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Tag Archive for Real Beauty

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.

 

Accepting and Embracing Change

By Jessica Kaliher

We are constantly changing. Our bodies are constantly changing. Think about your interests, moods, and feelings even just a week ago. We are not static creatures. We’re human and life throws us curveballs. No matter how much we embrace-changeplan, life can still get in the way. You could think you want something and then come to find out that it’s not right for you, and that’s okay!

It can be difficult to accept change, especially with your body. I know firsthand.

I remember stopping competitive dance my senior year and finally growing boobs, and then crying when the woman at Victoria’s Secret told me I had gone up two sizes. Or feeling horrible that I could no longer fit into a certain size of jeans. I can’t even remember all the times I wasted looking through old photos and wishing I could just have what I once did (even though I hated my body at the time and was unhealthy), feeling like a “failure” for going backwards.

Weight gain can be a hard thing, but it can also be very healthy in some cases. A “Transformation Tuesday” doesn’t always have to be weight loss or muscle gain.  It can simply be transforming your way of thinking and loving your body. No picture or size can show/measure progress because it’s not the same for everyone.

When your body changes for whatever reason, whether it be recovering from an eating disorder, an injury/accident, or puberty, you cannot compare your body, life, motivation, or anything else to others, not even your past self.

So, you used to wake up at 5 am and workout before school? If you no longer find joy from this and it no longer works with your schedule, find something else that works.

So, you used to be able to hold a plank for several minutes? Was it really worth over exercising out of fear of gaining weight? Does your core strength define you as a person?

These are the types questions you have to ask yourself if you are constantly comparing yourself or dwelling on the past.

We can’t compare because first of all, we often romanticize the past. Sure you felt “in control,” “fit” and “proud” back then, and you wish to have those things now, but really think about how you were treating your body and how you felt.

Secondly, you are now a different person than you were yesterday with different things going on. Don’t judge yourself so harshly for not getting up early and working out if you have all 8am classes. Don’t make yourself miserable. Come up with a new plan that works for the new you. There isn’t only one way to be healthy.

All we have is now, so we can really only be grateful for who we are in the present moment. I know it can feel like the end of the world when you are not where you want to be, but try to focus on all that your body does for you. It can handle a lot more than you think—even a little weight fluctuation.

To prevent this unhealthy relationship with ourselves, the topic of body changes needs to be talked about more.

We should be telling young girls that their body’s weight, shape, and size is likely to fluctuate over time and that is OK, we should be telling young girls that their bodies; naturally and instinctively know how to take care of themselves, and that might look different and work differently for every girl and woman. We should teach people that your belly protects organs and stretch marks show how much your body is able to adapt. Normalize the fact that your stomach might appear bigger after a meal. You are not bloated or fat, but healthy and nourished as you should be. Embrace the food baby, baby!

Please do not live in the past and let it consume you. Comparison is the thief of joy, even if it is comparison of your own self.

Live without fear. Live your life how you choose and how it works for you NOW. There is SO much out there other than restriction and strict gym schedules.

I hope you find peace with your body at any size because it will not come later if it wasn’t present from the start. You can do it!

 

Boys To Men

By: Emily Adrian

How often do you hear stories of how women and girls are affected by messages in our media? Probably more frequently than we would like to admit as a society. However, what isn’t mentioned as often is how our male counterparts react to the subliminal messages being sent to them.

For females the message is often times subtracting, losing weight, dieting, etc. We see airbrushed, photo-shopped images of women. These images show women with elongated necks, widened eyes, and trimmed thighs and hips. The message to men, on the other hand, is adding. Take action figures and super heroes for example, which have become the male version of Barbie. 8e4beff5-cf52-4a79-9f0d-63410e8db263-jpgThese figurines are setting unrealistic body dimensions for young boys and set their expectations at an unattainable level. Have you ever watched the beginning of Captain America? The movie starts with Steve Rogers (Captain America) as a “runt” signing up for the military. He shortly after gets chosen to undergo an experiment and is made into what they portray as this macho, muscled, extraordinary man. Obviously, this is fiction, but the instant success Steve Rogers has, and the new found fame under the name Captain America following the transformation still makes an impact on the stigma surrounding male body image. They fail to set a positive role model and hinder the positive development of young males exposed to them. Then when they get older it doesn’t stop.

Magazines, billboards, commercials, and more all show “ripped” men. Men whose abs are practically painted on, muscles that are continuously growing inch by inch in diameter, and a rise in emphasis on manscaping. Some even feel the need to cut out the males faces adding extra emphasis on body appearance. 10641306-abercrombie-and-fitchThis image, being sent out for all to see and women to drool over, negatively affects men’s body image too. This ideal of having “bulk” or “being built” is an unrealistic ideal that has been created by our society. No matter what the age or gender, the constant subliminal messages are inescapable.Both men and women are vulnerable to these messages. Each and every day something new in the media has a hidden message teaching young and old alike that we are not good enough. It is something that everyone feels, and it is hard to fight back. It is no secret that society adds pressure to appearance, just be aware of the fiction that lies within it, and learn from it.