Today is Blog Action Day and thousands of bloggers are posting about human rights. I look forward to spending some time later scoping out the brilliance.
But today is also Love Your Body Day and that’s where my blogging heart and mind are so that’s what I want to talk about today.
The premise behind the Love Your Body campaign is a challenge to the message that a woman’s value is best measured through her willingness and ability to embody current beauty standards.
We’re all smart, we all get this, and yet the truth is the societal message is so insidious, so prevalent, so always-there-in-your-face it’s clear we don’t actually get it. If we did little girls at ever younger ages wouldn’t be obsessed with weight and dieting. If we did our hearts and souls wouldn’t be hurt when someone said something ridiculous about our worth based on our body. And even more importantly the idea that it was actually okay to both dictate and judge what was beautiful on a one-size-fits-all standard would be seen for what it is – ludicrous.
I’m fat. I’ve never been thin. And I have been at recipient of comments that have hurt me, and for many years shaped how I felt about myself. I can tell you it’s not a good thing. It’s take-your-breath-away painful when someone you don’t know says something deliberately to hurt you; but it’s sad and hurtful too when friends who love you slip into judgment as well without realizing it. That’s why I think it’s so important to be mindful of what we’re saying and what we hold to be true, and to always be curious and willing to confront our prejudices.
According to PLUS Model Magazine, twenty years ago a model weighed 8 percent less than the average woman; today, she weighs 23 percent less.
“What people don’t realize is that most of those girls are adolescents,” says Ziff. “They haven’t gone through puberty yet. And when it’s a 14-year-old that’s setting the standard for feminine beauty, that puts pressure on her not to grow up; it puts pressure on older models to starve themselves to get that gangly physique, and then there’s the effect that it has on consumers as well.”
We don’t seem to be able to make the leap from this-is-crazy to well let’s-do-something-different.
Early this month I read an interesting article in The Nation. Here’s a link where you can read it online if you’d like. I suggest you do because it’s fascinating how we’ve now taken things even further and are exploiting young girls from other nations in our ever-increasing obsession for younger, more exotic, and as is, unfortunately the new American way, ever cheaper. The gist of the article is about an organization, Model Alliance, working to organize and protect vulnerable children and teen models in what is largely a totally unregulated industry with regard to labor practices.
I see this as a rather exciting back-door entrance to shifting our thoughts about what’s acceptable and then opening the discussion about how we might want to broaden our definitions of beautiful. Because truthfully we should all feel beautiful – and be witnessed by others as beautiful as well. How did we ever get on a path where this wasn’t the case?!
I also want to send you over to read this blog post at The Militant Baker which talks about why it’s important to have size-inclusive models and one company that’s made that a mission.
And given that what I’ve been talking about has focused on the modeling industry, I thought I’d link to this video as well. Designer Rick Owens opted to use college step teams to model his line at the Paris fashion shows this fall.
If you know anything about me you know I love to look at things in layers. I love that we can work collectively to make change, and I love that we can each do our own explorations.
I’m working on a body of work about me and one of the things I’m playing with is paper dolls. Here’s one I’ve created with a love letter to my body.
Send somebody a love letter today. Tell them they’re perfect exactly the way they are. You know it’s true, and today might just be the day they need to hear it. And then tell yourself. Tell your body. You’re in this together and what’s more wonderful than being in love?
So so important, Deborah, and I am so glad you’ve written about this. Body image and the societal impact is so powerful.
They are important. And it’s good to do our part to anchor the love isn’t it?
It truly is so sad how society portrays “beauty” and how it’s drilled into people as soon as they are aware that they even have a body! No matter what size you are, theres always room to be better or different because no one is perfect so even if you are fairly thin (like myself) it’s still not good enough. I have tried however to focus on the healthy side of being thin than the going hungry side and have engaged in being “fit” and not “skinny”. I do obstacle course races, run in several 5K’s locally and use them as motivation to train and eat well. I feel like this view is healthier than counting calories and self doubt but it still rears it’s ugly head now and again.
I agree Tiffany that it’s heartbreaking how challenging this issue is for so many of us. It’s my hope we all find peace with this for ourselves and open our hearts to accepting everyone is perfect exactly the way they are.
This is a very important discussion. Advertising creates such a distorted view of what a woman’s body “should” look like. I would love to see it more representative of reality. And I LOVE the idea of a love letter to your body. My body needs a love letter from me.
Less distortion, more love. Wouldn’t that make a great manifesto for all advertisers to adopt?
As a recovered anorexic this topic is pretty important to me. Thank you Deborah for raising awareness through you blog! <3
So glad you’re on the other side of that challenge now Belinda!
Wow, Deborah. I love the way you incorporated social action with love your body. Perfect alignment. Oh, and let’s not forget art! You are a magician. I always so enjoy your posts. They make me think.
I believe that things are changing in this regard. People are tired of this and the cracks in the armor are starting to show. There are more companies that have decided to feature plus size models and I would say that companies (Heartbreaker is one that comes to my mind) that do NOT feature plus sizes at all are actually looked down upon for being that way by the majority of shoppers. (Much like companies that aren’t green are looked down upon too.)
I am not a frequent mall shopper. But last weekend my daughter had a friend over so we ended up heading over to the Mall of America for a day out. As we were shopping, I was paying attention to this fact because I am a plus size. I shouldn’t be, because when I look around most of the women I see are my size or larger but I am. I noticed that most of the shops had decent clothes that would have fit me had I actually wanted to buy anything. I was pleased. I think one way that we could certainly improve this idea of “it’s all OK” is to not divide the sections into regular (not) and plus-sized. I don’t like it called the “woman’s” section either because this implies to a 14 year old that is a size 16 that she is going to have to dress like an older lady. Not fun. Why not just have a female section or something – better yet – mark it with the symbol for female (the one that looks like a stick person)? And then put all of the sizes together as one big happy family? Or, instead divide stores into types – like the funky section or the mature audience section or the hipster section or the studious section or the athletic section? They kinda do that anyways…
Thanks Amy – it’s always a delight having you pop by. And I think you’re right, we are seeing shifts. But I just read a statistic that 67% of American women wear plus size clothing (size 14 or above) and yet we certainly aren’t seeing ourselves represented in advertising or entertainment venues at anywhere near that percentage. That dissonance between what’s real for so many of us and what gets proposed (and widely accepted) as ideal is just mind-boggling. I do like your idea of all-sizes-are-perfect-and-mingle-together-in-harmonious-cohabitation in stores. Now that would be a truer refection of life.
What I would consider the best solution ever and so much fun is something I read in a fantasy book so many years ago I don’t have a clue of the title. But everywhere in this world there were little stashes of glorious clothing that magically fit whatever size you were and were perfect for the occassion. You just popped by and picked up what you needed at the moment, leaving your old outfit for someone else. How fun is that?
I love that idea! 🙂
Always room for more love! 😉