I grew up with a massive amount of pressure to be thinner. I was increasingly self-conscious of how my clothes fit me. I started wearing clothes a few sizes too big so I could hide my still-forming body. I started counting calories before I really knew what they were. Sadly, I am not unique. I believe this is the rule rather than the exception for young girls nowadays.
I remember my mother telling me that I was beautiful. She told me that there were plenty of people my size that were beautiful. She reminded me that a girl in my grade was getting attention from all of the boys and she was far from skinny. Then came the next level of my issues. “But Mom,” I replied, “the difference is that she has a chest and I don’t. That’s why the boys like her. That’s why she’s prettier than me.”
I didn’t think I was as pretty as the other girls in my grade; I wasn’t skinny. I didn’t think I was as pretty as the popular girl; she had curves and I didn’t. I was in between. I was an in-betweener.
In an effort to combat the popular view that women needed to be thin, an idea came into play: real women have curves and boys like curvy girls. Here’s what’s wrong with these sentiments:
1. Skinny-shaming. There are plenty of women who are thin when they would rather have curves. These women are told that they are only “real” if they have a big chest or a big butt. I’m all for body positivity, but it’s not positive if it involves putting others down to feel better about yourself.
2. Your opinion is the only one that matters. I don’t think I’m wrong in saying that we all want to be attractive. However, I think it’s about time that we stop allowing our self-worth to be dependent on what men do and don’t like in women and how we compare to that ideal. We, not men or even other women, should be our own gentle, generous judges. You should see yourself as beautiful for the right reasons, not because people are attracted to your curves or lack of them. Also, “men” are a collective group whose preferences vary greatly. One man might like very thin women, one might like heavier women and one might like in-between. Love your body type and then find someone who loves your body type.
3. There are different types of beauty. Sometimes it seems like there is an exclusive pretty club that can only hold one person at a time. If that person has thick eyebrows and a narrow waist, and you have thin eyebrows and a thick waist, you can’t possibly be beautiful. If one type of person is beautiful and you look nothing like that person, you can’t possibly be beautiful. I’ll just come out and call BS on that notion. There are an infinite number of types of beauty. You can be beautiful and thin, and other people can be beautiful and not be thin. There is no ideal. There is no exclusive club. There is just beauty.
4. We are people, not parts. In her book Bossypants, Tina Fey explained what happened when “baby got back” became a desirable thing. “And from that day forward, women embraced their diversity and realized that all shapes and sizes are beautiful. Ah ha ha. No. I’m totally messing with you. All Beyonce and JLo have done is add to the laundry list of attributes women must have to qualify as beautiful.” Women are supposed to have Megan Fox’s face, Scarlett Johansson’s hair, Kim Kardashian’s boobs, Michelle Obama’s arms, and Carrie Underwood’s legs. We’re supposed to have a not-quite six-pack, and also curves big enough to break the internet. That is not okay. To quote Tina again, because she is my spirit animal, “The person closest to actually achieving this look is Kim Kardashian, who, as we know, was made by Russian scientists to sabotage our athletes.”
Do we see the problem here?
We think that when we tell women that being curvy is a desirable thing, we help them feel better about themselves. Instead we’re just adding to the list of qualities an attractive woman is supposed to have.
Even Ashley Graham, the gorgeous plus-size model taking the world by storm in Sports Illustrated, is shown strutting in a bikini in an ad for the company Swimsuits For All, while a man ogles her backside with their hashtag #CurvesInBikinis. And we’re expected to believe that this is a step in the right direction, that our society is beginning to embrace women of all body types.
Instead, it’s just reinforcing the idea that it’s okay to be bigger if you’re attracting boys and still have curves that look great in a bikini. Even the fact that we still refer to Ashley Graham as “plus-size,” when she is the same size as the average American woman is troubling. She is beautiful, without question.
While I’m all for embracing women’s body types as they are, curves or no curves, this movement had me looking at myself differently. Not only was I not skinny enough, but now I would look at my chest and my butt and wonder if they were big enough to amount to “curvy” or if I was just stuck in the middle of the only two types of beauty.
The average women in the United States are sizes 12–14. I doubt that all of them have JLo sized-butts. The average women are in-betweeners who are wondering if they’re Kardashian or T-Swift enough to be beautiful. When really, the Kardashians are beautiful, T-Swift is beautiful, and the in-betweeners are beautiful.
I am not particularly skinny and I’m not a GGG. And you know what? I’m beautiful. And so are the skinny people, the curvy people, and all of my fellow in-betweeners. Here’s my shout out to all of you beautiful people out there.
By Jenny Poffenbarger
Photo Cred: Pexels.com