Recently I came across a reddit user who was photoshopping plus size actresses and showing the world what they would look like if they were skinny.
I was appalled. I like to think that I am part of the body acceptance movement, being healthy is important, but healthy comes in all shapes and sizes. But a part of me deep down thought the photoshopped photos of the women were more beautiful.
This is one of the most troubling thoughts I have had in a long time. Fat shaming is bullying. Skinny shaming is bullying. Young girls and women have enough on their plate. There is no need to spend time and energy worrying about appearances and comparing themselves to what they see in magazines, and now, even more so, online.
This thought that I had, made me feel sick to my stomach. How can I believe one thing, but feel another?
That’s when I realized that ‘you need to look like this to be beautiful’ has been engrained in me.
All of the girls on the Disney channel when I was young were thin. The boys hooted and hollered at the leaner girls when they came out of the change room at the swimming pool (that is another issue in itself, but that topic is for another day), and snickered at the others.
My mom was constantly self conscience of her barely there baby weight that she carried after having three kids. My aunts talked about their daughters carrying a little extra weight around their waste, or their nephews that had gained a lot of weight since they had last visited the farm. My dad called the plus size women that he saw on TV ‘cows’ and my brother once called a famous singer, whose body type I identified as similar to my own, fat.
It was a theme in the books I read and the movies I saw. One of the girls in the friend group, if not all of them, struggled with loving her body and the way she looked, even though she was beautiful.
I became more aware of the brainwashing when I went to university and started thinking more critically of the media and ideas I was consuming. News anchors often had specific body types. Girls wouldn’t eat all day in order to save their daily calories for alcohol later that night. One theatre student I met said that her professors told them to stay in shape and gave the better parts to the ‘more good looking’ people.
Every time something like this happened we talked about how wrong it was and how society needs to change to be more accepting, and how all women are beautiful. But behind closed doors we counted calories, poked at our stomachs in the mirror, and ate only one meal a day.
I really hope that my generation is the transitional generation. I hope that we teach our daughters to love themselves and not compare their looks to others. My parents didn’t think that way. With pressure and stubbornness from me they are adapting how they think, but that generation is mostly a lost cause. And that generation had a major role in how I view the world and I have to work every day to change that.
I never want my future nieces and nephews, children, or any other child that I will come into contact with to feel negatively about how they look. I want them to think that people are beautiful no matter what they look like. I guess that starts with me, and my friends. We will have a major role in how the next generation views the world, and I don’t want them to see it through the lens that I, through no real choice of my own, see through.