. I don’t have a body that anyone would envy or that commands attention. I just have a body. In our modern world of “good” bodies and “bad” bodies, mine lacks any definition.
You know what I think, after having said all of this? I think that we need to stop talking about our bodies. It has to stop being such a central theme of conversation. We all know how powerful our words can be, yet we continue to use them in a way that places the female form on display. Even when we’re talking about being confident and fighting back against unattainable beauty standards, we’re doing it in a way that perpetuates comparison. Comparison is exactly what we need to avoid.
Sure, there can be a positive outcome in putting two completely different bodies next to each other and finding the beauty in each, but there is also a negative message there: that our bodies are only more, equally or less beautiful. Not just beautiful. Big women are beautiful in spite of the thin ideal. Black women are beautiful in spite of the white ideal. What if the ideals didn’t exist? What if there was no point to prove? How would we define our beauty if not against that of another woman? Does beauty need to be a battle cry?
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Unroast: Today, I love that I look perfectly fine despite having only spent 20 minutes getting ready for work. Minimal makeup, hair pulled back and a little deodorant. Nothing wrong with that!
Anyone else have a body image rant? I’m always here: firstname.lastname@example.org