BODY HATE AND STEREOTYPES

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Happy belated start of the week! This post was meant to be for Monday but you know...I went for brunch with the husband  on Sunday and was in a food coma afterwards so I couldn't do anything except watch Orphan black which completely took over my life! I don't say this lightly - I watched 6 episodes non-stop while the husband fell in and out on consciousness and then it was Monday. The lesson here being not to get carried away by food or your post will be a day late.

I read this article (totally worth a read but be warned - it's LONG) about a month ago where a lady in her 30s talk's about how much she hates her body. Her reasons spanned from her being raped when she was younger, being made fun of for having small boobs to failing to fit into the 'types' portrayed in magazines. She even talked about how she tried to shift attention from herself by laughing at and mocking other girls because they fit into the 'type'. The way she viewed her body (and related to others) made me feel really sorry for her because it must be really hard to wake up everyday and live in a body that just didn't feel 'right'. Reading this article really made me sad and made me wonder how many other women felt that way about their bodies who and why we as women even bother striving for these 'types' because they don't really seem to be attainable.

 If you haven't seen the "Perceptions of Perception" campaign which was done by Superdrug you absolutely need to (here). They basically asked "what is the 'ideal' woman's body" and different cultures all over the world photoshopped the same woman with totally different results - bigger boobs, smaller waist, bigger thighs, smaller thighs etc literally the whole spectrum and after you see this you have to stop and ask yourself why we as women are so fixated on fitting into a stereotype because clearly what constitutes 'the best' body type just depends on who you ask. What's worse when we pin our love for our bodies on these crazy (photoshopped) standards. Even when we find that the stereotype is unattainable we still hold other women to it. Whats the point?

I was an overweight child from about the age of 9 and everyone knows the overweight kid in junior school always gets bullied but somehow this wasn't me (read: it helped that I was very opinionated). So as a child I was most certainly in the out group, body wise,  but I didn't feel that way. Sure, I was fully aware that some of the kids could run 400m without feeling like actual death but it never made me hate my body, even when I was an overweight adult. Then, I went to an all girl's high school so my formative years were spent around girls and women of various shapes and sizes and in an environment like that it's really easy for girls to be really critical of themselves (I won't even get into the critiquing other girls aspect) and I saw that a lot. I saw girls in my year develop eating disorders, go on extreme diets and generally just not be happy because they felt they didn't fit into the mould. I was an anomaly because actually think going to a girl's school gave me more confidence in my body - you have no option when you have to get dressed in front of 7 complete strangers everyday. I'm not saying the answer is to send all girls to boarding schools and make them drop trou in front of strangers but I was sort of forced to feel comfortable with my body from a young age and it really helped me. Even today I can walk around nude without feeling ashamed. So I think there's something to be said about accepting your body and feeling that others around you do as well. It helps you to create your own definition of attractiveness that encompasses everything that you are! 

 As someone who has never been 'slim' or 'thin' growing up I've never fit into the 'type' until I was about 20 and pop culture (aided by Kim K) dictated that 'thick' women were all the rage. Fact: women have group think so when a certain type of body type is "in" everyone wants to be it and if you aren't, well...sucks for you. I should've been celebrating because I was finally in the 'in' group now but it just seems silly to me to place value on my body based on what's 'in' today because that could so easily be what's out tomorrow but my body will more or less be the same one so why not just celebrate what you have? I know, it seems like I'm trivialising a big issue because body hate is a massive issue within our society and simply saying "stop it, you're beautiful" won't make people see themselves as that but I hope at the very least it'll poke holes at the allure of trying to fit into an arbitrary definition of what the 'ideal body' is. 

 Before I write posts I always ask my friends what their opinions are on the topic to gauge how other people might react and I was really surprised that one of my friends actually said she wasn't happy with her body and what's more she isn't even sure what it would take to get her to love her body because even at her smallest she wasn't entirely in love with it. Looking in, I've never seen my friend as anything other than a confident woman so her admission was a big eye opening moment for me into how body image issues exist even in people who seem really confident. I think the thing to understand is that everyone (spoiler: even the women we admire) have things that they would want to improve about themselves if you asked them and of course there are some women who are fighting much deeper rooted body issues and we are all in the fight together. I know it takes more than me just telling you to love your body and not live within a stereotype but try. Try to strive for a healthier body versus a 'type'!

When I started weight training, people would try and discourage me because that wasn't in line with what is typically seen as attractive in a woman - muscles. Women are meant to soft and dainty - toned a little (read: you can have abs), but by no means muscular. Working out might be seen as 'not being happy with your body and wanting to change it' but my motivation isn't that - quite the opposite. I'm fascinated by the things that my body can do and that's why I push myself to do things like tough mudder, weights, running etc. There are tons of things that I feel I could improve on but none of these things make me hate my body or feel less confident. I don't even mind the fact that my thighs rub and I can hear them 'swishing' when I'm wearing jeans, in fact, I laugh about it with my friends all the time and wonder if other people can hear it as I walk past.


Please leave your comments below! I know this is a very personal topic and everyone has different opinions but I would love to hear your thoughts.

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