Two nights ago, one of my friends posted this clip from an Ellen interview on facebook. I don’t normally watch videos people link to on facebook (and especially when they’re videos from the often-boring and gag-inducing “Upworthy” website), but for this one, I caved.
Because…Ellen. Come on.
And I could hardly believe what I saw.
Watch this, and tell me if you’re tracking yet:
Can you believe that this woman is considered “plus size?”
Or better yet, that we even have to point out that she’s not?
You can see it for yourself in the video, so I don’t think there’s much I need to say. This woman is clearly gorgeous and the only thing large about her is the fact that she stands 6’2″ in her stocking feet. No one who passed her on the street would think she is unhealthy or Actually, my guess is that many Americans would consider her to have a fabulous figure. And yet the fashion industry tells us that she is “too big” to do anything but “plus size” modeling.
Really, it boils down to this: We’re being sold lies, and we need to fight back. Women are being taught that beauty is an ideal that lies outside of their grasp, something that they need to struggle for and suffer in order to attain such a privileged state.
It is a lie.
First of all, your physical appearance is not worth a worthy cause for that kind of battle. Health is incredibly important (you knew I was going to say that), and there is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to look your best, but physical beauty is not one of the greatest priorities in life, nor does it deserve to be the thing that consumes so much of your thoughts, efforts, and time.
In addition, the beauty women are told to pursue is not real or authentic, it is a manufactured, synthetic, photo-shopped fraud of femininity. The images that women are instructed to replicate are incredibly artificial, and yet women are instructed to emulate those standards in order to achieve the highest order of beauty (and, subsequently, value). There is nothing more valuable in the contrived images of print ads than there is in realistic feminine beauty. If anything, there is less value in those images because of their inherent lack of authenticity and the issues of health and practicality (fertility/lack thereof, nutrient deficiencies, decreased bone density, catabolism of lean mass, compromised integrity of the immune system, etc.)that arise from the measures needed to achieve/maintain such a state.
This kind of conversation should be commonplace. The ridiculous standards of the media should be something that we dismiss automatically, something that we laugh at because it’s so absurd and so clearly incongruent with physiology and human nature. But here’s the catch – we have to live like we mean it.
We can’t decry the distorted body-image standards set by the media while we flip through January’s issue of Vogue and plan our New Year’s Day crash diets with our friends.
We can’t go from complaining about media standards to complaining about being “a whale” in size 6 jeans.
We can’t insist that we know better and then go on desperately searching for the right wardrobe and exercise program, and diet and supplement to make us look like more like a mannequin than a real woman.
This is not about turning away the beauty standards of the fashion industry to embrace the “fat acceptance movement.” When it comes down to it, it’s not even really about size. The battle is against the mindset that reality is not good enough. Clearly, not everyone is going to share an identical, or even similar, opinion on what constitutes feminine beauty. But disagreements over personal preferences are a far cry from propagandizing artificial images as the ideal standard for women who breathe and move and live in bodies made of flesh and bones and blood.
The idea that the media is sending out millions of messages every day, and each of those messages reinforce the lie that women are not good enough unless they meet this arbitrary standard should make you angry. Ladies, we need to support each other. When women as a whole are already under attack like this, there is no room for “fat talk” or a running commentary of disparaging remarks about our bodies. Instead we ought to make a conscious effort to build each other up and affirm other women, especially young girls who may be the most impressionable of all. As women, our instinct is to scrutinize things constantly, including our bodies and other women’s. But when we do that, we continue perpetuating the lie that any body less than a photo-shopped underwear model is a cause for shame and intervention. And fellas, don’t for one second think that this doesn’t affect yall. You may not be directly targeted by this messages, but you know who is? You girlfriends and wives and sisters and mothers and daughters. You have the incredible privilege of being able to influence how they deal with the lies the industry feeds them and how they see their own beauty. Use that privilege. Use it wisely and use it well.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve had enough of these lies.
It’s time to start fighting back.
Who’s with me?