Sometimes when we talk about beauty and body image, we end up talking almost exclusively about weight. It makes a lot of sense: the people who are touted as the most beautiful are almost always very thin. We’re bombarded by headlines and images that fixate on famous people’s waistlines and diets. Is Christina Aguilera too fat now? Is Kate Middleton too thin? Which actress looks best or worst in a bikini? Even pregnant, Kim Kardashian can’t escape the press’s disgust at her weight gain. (If not when pregnant, one wonders, when the hell is a good time to gain some weight?)
Meanwhile, the War on Obesity rages ceaselessly, often confusing ideas about health with ideas about physical attractiveness. Weight is always in the news, and the message is loud and clear: It is NOT OK to be heavy. Lose weight! Gain self-respect! Look better!
So I get it. I get that beauty and weight are wrapped around each other in our heads. I get why so many people find themselves convinced that if they can only get thinner they will be better in every way. But there is a lot more to our cultural story about beauty, and when we talk about weight without talking about the rest of it, we aren’t being thorough. And more than that, we’re forgetting people. People who agonize over their acne or suffer from hair loss or are an unusual height. People with physical disabilities or differences. People who look “normal” to others but find themselves worrying about the characteristics that seem to prevent them from being more attractive. People like me, who have turned to cosmetic surgery when they couldn’t face their own faces in the mirror anymore. Who are we forgetting when we say “body image” but mean “weight”? Everyone who doesn’t fit the very recognizable beauty standard in a million different ways that they are sometimes acutely, painfully aware of, even when weight isn’t an issue for them.