Please see Kitty Westin on her recent TEDx Talk discussing ending the stigma and shame around eating disorders and the importance of being an advocate for mental illness.
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.
I 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!
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.
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 Latina, 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
Submitted by Emily Adrian
You don’t often see the media preaching natural beauty, but there is a movement that is joining in the fight to change just that. Aerie, a lingerie label, launched a campaign back in 2014 called #AerieReal, encouraging everyone to love the “real you.” This campaign at its start, made a promise, a promise of unretouched ad campaigns. Most recently, a reinforcement of this campaign has been launched further embracing “body positivity” by gathering diverse women of all different shapes and sizes to “share their spark.”
They speak their mission on their website, expressing that,
#AerieReal is “not all about flaws or curves. It’s what’s beneath the skin. #AerieReal is about loving the real you. #AerieReal is about empowerment
In 2016, Aerie invited 40 girls to share their spark in hopes to empower others to do the same. These women were made up of Aerie designers, models, bloggers and social fans. Some of these women chosen had never been in a photo-shoot before but proudly posed showing comfortability in their skin. It was a positive example for the movement in encouraging and continuing the push for change.
So often we open our social media pages, or look at magazines, even online shopping websites that tell us how our bodies should look. It puts thoughts into young women’s heads that the way they are isn’t good enough. That because they aren’t like those in the magazines, or online that they aren’t pretty enough, or “healthy” enough. In reality, these images endorsed by ads, social media and magazines aren’t our reality at all. Even men feel the pressures of appearance from our media, and they too suffer. Most of what we see is edited, it’s made to look a certain way, to be an “ideal” that doesn’t exist in itself. It gives a false reality and in doing so can cause an unhealthy impact on physical and mental health.
#AerieReal is refreshing. It is a glimmer of hope in the right direction. It is a promise to show real bodies, real beauty, and real confidence through real women. It is empowering to those who never felt they would be accepted because they were different from what was on the media. This is a movement to redefine beautiful, to redefine confidence, and to understand that HEALTHY looks DIFFERENT on everyone.
Our media is everywhere. Imagine what a world it would be if it wasn’t impacted by an “ideal” but instead was accepting of all the beautiful bodies that walk this wonderful earth. Isn’t that a world you would rather live in? Embrace your beauty, embrace what healthy looks like on you. Be comfortable in your own skin, and own it. As stated in the video, “together we will learn to love our real selves and change the world.”