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.