Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Women be crazy

Several weeks ago, I had the privilege of helping a friend pick out her wedding dress.

She is a tiny thing, only about 5'4" with her waist fitting a size 4 to 6. She's of Middle Eastern descent which bestowed her with curvy hips and a milky skin tone.

But when we went dress shopping, I was amazed at how critical she was about herself. In dresses that hugged her hips, she'd worriedly look in the mirror pointing at her perceived flabby thighs saying, "Look how horrible that dress makes me look!" The saleswoman and I exchaged quizzical glances and asked her what the heck she was talking about:

But no matter what we said, my friend refused to budge or believe us. She was insistent that even the shape of her thighs should never be shown in public lest everyone be disgusted. And while I encouraged her to buy the dress she felt most secure in and excited to wear, I couldn't help wonder what was behind this new insecurity.

My friend is not a pushover and doesn't lack self-confidence. She has earned degrees from very competitive schools and is about to receive her PhD. And frankly, she is staggeringly smart and motivated; her thesis is above and beyond a normal PhD (not that I'm biased or anything). She has an amazing fiance who could not love her body more. She has a solid group of friends and an active social life. 

Yet all it takes for her to be quivering with fear and indecision is a dress that hugs her thighs. 

I can hardly blame her though. I don't like my stomach. I've always wanted the lean, tight and fit Jillian Michaels of stomachs, but will probably have to settle for a bit of baby fat on the top. And every time I pick up a magazine, browse the internet, watch a movie, watch TV, see the news, view any type of advertisement, I am reminded that my stomach is not "up to par". 

Oh, I've made my peace with it. I will still wear a bikini, and I think I look good. I exercise, eat right, don't smoke, and I revel in how I've maintained my body. But my awesome body type doesn't look anything near what I'm exposed to every day. I'm more muscular, stockier and paler than the "models" I see. And intellectually, I know that my husband is attracted to me, being healthy is more important than looking good, and that the models I see on TV should not be role models. But it is hard to see something every day, almost hourly and not idealize it. If I, as a self-confident, powerful, smart, educated, loved woman has some insecurities because of this exposure, how much worse must it be for our teenagers?

But maybe things are changing ever so slightly. 

Vogue put three plus-sized models on their June 2011 cover, although it's worth noting this was only for Italy, and not for America. 

Plus-sized, you say? They all look pretty skinny to me. 

Here are some different shots of the same women: 

While we can debate about whether these women are truly plus-sized as it should be defined (which in the fashion world is anyone over a size 8), one cannot deny that these women are much bigger than anything Vogue has put in it's magazine for a long time. And while I do not want to encourage childhood obesity, I do want to let every girl know that everyone's body is different. Not everyone will be a twig who is a size 00. Some people will be more curvy. Like my friend, and like me. Some people will be over a size 8 and will BE IN SHAPE.  And that's okay.

I'm sure most of you have heard about Dove's real beauty campaign. They now show real women (not models at all) in most of their advertising: 
Finally! Women who look like me! (This is basically what my tummy looks like)
Sephora recently did a magazine advertisement for makeup with no Photoshop touch-up.

For those who can't see, the asterisk just certifies that a notary public ensured this was not retouched by Photoshop
These little steps forward give me hope. I do enjoy looking at beautiful women in movies and TV. But I want to look at healthy, in shape, beautiful, and above all, REAL, women. Not Photoshopped to perfection, not starved half to death, but real women. Let's hope this movement gains some traction.


  1. You know what's great for "oh my god, I look fat"? http://www.mybodygallery.com/

    You put in your weight and height to see women who have the same measurements.

    A lot of us are so tuned into what we see as our 'flaws' that we can't appreciate how we really look. It's messed up for sure.

    Great entry!

  2. Awesome post. What society has done to promote the "ideal" female is dangerous.

  3. Body size is just one other thing women use to compete with one another. It has little to do with finding a man, since men's tastes in women vary from the really thin to the curvaceous. I like looking at photographs of hot women regardless of their size.