Girl Talk

Body Image is Still A Thing, Apparently

I just hit my breaking point. If I hear one more girl sigh with utter dismay that she isn’t skinny enough, my head may explode. Or implode. Either way, it will self-destruct, because it’s the only way I can get relief from the self-deprecating rationality vacuum that so many girls and women seem to be stuck in. And it’s always while looking at a magazine, TV, or website. Occasionally a billboard. Which reminds me, thank you to all the women’s magazines that deign to throw a bone at body image issues once in a while, featured with as much self-congratulation as is possible for a publication otherwise rife with destructive images of airbrushed, aesthetically fictionalized women.

It’s not just about who is skinny or to what degree. It’s not about women like Sofia Vergara or Jennifer Lopez being tokenized as curvy women of note (and token Latinas, but that’s a whole other conversation). Skinny isn’t the issue, it’s just how some women are. Pick ten women at random and you will find ten different body types – so how is it socially responsible to raise one body type above any other in a public space like the media? I know how: not at all. One thing is for sure, though: the more women are defined by their bodies, the further back we slip into the misogyny of history. After all, we have far more to offer than our aesthetic values (or their implications), be it skinny, curvy, size 2 or 12, A or DDD. Why is anyone looking toward the media for cues, anyway? It’s all fiction. It’s an endless vat of falsified images of men and mostly women, almost all of whom represent an age and race that, in ratio to reality, barely reflects any of the people it is seen by.

To me, at this point, the question isn’t, “why do I not see myself reflected in mass media images of women.” I don’t want to look to the media for any sort of reflection, because I’m capable of forming my own opinions and don’t really feel the need to have them pushed onto me by corporations that stand to benefit financially from my insecurities. As long as I feel good about what I eat and live a healthy lifestyle, as long as my body itself is healthy and able, I feel great, and it doesn’t matter what images are being thrown at me. The truth is, no matter how much I might diet and exercise, I will never look like Natalie Portman, and no matter how much I accent my curves, I will never look like Christina Hendricks either. But I know what does work on me, and I don’t need to see my doppelganger on a red carpet to own the parts of me that make me awesome. Both those women are beautiful, just as I feel I am, all of us in our own way.

The truth is, it doesn’t matter all that much, what you look like. It’s fun to get a cute haircut, it’s fun to do makeup and wear clothes that make you feel good. But if you ask anyone who’s ever had a crush on you what they like about you, most of the time it won’t be the cute outfit you’re wearing, but the contented confidence you exude from wearing it. Sure, looks can pique interest, but even then, you’re probably more interesting in a band shirt (something people can connect with you through) than looking like you just fell out of a Vogue spread.

You’re not attractive because you look like the airbrushed neo-Barbie posing with a giant bottle in a vodka ad, or the limitlessly fancy red carpet starlet. You’re attractive because of how you tell a story, how your eyes crinkle when you smile, how you love a certain author so fervently, and any number of other trite rom-com clichés. Because there’s actually truth to those sappy monologues – the most attractive thing about anyone is what makes them unique, not what makes them blend in. Anyone who is more focused on your looks than your self is bad news and in all likelihood cares very little about you as a person, except to use you as an accessory. We’re women, not purses, and that means we can own our greatness instead of comparing it to that of others while vying for mediocraty.

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  • Lindsay Ann Bottos

    i think you’re placing too much blame on women. Obviously, if its such an epidemic, its not an issue relevant to individuals. As you hinted at, society is to blame. The magazine industry, tv, the porn industry, clothing stores, all of it. I think we need to shift our blame away from women and towards the source. Making women feel bad about wanting to be thinner or to look a certain way is counter productive.

    • Laine Leard

      I politely disagree, to say that society is to blame is to simply underestimate the minds of women. We should be able to bypass the nonsense that the media/society throws at us and think for ourselves. Of course you are correct in saying that society definitely adds to the mix, but we are independent in our thinking.

    • Julia Gazdag

      I think you misunderstood — I’m not blaming women at all! I’m just saying let’s think outside the box we’re given. And I don’t think women should feel bad about wanting to be thinner, I think they should feel good about the body they have, and focus more on being and feeling healthy.

    • Jennifer Feaster Weghorst

      Isn’t society just a collection of individuals, roughly half of which are women? One could argue that there are more women than men even in many of the industries you are naming. Change happens one person at a time. So, individuals learning to rise above pigeon-holing themselves based on appearance will spread throughout society.

    • Stephanie Kodiak

      Ever heard of internalized oppression? Your message is “stop it!” and is anger toward the woman. Please seek out more information on the topic. To say our patriarchal society causes much if not all of this problem does not take agency away from women, but rather explains why very sane logical women have these hang ups. Oppression in feminism is often described as a cage, internalized oppression makes the cage apart of us. We all “know” that we should be sure of ourselves, but there is a reason why we have these feeling. I appreciate your optimism, but feel that your message in this piece was handle with little care. To place this burden on the shoulders of women, on top of the initial oppression that has made them feel unsatisfied with their bodies is to blame the patient for the symptom. While I agree that we can undo damage done through the support of others as well as a kind of self actualization, that will have no effect on the outer world that is further caging our sisters. Please look at how you have women apologizing for feeling bad about themselves, or having eating disorders, or the strength not to listen to the “you are beautiful” message. Years of having the message that you are a body, and that body is only as good as it measures up more times than not will trump a mantra of “you are beautiful”. Just because you can shake it off (which I profess seems like rhetoric in a typical way) does not mean that others have had the necessary support to do that. Please understand the weight of your words as well as the impact they may have. Instead of telling women to stop it, maybe we should be explaining how we got here, and how to proceed. Without understanding why women feel this way we are just feeding into the crazy woman myth, and disregarding the real reasons women feel poorly about there bodies and in turn themselves.

  • Cicely Nevitt

    I LOVE THIS ARTICLE! I agree with everything you say. Women aren’t to “blame,” but we can take responsibility for how we see ourselves and that we don’t project these idiotic ideas about what beauty is and isn’t on each other. You have mirrored many of my own feelings ♥

  • Bobbie Lee Thompson

    Thank you for this article! I’m going to share this You are soooo right! My fav part is: the most attractive thing about anyone is what makes them unique, not what makes them blend in. Anyone who is more focused on your looks than your self is bad news and in all likelihood cares very little about you as a person, except to use you as an accessory. We’re women, not purses, and that means we can own our greatness instead of comparing it to that of others while vying for mediocraty.

  • Caitlin’ Quigley

    I am a thirteen year old girl, and I DO have body issues, but not because of the media( which I frankly pay very little attention to). I have body issues because there are issues with my body. I know every person has flaws, and we can’t help that- it’s fundamental to who we are, but I know my body isn’t healthy and that’s simply my problem. I want to be slimmer and lose weight because I know I don’t take pride in my body now, and I will if I do take a stand to myself and get off my ass and become healthier. I do agree with your beautiful points about how if someone loves you, they will love you for who you are, not your image,It’s great to be happy about yourself and I strongly encourage embracing yourself, I’m not saying everyone needs to be a size four, but I do believe that if someone is, say, largely overweight and they are unhappy about it, they should change that, if it will make them happier. I am a very confident person with my personality, I’m just not comfortable with my body. Maybe I’m in the minority also, when I say people I know influence me more than tv or models. I can see thousands of airbrushed stick-thin girls and I won’t let it annoy me, or I will see a women like Christina Hendricks or Beyonce, and admire them, but won’t feel bad about myself; because those women are stars, I feel as if they’ve spent a lot of time and effort looking the way they do, and I respect that. But then I see a girl in my school who’s tall and pretty and not fat, and she doesn’t do anything to be that way, and it frustrates me. I even know plenty of girls who AREN’T tiny, they may be the same dress size as me, but it all goes to their chest and hips, and that annoys me as well.
    You may answer me and say something about embracing myself and how everyone’s different and lot’s of people’s bodies are different sizes and that’s the way things naturally are and I should get over it and be happy with myself, but I know I won’t be.
    Because I know I want to lose weight and to feel I can be proud of my body, for myself.

    • Julia Gazdag

      Caitlin, I think you’re awesome. I totally agree — you should feel good about yourself because you feel healthy. And if you feel you need to make more effort in order to be in a healthy place, then do it up, girl! I think that’s what it’s all about – listening to your body and not to others. I think that ultimately, everyone has insecurities, and a lot of people want something they don’t have, because there are just so many possibilities and the grass is always greener. But you have the power to attain health, and I think it’s wonderful that that’s where your focus is. And frankly, you’re thirteen. If you didn’t have insecurities, I’d be worried you were a sociopath or something :P. It’s not fun, but as long as it boosts you to a good place and as long as you don’t get carried away with it, that’s just what middle and high school comes with.

    • Melody DuVal

      Caitlin, I totally understand. When I was your age I heard people talk about the media negatively influencing how teenagers thought about themselves and I thought, “What media? I feel like crap because my friends are gorgeous and thin and I’m not!” I couldn’t have cared less about movie-stars and magazines. I just wanted to be the same jean size as the people around me.

      But I think Julia’s message still applies. It’s great to want to lose weight to be healthy. Go for it. Just please know that how you look is only one tiny part of who you are and it has absolutely nothing to do with why the people who love you love you.

    • Anne Richards

      Caitlin, you have very bravely and honestly identified exactly what’s bothering you. It sounds like you know that being fat is a health issue, and that exercise and eating well needs to be a priority. You didn’t say how much overweight you are,but you zeroed in on an important point: some girls just want to be a little thinner or a little taller in order to look slim or even average. Some girls are significantly overweight to the point where their self-esteem or health is compromised. Lucky for you, you are just thirteen and at a time in your life when it’s easier to create new habits by eating healthier , walking more, and being more active. Also, you probably have some more growing to do, and that will help you slim down. It’s hard not to compare yourself with others, but since you are motivated to be a healthier YOU, it’ll be easier than it might seem.

  • Andrea Augustinas

    I really like the message here– it’s one that I really think a lot of young girls need to be presented with ASAP if they haven’t already, because you’re really made a good point about where the blame falls for these kind of issues, and how we as women can affirm ourselves in the face of all this scrutiny and nonsense. An earlier commenter was under the impression that you were ‘blaming’ women for their lack of confidence, but I think by pointing out our place in this mass delusion you give much more power back to us than taking it away. The unfortunate truth is, no matter how far we’ve come or how far we still have to go (and that’s pretty far), the media is never going to stop doing what works for them, which is glamorizing unrealistic ideals and bombarding us all with them. And we can either blindly obey the media machine by adhering to these images as a gospel for what we ought to be (which is what in actuality WOULD be a surrender of our power), or we can recognize the manipulation that is taking place, and refuse to be a part of it. I’m someone who grew up being probably one of the least confident girls I know because I scarcely fit the mold of what women are “supposed” to strive for physically, and it’s taken me a long time to realize that there are just some things about my appearance that are never going to change that drastically. Your citing of Natalie Portman and Christina Hendricks are spot on– both women look the way they do because of their genetics, and no amount of crash dieting or surgery is going to make you look like them (or, more importantly, make you genuinely happy). To summarize a very long comment, I’ll just say that I am very glad to see an article like this one out there, especially on a site focused at younger women, because it’s the kind of thing I wish I’d seen more of growing up. So thanks for taking the time to share it.

    • Penelope Gibbs

      well said!

  • Erin Radler

    Great article! One of the first I’ve read on this subject that really made me start thinking about my self-worth and what that means. Growing up in Southern California, I have a LOT of insecurities with my appearance, and it’s something that I try very hard to work on now. But having these insecurities is somewhat hard-wired.

    People tell you all the time to just “love who you are,” but it’s much easier said than done. However, the point you made about why people are attracted to you really hit home. I never really thought of it that way, but you are absolutely right. They make a connection, and like what is unique about you. Thanks for the insight! I (and many others) needed to read something like this.

  • Stefanie Bravo

    I must say I literally went on this website hoping to find an article that expresses the feelings I have about body image and I’m so glad I found this one! It was fate and I completely agree how what we perceive as beauty isn’t right at times especially when the darn media seems to be everywhere! You know what else frustrates me? The fact that because the masses cater to a specific body image so much so that I have a problem finding clothing (particularly jeans) that will flatter my body. I’m 5’2 and I’m pretty sure there’s a lot of girls out there too who are trying to find that perfect piece of clothing.

    • Julia Gazdag

      I’m 5’3″ and I am tired of f**king hemming sh*t

    • Lexine Pishue

      not to mention that if you’re 5’3 and CURVY, you should pretty much just make your own clothes.

  • Maddie Kindig

    As a now eating disorder recovered 21 year old, taking a step back and seeing the influence the media had on me (back in my eating disorder days) is extremely alarming. I didn’t realize then that the images of how women “should” look was completely wrong thinking. I now would consider myself a bit of a feminist and I also have a newfound knowledge of learning to love myself AND rejecting the media’s portrayal of the “ideal woman”. I really loved your article. It’s very reassuring to know that other women are taking a stand against the media’s portrayal of us!

    • Julia Gazdag

      Girl, if you believe in your right to vote and equal pay, you’re already a feminist. The rest is just semantics. I’m glad to hear you’ve recovered and I’m sorry you had to go through that! I’m recovering from a 2 year long disease myself, and one thing I can say is that it has changed and enriched me enough next to all of the bad parts, that I feel the better for the experience and wouldn’t change it, hard and horrible as it has been. I think that your happiness is your own, and most of the people sending you signals that get you down (be they ones you know or ones you don’t, like the media), are ones you don’t need to be listening to anyway. They won’t be affected by your happiness, but you will, so do you, the rest doesn’t matter.

  • Nicole Ross

    This article reflects everything I’ve just been realizing turning 20, I have to say, I love wearing clothes that express my personality rather than looking like every other woman on the street or in a magazine, it makes me feel much more confident and happy with myself and people are way more interested in who YOU are. Not only does it frustrate me that women in the media have the bodies of fifteen year olds, (which made me freak out about my body image until I realized that I was just developing into an adult woman), but all these women are six foot tall! I’m always feeling short even though most of my friends are the same height.

  • Mia Witt

    Absolutely love this article. I’m proud to be a feminist and I love to find great articles to reference about body acceptance to my friends! Instead of a wedding board on Pinterest, I have feminist board full of quotes and pictures of beautiful, strong and brave women. Everyone is beautiful, in their own way, as long as they are healthy and happy. I think those two factors matter much more than measurements of your waist or the force of gravity on your body :)

  • Catriona Warwick

    Do you know what doesn’t get much look-in as far as body image is concerned? AGE, I have seen a lot of articles in magazines lately, including more high-brow media which pushes the idea of “ageing gracefully” and “older beautiful women” only for the page opposite to be promoting an anti-wrinkle cream or some sort of anti-age beauty product, I am 20, I have no qualms about ageing but I would like to see less of a push to look younger, why can’t we look our age (and body type) and still be beautiful?

    • Julia Gazdag

      Agreed! I sort of touched on that without going into detail – how the images we see don’t represent us as a whole. I didn’t go into detail about the race, sexuality, age, etc. part because this thing is long enough as it is. But yes! You’re right!

  • Mitchell Willie

    I, for one, am perfectly pleased that every woman is individually beautiful in perfectly unique ways. Variety, after all, is the spice of life.

  • Kendall De Jong

    Very much enjoyed reading your article and I 100% agree! I’ve embraced myself exactly how I am and it’s a wonderful feeling; always great to see other women doing the same. :)

  • Norman Kamel

    to post a comment

  • Ryan White

    agreed, mitchell.
    perfectly flawed, perfectly incomplete. a work in progress, your imperfections make you unique. -Otep

  • Lynn Milner Walker

    I really enjoyed your article. Lots of points I definitely agree with. Catriona’s comments also really hit home with me. Just when you may finally feel grown-up and mature and confident and relatively comfortable with your body, then the aging issue hits! I’ll be 50 this year and regretting that I didn’t take better care of myself. I’ll tell you, I’ve found out that a lot of how you look as you get older is genetics. So, do what you can to feel good about yourself, but don’t drive yourself crazy! :)

    • Julia Gazdag

      I kind of can’t wait to get more lines. My face feels so bland.

  • China Marie Aquino

    This is, by far, the best article I have read on Hello Giggles! It seems like the timing for this article was perfect too. (I’m referring to personal experience) I definitely agree, more attention needs to be brought to the media and its f-ed up way of portraying a body type that only 1% of women have, and more importantly, sending out messages that it is somehow superior. Thanks for reiterating the importance of doing things that make YOU feel good, as well as pointing out the fact that if a guy truly likes you, it’s because he likes the things that make you unique, and not simply “tits and ass”. (Yes, that was a reference to A Chorus Line)

  • Jess Allen-Summers

    Julia, you’re a very inspirational writer. I aspire to write and think like you, and this article has reminded me that I am in control! with love, Jess xxx

    • Julia Gazdag

      That’s so sweet! But girl, think for yourself! :)

  • Jessica Miller

    Great article! I also love how more and more evidence of photoshoping is coming out. That was the industries dirty little secret for a long time and women were killing themselves to compete with flawless models and actresses on magazines. No person you see on a magazine cover represents their true form. They can’t live up to their own perfected image, it’s time other women stop trying to as well.

    • Anonymous

      Posted on She’s an exceptional fehitgr, and a very strong person. I’m very proud of her, and glad of being by her side loving and supporting her. <3

  • Hayley Bergan

    I’m majorly guilty of having a really effed up body image. It’s absolutely my obsession BUT I try and cover it up by making my fb profile pic an image from fatbooth. I think my 3 hr workouts and ridiculously strict diet and the fact that I had breast enhancement surgery last year give me away a little. I wish I were happy with me but unfortunately I’m not. Great article though, I’m glad that women with strong body images do exist.

    • Julia Gazdag

      Thank you for the compliment, Hayley! I really hope you can appreciate yourself and balance out the interior with the exterior. I don’t think the media is the only element that influences our self-image, or our self-worth, but I do hope that you learn to see how wonderful you are, because it’s the easiest way to share it with others. A few pounds won’t make a difference to anyone but you – or, for a similar example, all I see on my face is infinite blackheads on my nose, but apparently I’m the only one. So I’ve learned to stop worrying about it, because the only person it makes a difference to is me, and I have better things to do, in the grand scheme of things. And frankly, every boy (and girl) I’ve talked to who is attracted to women is a fan of having something to pinch 😉

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