Written by Krystal Clear Harvey, Humber College
October 27, 2015
Today’s beauty standards have completely changed. Gone are the days when to be considered beautiful, you have to be a size six, with a thigh gap, a flat stomach and no back fat. What’s ‘beautiful’ can no longer be narrowed down to a few strict attributes. Today, every style and shape is celebrated; whether it’s on billboards, magazine covers or on tv shows. We now have plus-sized models gracing the covers of well-known magazines and popular shows like My Big Fat Fabulous Life, that shows what life is like for a plus-sized American female. On social media you commonly see hashtags like #nothighgap and #thickerthanasnicker, and of course we have Drake’s famous lyrics, “I like my girls bbw…” While it’s fascinating to witness society’s standards of beauty change, it’s hard to wonder if this does more harm than good.
Last week I sat down and watched My Big Fat Fabulous Life, on account of being too lazy to get up and look for the remote. What I saw, left me squinting my eyes in confusion. The star of the show is a 5’2, 380 lbs. female. I watched on as she talked about one of the difficulties of a big girl. One problem was not being able to properly dry yourself off after a shower, the blow dryer was then pulled out and used (on the cold setting) to finish drying her off. At that point, I had to ask myself, what the hell am I watching? This year, Tess Holiday became the largest plus sized model (US size 22) to land a contract with a mainstream modelling agency. She started the movement called ‘effyourbeautystandards’ and she’s a body-positive activist.
Anyone plus-sized, or parents of plus-sized children would admire these women for helping the females of today feel beautiful and desirable. But are we as a society promoting obesity and the diseases that come with it?
While I’m sure it’s beneficial for the ladies with more junk in their trunk to have gorgeous and confident overweight role models, we need to delve deeper to see what these people represent as a whole…which is being overweight and how cool it is to be overweight, as long as you love yourself, right? They indirectly tell you that obesity is acceptable and we as a society are starting to eat it up, even though from middle school we’re taught about the dangers of obesity.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for the “beauty at every size” movement, but where has the emphasis on living a healthy lifestyle gone? Are we encouraging exercise, drinking adequate water, making better food selections and getting enough rest? Furthermore, are we encouraging each other to get a yearly thorough physical to know what diseases (if any) run in our family? Are we highlighting the complications of being overweight or what we’re more susceptible to? What about paying for two seats on an airplane or having knee problems? Are we going to hashtag #gotoutofbreathgoingdownthestairs (notice I didn’t say going up, which is harder than going down), or #diagnosedwithhypertension?
You’d think that I’m one of those size six women with a thigh gap, but I’m a size 12 female who had a sister that was overweight and developed diabetes, who then passed away due to complications.
I, as a plus-sized woman appreciate this “love the skin you’re in” movement, but let’s not glamourize it. Yes, we should love who we are and have unshakeable confidence, no matter if we’re 120 lbs. or 300 lbs., shaped like a banana or shaped like an orange. But while we learn to accept ourselves today and teach younger generations that body-shaming is unacceptable, we’re also sending the message that improvement and being health conscious is not something that we should strive for.
No doubt, this issue is a complex one. We want everybody to feel as beautiful as the girls on the magazines and we want everyone to feel as though their bodies (and the celebrities) who possess them, are as represented as much as the physically fit. But we know that there’s a price to pay for everything, so is it a smart move to go with the trend and normalize obesity? Is being overweight the new normal? But more importantly, how can we encourage self-love while stressing the importance of self-improvement and leading a healthy lifestyle?