Last semester I took a class called The Body Project. It’s an initiative that helps women challenge their body-related concerns, talk positively about their bodies, and respond to pressures to achieve the thin ideal. For example, my session identified today’s “perfect woman” to be thin, have long blonde hair, straight teeth, clear skin, and big boobs and butt but a small waist. We discussed all of the wild things women do (ranging from fad diets to anorexia and bulimia) to achieve this “thin ideal” and all of the things that they lose in the process.
This morning I woke up, made myself a prized healthy breakfast, and hit the gym all before 10 o’clock. This has pretty much become my daily routine, save for the days I don’t have work— then I have my healthy breakfast in the morning and run stadiums at sunset. I don’t count calories, but I do my best to always eat the healthier option. Would you call me “healthy” or “thin-obsessed”?
Where does one draw the line between striving to be healthy and fit and striving to be thin? There were several instances in this unit where I was reminded of this question; the first being Ashlee Graham’s “Plus-size? More Like My Size” TED Talk. I do identify with almost everything she said regarding the fact that only 2% of women find themselves beautiful, and that yes, this is the generation of body diversity. But when Graham said that she loved her cellulite I stopped to think. Cellulite is a deposit of fat near the surface of your skin. Could I tell you that I love my cellulite? Could most women? No. In my case, not because it is unsightly (even though it is), but because the body only needs a small amount of “healthy fat” to function. Because although a large amount of the population is still considered in the “healthy” weight range, we are closer to the obese end of the range than anyone would like to admit, myself included.
The next instance that caught my attention was Marie Denee’s blog post “Mattel Debuts a NEW and Updated Barbie!” She points out that she would prefer if the “curvy” Barbie had even more curves, but I think this request needs a little more attention. While children should be able to identify with Barbie’s body type, I believe Barbie should also encourage a healthy lifestyle. I do not pretend to be an expert, but I believe that the curviness of curvy Barbie should align with the body of an average fit and healthy teenage girl.
The YouTube video entitled “Women and Advertising” posted by Amy Bell begins to produce an answer to my question posed above. The speaker Jean Kilbourne addresses the fact that “a third of Americans are obese, two thirds are overweight, and the rates for kids are skyrocketing.” She follows this with the statement that the solution is not to make girls hate or starve themselves. That the problem of obesity and the obsession with thinness “involve our need to transform our attitudes as a culture about the things we eat.” So I suppose the challenge from here on out is to strike a balance between loving our bodies and striving for healthy. The next obstacle that this poses is how to embody that in the media. Any ideas?
TEDxTalks. “Plus-size? More Like My Size | Ashley Graham | TEDxBerkleeValencia.” YouTube. YouTube, 2015. Web.
Denee, Marie. “Mattel Debuts a NEW and Updated Barbie! Check out the Curvy, Petite, and Tall Barbie!” The Curvy Fashionista. N.p., 28 Jan. 2016. Web.
Homebell2. “Women and Advertising.” YouTube. YouTube, 2012. Web.