By Margaret Pepe
The idea of a “perfect body” for women is ever changing. In the 80’s, the “supermodel era,” it was ideal for women to have a more athletic build, while still maintaining curves. In the 90’s, “heroin chic” and being unrealistically skinny was the perfect body for women to have, according to a Buzzfeed video, “Women’s Ideal Body Types Throughout History,” released on YouTube on January 26.
Today, however, there is no set image for the perfect body. While we, as a society, still want to maintain the unrealistically skinny look, we also want women to be curvy. It is ideal for women to have larger breasts and butts, while having a flat stomach, visible collarbones, and a thigh gap. This image is nearly impossible for women to achieve without surgery, which most of us have no desire to undergo. So, is it better to be skinny or curvy?
Today, we, as a society, “shame” women for their bodies. You can only be desirable if you’re skinny, but you can only be respected if you’re curvy. “Real women have curves,” versus the ever shrinking waistline expectations. These two contradicting images leave women wondering: what the hell are we supposed to look like? While it’s all very confusing to teenagers, and early adults, it’s equally confusing to children growing up, who are exposed to both ideals.
There are several different campaigns promoting each image. Brands like Dove, and Aerie, by American Eagle, have campaigns like “Aerie Real” and “Real Beauty.” These campaigns are set up to try to promote accepting your body, your skin, and your image entirely. Brands like Urban Outfitters and Abercrombie promote different images. Urban Outfitters has been under the spotlight before for selling a t-shirt that says “Eat Less” on it, while Abercrombie is known for having smaller sizes so only “pretty people” and skinny people wear their clothes.
I know for a fact there’s a “Meninist” (antonym of “feminist;” synonymous with “misogynist”) out there thinking, “Men are held to unrealistic expectations too, where’s our acceptance campaign?” I would like to point out that no one seemingly cares as much about a man’s image to the extent that they care about a woman’s. An overweight man is looked at as someone who most likely has a good sense of humor (Kevin James, Ralphie May, Gabriel Iglesias, etc.). An overweight woman is looked at as someone who “doesn’t care,” and “let herself go.” Then, there are the “knights in shining fedora,” who say they like curvy women, but think that means a woman with big boobs, a big butt, and a flat stomach.
In the fashion industry, there is an ongoing battle with the ideal woman’s body. Models like Kate Moss promote being skinny by saying, “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels,” according to an interview conducted by fashion website, Women’s Wear Daily (WWD) in 2009. “There is no wrong way to be a woman,” according to the Denise Bidot website. The constant controversy makes it all that much harder to figure out who you are, and what is healthy.
The debate between skinny and curvy cause people to forget about the importance of being healthy. Skinny doesn’t necessarily equate with being healthy. Sadly, people become obsessed with the idea of being skinny, forgetting their health all together, and some fall victim to body dismorphia, anorexia, and bulimia.
Former child actor Raven Symone admitted that she only lost weight because of the pressures of society and her producers, according to a “Where Are They Now” interview with Oprah Winfrey filmed in October 2014. Khloe Kardashian, in a recent Instagram post, exhibiting her weight loss, acknowledged that she will forever be known as “the fat one” in her family. Mary Kate Olsen, Nicole Richie, Demi Lovato, and so many other famous women have had to seek medical and mental help due to eating disorders they developed.
The music industry is especially guilty of adding stress to the image of beauty. Sir Mix-A-Lot raps about women with big butts, and often expresses that he only finds women with hourglass figures attractive. I’m sure you remember the popular lyric, “I like big butts and I cannot lie.” Colbie Caillat sings that you don’t have to change who you are, and you don’t have to try to be beautiful. One Direction sings that a girl not knowing she’s beautiful makes her beautiful. Drake raps that he likes “thick” women. There is constant propaganda towards body image; shouting at us from every corner to either be skinny or to be accepting. This constant tug-of-war leaves us with little room to think for ourselves.
Women are expected, by society, to look either like Kim Kardashian, Taylor Swift, or Jennifer Lawrence. We are further conditioned to think that we are undesirable if we look any differently. We forget that there are women like Melissa McCarthy, someone who is overweight, married, successful, and happy in the world. We forget that skinny doesn’t equate with happiness. In commercials for Weight Watchers, the Special K challenge, and Tropicana 50, women are their targets, as well as the stars in these commercials. We don’t focus on the ideal image of men because, at the end of the day, we still live in a society that believes women are supposed to be appealing to men, not the other way around.
In the end, we have to try to remember that it is your body. You are the one who has to live with it. As long as you are happy, then who cares if you’re skinnier than Kim Kardashian, or larger than Taylor Swift? Who cares if you don’t have curves like Kate Upton? As long as you are healthy, and eating foods that nourish your body, then who cares if you don’t fit some crusty boy’s idea of a “perfect woman?” It is your body!