In a capitalist, patriarchal society, women are seen first and foremost as child-bearers and as objects of beauty. In American society, full to the brim with capitalism and sexism, women have been split apart for advertising, entertainment, “traditional family values,” and the rape culture, amongst a myriad of other things. In this society, women are valued for and completely identified by their physical appearance. Beauty is the main thing a girl can have, because beautiful girls find rich men to love them and take care of them. As a kid, it always infuriated me that all the girl role models were just pretty. Maybe they sang, maybe they acted, but in the end, they were all just pretty. Boys got to identify with superheroes and astronauts and great world leaders. I got to identify with women who had big tits and sparkly eyes. That being said, women’s identity is their looks. If a woman is beautiful and successful, they say it’s only because of her appearance, or because she “sleeps around.” If a woman is not seen as attractive and successful, it’s just because she wasn’t “pretty” enough to do other things, like get married and pop out babies.
Within the last fifty or so years, women who are thin with large breasts have been idealized as beautiful. The idea of beauty varies a bit from decade to decade in American society, but it rarely has anything to do with the woman looking like she’s a healthy or physically empowered person. Nowadays, anorexia runs rampant with models being so thin that they disappear when they turn to the side. Girls (and boys) are developing eating disorders and nearly or completely destroying themselves. Society idealizes women that are unhealthy and unable to defend themselves, and because that’s all society let’s young girls look up to, that’s what they try to become. There has been a long response to this in recent years with anti-anorexia campaigns and most prominently, the “real women have curves” movement. The movement started out well, it made the point that full-figured women are just as beautiful as thin women, and we should all love our bodies no matter what. Truer words were never spoken, in that case, but the movement has turned into something much, much different. Now there are things all over the internet and TV proclaiming, “real women have curves!”
First off, let me explain what’s wrong with that statement as a whole. “Real women” are people who identify as a woman. That’s it. I don’t care if you’re the size of a hippo or the size of a toothpick, if you call yourself a woman, then you’re a woman. To say only real women have curves reminds me a lot of a bill known as the “Small Breast Ban” in Australia. Basically, the ban said if your bra is an “A” cup or less, you can’t act in pornography because it “encourages pedophilia.” So if you have small breasts, that makes you a child. Thankfully, that bill got torn down, but the society we have around fat-positivity is teaching us the same thing, just without a legal action for it. This idea that large women are more beautiful than thin women, and that thin women are all anorexic, inherently demonizes and demeans thin women.
It also shames women with eating disorders. Women who have eating disorders are generally suffering from terrible self-esteem and are either trying to look like the models or are on a mission to self-destruct, be it conscious or unconscious. The movement shames women with legitimate struggles, and that shame only adds to what they’re already feeling thanks to this sexist society. Why people go around on this movement to make themselves and others feel better while disrespecting and demonizing others is beyond me.
Finally, the movement still continues the same problem we have with patriarchy and sexism. It identifies and values women on their physical appearance. It says “if you look this way, you’re better, if you look that way, you’re worse.” I’d really like to know how it helps women at all to shift a movement in a slightly different direction that still hangs onto the same old principles that are destroying women’s bodies. Sure, larger women and girls can feel better about their bodies, and I’m all for that, but to hate thin women and continue to only identify by appearance perpetuates the same cycle. I don’t care if the trend is being as thin as can be or as heavy as can be, as long as society and these movements keep allowing women to only be valued by their body, the problem will never be solved.
In the end, I’m tired of seeing this movement take things too far. I’m tired of thin women and fat women hating themselves. I’m tired of eating disorders and constant pressure to look a certain way. I’m tired of the sexism that values women only on their bodies and harms women’s psyche. But most importantly, I’m tired of women and men being too blind to see that this movement will not affect real change. What will affect real change is rising up. It’s loving yourself no matter what you look like. It’s not giving a damn about what you look like. It’s making yourself braver, more knowledgable, more independent, more caring, more loving and more free. It’s understanding that anyone who will think you’re worth something who is also worth something won’t value you only on your appearance. They’ll value you for all those other things. It’s taking a stand for yourself and everybody else so that the world can understand that no one is allowed to make you an object, and no one will stop you from being who you are and loving who you are. That is feminism, and that is real change.