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Archive for February 23, 2017

Defying Cultural Standards of Beauty

By Volunteer

I am 5’9.

I am skinny.

I have a dark skin.

I used to hate all these features of my body, and every once in a while, I still struggle with them. You’re probably thinking, “Isn’t that what all females want…to be tall and really skinny, like models?” I hear it all the time. “You’re sooo lucky…I wish I had your body type.” Thing is, I never felt lucky.

In America, women tend to want to have tall slender bodies, because the media represents these features as the “norm.” This is not the case in my culture. In the African culture, my body features are considered “unattractive,” “manly” and even “ugly.” In my culture, men want women who are 5 feet tall, with light skin and curvaceous bodies. I have always felt self-conscious about my body because I am the EXACT opposite of what men in my culture consider to be beautiful.

Instead of being 5 feet tall, I feel like a giant at almost 6 feet tall. Instead of having big breasts, child bearing hips and a voluptuous rear end, I feel ugly because my breasts are barely an A cup and my torso is thin. I have felt ugly for a large portion of my life because of my body type. I do not represent the ideal of feminine beauty in my culture, which is something I know American women struggle with daily as well.

Instead of having light skin, I am dark, which is not appreciated by African or American standards of beauty. I’ve always felt like the dark skin is automatically seen as unattractive to men. As a matter of fact, many media communicators have been accused of “whitewashing” the skin of African American people by making their pictures lighter, and there is an abundance of visual evidence to prove this.

thVC1GKBEBI have judged myself against the African standard of beauty for most of my life. However, as I approach adulthood, I am beginning to see that my features are unique. I am my own person on the inside and I love who I am. It is only fitting that I learn to accept the person I am on the outside. I am beginning to see beauty standards at face value. I do not need to fit into African or American beauty standards, nor do I want to. Unfortunately, beauty standards are driven into our heads from a young age, so it took me a long six years to realize that I am beautiful just the way I am.

I’ve had my ups and downs, but I made it to a place where I am happy with myself inside and out. I always used to look down on myself, despite what people told me. Every time I’d leave my house I would hear people telling me that I was stunning, beautiful, model like, and that I look like a goddess. I couldn’t hear them because of my own negative thoughts. Comments like these made me wonder why I was having all of these negative thoughts in the first place – and then it clicked. I was wishing so hard to be something that was preferred by my culture. I decided then that I would not let any cultural norm dictate what was beautiful and what was not.

It does not matter at all what people think of you – all that matters is what you think of yourself and I know now that I am beautiful inside and out despite the preference of any culture. To anyone out there struggling with your body image, just know that you are beautiful no matter what anyone says. Speak to yourself in ways that affirm your beauty.

I am a stunning 5’9!

I have a strong slender body!

I have smooth and silky dark skin!

And I love myself!

 

“White” Wedding

By Agustina Suarez

From a young age girls dream of the “perfect” wedding, and the “perfect” dress. Some women dream of the day when we will get engaged, and then we dream of the excitement of planning for this special day that only comes once in a lifetime. Thank goodness we can rely on the 50 billion dollars a year wedding industry and abundance of media promotions that will help us to create our special day, right? WRONG!

Brides Magazine published by Condé Nast is filled with “perfect” images of women who almost look unreal. Brides Magazine targets both women in general who fantasize over their potential wedding and women who are in the process of planning their weddings. They advertise wedding dresses, accessories, and other miscellaneous wedding items for women to wear on their special day.

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The purpose of this magazine is to sell wedding related products to all types of women. Unfortunately, Brides Magazine idea of all types of women only includes white, skinny females. This magazine is telling its audience that curvy women and/or women of color do not fit a beauty standard of one impossibly thin white female image after another.

Brides Magazine has failed in reaching all of the women in this country with gorgeous bodies that vary in size. A study conducted by The Today Show in 2016 revealed that the average American woman is actually a size 16. In avoiding to market to women above a size two, this magazine has alienated a majority of the women in this country who dream of their perfect wedding day, despite their size.

Not only that, but this magazine has also failed to reach the beautiful women of color who live in this country. After sifting through the pages of Brides Magazine I was shocked to find that there were no 2016_bridescom-Runway-April-j-mendel-wedding-dresses-spring-2017-Large-j-mendel-wedding-dresses-spring-2017-009Latina, Black, or Asian women featured among its pages. This is a misrepresentation of what our society actually looks like. Brides Magazine has created an unrealistic world in which all women are thin and white and all women portray unattainable beauty standards. This magazine goes far beyond bridal beauty. It turns beauty into an impossibility.

In the film Bride Wars (2009), Liv Lerner, played by actress Kate Hudson says, “You don’t alter Vera Wang to fit you. You alter yourself to fit Vera.” This line mirrors the unhealthy “whitewashing,” thin ideal and beauty standards portrayed in Brides Magazine. It is ideas like this that tell women they are not good enough to get married the way they are. Ideas like this encourage women to abandon their true selves and embrace impossible weight and beauty ideals.

The fact of the matter remains though that all women are different shapes, different sizes, and different skin tones and we are all beautiful. We do not need to alter our appearances for a wedding to be perfect. A wedding is supposed to be an event that celebrates the love which two people have created. Love existed before the wedding industry and it will exist after we come together to resist some of its harmful ideas and images.

Questions To Consider

  1. What can Brides Magazine do to appeal to more women?
  1. How can women resist beauty norms put in place by the wedding industry?

We Determine Our Own Perfection

By Madinah Lawton

This is for girls who don’t like their bodies – for girls who often second guess themselves. I have a message for you, and it is this: You are perfect just the way you are.

Believe me when I say – I know how it feels to be judged. I used to think I wasn’t pretty because I didn’t look like the girls at my school. I didn’t look like the images on Instagram, Facebook, and in magazines. I used to think I wasn’t pretty because of my height. I am 16 years old and 6 feet tall. When I’d get teased about my height I felt like being tall wasn’t attractive. I secretly wished for the growing to stop. I was always the subject of the “basketball” and “giraffe” jokes. Trust me I’ve heard them all.

In addition to my height, I used to believe that I wasn’t pretty because I have scars on my face. I would always measure myself against other girls, and I’d always be the only one with a scarred face. Then, there was my body frame. I have always been extremely skinny, and I did not like this about myself. I weighed less than my friends and they would tease me about it. I’d laugh, but on the inside I was ashamed. I would eat all the time just to gain weight. I felt ugly and frail.

The boys I had crushes on didn’t like me back. In fact, it seemed that most boys would make fun of me and call me names, which made me feel worthless and even more ugly. I convinced myself that I wasn’t good enough.

One fateful day, I decided to join my school’s basketball team. To my surprise, basketball was something I was good at and it made me feel confident playing. It was an activity where my height was actually an advantage. In addition to the personal enjoyment I felt when playing basketball, I also felt a huge sense of pride. I was good at this game.

My mom has also been a huge inspiration to me. She taught me how to love myself. No matter how low and unattractive I felt, my mom was always there telling me what a beautiful young woman I’d become. This allowed me to change my perception of myself. I stopped doubting and worrying about how I looked and started embracing the beauty that had always been there, even when I failed to see it. It took me a while, but finally, I realized that I am pretty just the way I am. I realized that I should embrace my body even if others don’t. My self-worth had nothing to do with the opinions of negative people, and it was my mom’s positivity that showed me that.432be30dc432c651eabbb8768fa7069e[1]

My cousins and my parents used to tell me that I was beautiful and the more they said this to me the more I believed it. I didn’t care what boy called me ugly because I knew I was not. I still felt a little bad when I saw models with hair draping down their backs, because I knew this would never be me, but learning how to be a conscious media consumer taught me that a large part of what I see in the media is not reality, and I know that models have insecurities as well. Not everyone has high self-esteem.

After so many years of hating my height, I discovered that it was a gift. It allowed me to be a talented basketball player and I felt like it created opportunities for me that I might otherwise not have had. I realized that I was unique among my friends. Remember my message. It doesn’t matter if you’re big, small, tall, short, dark, light or skinny. You’re beautiful just the way you are. I believe that we are all made the way we are made for a reason, and this reason has nothing to do with pleasing others. What you think about yourself can be the key to your happiness. All you have to do is find the beauty that is already there.

 

It’s All About the Journey

By Jessica Kaliher

A lot of people are under the impression that the journey to a better anything is a straight, constant, line upward. I hate to break it to you, but this is not the case at all. Unfortunately, it is more of a roller coaster with a lot of ups and downs. There are good days and bad days. There are solid weeks when you finally feel you are on the right track, only to have something happen and your progress go back a little bit, but fear not.

Trust the Journey

Your progress is not derailed. It’s okay to have downs, in fact they can even be helpful because this is where you learn and grow…if you allow yourself to. To really make progress, we should be able to bounce back quickly, but often times we go in circles and ruminate on one little slip up. It does not make you a failure if you slipped back into bad habits; it makes you human and you are capable of overcoming whatever it is.

If we see life and our goals as a journey we are less likely to feel so discouraged every time we aren’t 100% happy, because that’s just not possible. Humans have a wide range of emotions and it is okay to feel all of them. If we acknowledge that we are on a journey, we know that better times are coming. A string of those moments mixed with hope and hard work will produce a more uphill squiggly line, rather than just constant ups and downs.

Path to Success

Hopefully one day, you will have more ups than downs, but what I am trying to say is that it’s okay to have the downs because life is an adventure.

I don’t want anyone to be under the impression that those who have reached their goals are always happy, content, and “finished.” It takes constant work to maintain where we are. This “destination” is a complete illusion.

It is great to have goals, and once you achieve one, you should celebrate! But then keep growing on the path you’re on and be prepared to handle any experiences that may go outside of the “perfect” line you have envisioned for yourself.

Every Victory Counts

If you have the mindset that it’s all about the journey rather than the destination, you will be more present and grateful for each small victory. There is no rush. Anything good takes time and you are surely worth it! Slow down, be mindful, take care of yourself, and trust the journey.

There is no “right” way to recover or love yourself. So, here’s to not being so freaked out and discouraged every time we aren’t acting in alignment with our goals. Here is to being brave, picking ourselves up, and moving on along our crazy, twisted, beautiful path.

 

Beautiful Just The Way I Am

By Haley Bougie

The summer before my 8th grade year I changed schools. At first I was angry because I would miss my old friends, but it wasn’t long before I ended up liking the neighborhood and the city. I still didn’t have friends around though, so my days were pretty boring. When school started I was so scared and nervous I didn’t know what to do. I was worried about what I’d wear, what I’d look like to others, and even more worried about where I was going to sit for lunch.

On the first day, I walked into the school looking for my first class all the while feeling insecure about my new peers looking at me and even about those being nice to me. At one point, when I noticed that everyone had an ask.fm account for Facebook, a place where you can anonymously leave questions or comments, I wanted one as well. At first it was amusing, but then people began writing extremely offensive remarks on my wall regarding my bodies’ appearance and who I was as a person. Eventually, I deleted the app but I could not forget the comments directed towards me through it.130204111816-high-school-student-hallway-sad-bully-story-top[1]

Despite the fact that I did not know exactly who was writing the comments, I had a feeling they were from girls at my new school and I began to feel really nervous before leaving for school in the morning. From what started as an innocent Facebook App turned into a year-long downward spiral of bullying, depression, an isolating home life, self-harm and an attempt to take my own life.

Little did I know, it was after this moment that I began a life changing journey through mental health treatment. While I was there something remarkable happened. I began making friends in treatment who were compassionate and supportive who helped me to realize I was not alone. I knew that treatment had afforded me with the opportunity to surround myself with positive people who had similar life experiences. It was being there that made me better. Meanwhile, I was afraid to go back to school after the incident because many of my classmates knew what had happened. However, I was surprisingly supported by my peers. I felt that everything was going to be different.

When I was 16, all of the hopes that I had suddenly diminished when a friend and I posted a photo of ourselves in swimming suites on Instagram. The bullying started once again and I fell back into the familiar feeling of worthlessness and isolation from a pain that I did not know how to handle.

While dealing with my own bullying situation with these girls, I suddenly realized, that I was not their only victim. They were saying mean things about other girls as well. This is when it finally clicked for me that maybe it wasn’t my size or shape or appearance that was bothering these girls or any of the people that had bullied me in the past. Perhaps, they were struggling with their own identities and putting me down was something that helped them to feel better about themselves.

With that in mind I started to look at myself in the mirror and look at their words, over and over. It didn’t take me long to realize that I do not look like them and I did not want to look like them. I didn’t fit into any mold of what young women are supposed to look like, nor did I want to. I only wanted to be me. My features are different, my hair is different, my body is curvaceous, and I love it! It took toxic people to convince me that I was fat, worthless and ugly. I struggled for a long while, before I realized it was time to erase the toxicity from my life.

My weight is something that I still struggle with from time to time. My body is not the same as that of the average teenage girl, but I no longer feel the way I once did. I know that my curves are a sign of how satisfied I am with life as well as a sign of beauty, strength and maturity. Ridding my life of toxic thoughts and toxic people has changed everything. I no longer listen to what people have to say about me, because their words have no bearing on the way that I feel about myself.