This week I was very interested in the Ted Talk by Ashley Graham. In ten short minutes she challenged the world’s standards of beauty and proved that plus-sized girls deserve to love their bodies too. However, the words plus-sized have taken on a negative stigma for all associated. When did this happen? How long has this been drilled into our heads? Turns out, probably since you were born.
The article The Pervasiveness and Persistence of the Feminine Beauty Ideal in Children’s Fairy Tales by Sperry and Grauerholz looks at the feminine beauty ideal and how it has been displayed in children’s fairy tales. Children use fairy tales to assimilate into their culture. Most fairy tales portray women being the most beautiful when they’re young, while men are handsome at any age. The most beautiful women are also white, privileged, and a virgin (sounds familiar…). These women in fairy tales usually have the most money, marry the most handsome man, and reap the most rewards. It’s no wonder that when we grow up with role models like this we expect the same from ourselves.
So, beginning at a very early age we’ve already established the feminine ideal. And when we’re too old for fairy tales, the modeling/fashion industry reiterates the same standards. The ones who don’t fit inside those standards are shunned or ridiculed. Ashley Graham stated when beginning her modeling career, “I was looking for self-love or affirmation from somebody when in reality I didn’t love who I was.” Why would she when she’d been told her whole life her body didn’t live up to the ideal beauty standards? Ashley believes it starts by becoming your own role model and redefining beauty. In Fashionable Resistance: Queer “Fa(t)shion” Blogging as Counterdiscourse by Connell, a blog called Fa(t)shion February is highlighted as a place that celebrated fat bodies. Instead of using words like “flattering”, which implies that you’re trying to cover the fat up, these bloggers label visible fat as sexy and enviable. One blogger wrote:
These women, like Ashley Graham, embrace themselves exactly the way they are and love it. Plus-size is not even a term used, to them it’s just bodies. However, many people don’t know blogs like this exist. So what would happen if we changed the standard? Would the world come crumbling down if we had a plus-sized princess? What if someone’s fat rolls we’re on the cover of a fashion magazine? Ashley Graham posed the question, “What you would want to say to yourself in the mirror with your own self-affirming words?” Honestly, I don’t know many people who would have positive things to say about themselves. Perhaps if we changed the standards of beauty more women could look into a mirror and love their bodies exactly the way they are.
Connell, C. (2012). Fashionable Resistance: Queer “Fa(t)shion” Blogging as Counterdiscourse. Women’s Studies Quarterly, 41, 209-224.
TEDxTalks. (2015). Plus-size? More Like My Size | Ashley Graham | TEDxBerkleeValencia. YouTube. Web.
Sperry, L. Grauerholz, L. (2003). The Pervasiveness and Persistence of the Feminine Beauty Ideal in Children’s Fairy Tales. Gender and Society, 17;5(711-726).