In a recent post I Don’t Look Like Kate Moss (& Neither Do These Models), I touched upon how the fashion industry, and American advertising, inundates us primarily with images of one type of body—very thin and young runway models, the Kate Moss’s of the world.
There was a line in my previous post that I worry might have been misconstrued (as I’ve seen a slew of Facebook comments saying that I was “body shaming thin women”); the possibly misconstrued line said, “Why is it so outlandish to depict real people wearing real clothes?”
The word “real” here was a bit vague, I’ll admit. Did I mean runway models are unreal? Did I mean thin people are unreal?
No, that’s not what I was attempting to say.
What I was attempting to say, to ask, to vent, is, “Why is it so outlandish to depict a wider array of body types (real people, as in everyday people, as in thinner people, bigger people, older people, younger people, a more diverse range of people) within fashion advertisements?”
Thin bodies are real bodies, too. I know this.
I’m not a thin person, but I used to crave a more svelte frame—and am not shaming the very thing that for years I so doggedly attempted to become.
“I Don’t Look Like Kate Moss (& Neither Do These Models)” initially wasn’t even supposed to be about weight, but about how a wider array of body types (including thin, petite frames) should be highlighted to a greater extent within the fashion and advertising industries.
However, I suppose I was, and am, attempting to discuss the source of our societies “thin” obsession, too. Because lets face it, I can’t talk about using a more diverse group of models without talking about the word “thin.”
Advertisements repeatedly glorify extremely thin women, encouraging anyone whom resides outside this “very thin” box to feel ashamed about not having “the right kind of body”.
Yet, these very thin women aren’t to blame. Some people are, by nature, very thin. And that’s wonderful. That’s perfect. That’s their body type and they should love and celebrate it.
The problem isn’t “thin.”
The problem is that very thin women have become, through advertising, a prototype for how other women should look—and Kate Moss isn’t to blame for this either.
Moss’s image might have made young girls, like myself, feel less at home within their bodies; might have made us wish to inhabit a body more like Moss’s, but that wasn’t her fault.
Many models can’t even maintain the “ideal body” that the fashion industry promotes without starving themselves. And most models—whom are perpetually photo shopped for the cover of magazines and told to lose weight—also find flaws in their physical appearance, just like the rest of us.
We are all human, at times prone to being our own worst critic.
And we are also, especially women, trained to see our flaws in hopes that we will buy anti-this and low fat that.
We are taught to buy things that will “fix” our physical appearance, but we don’t need to be fixed.
We are not a broken-down car that won’t run if we gain an extra 10 pounds, or if a wrinkle permeates our skin. We will survive. We are more than our bodies. We are the heart beating inside our chest. We are our laughter, our light and our compassion. These bodies are nothing but vessels for the vast and beautiful worlds we hold within ourselves, yet at times we let our bodies define us and make us feel lesser.
And this is what needs to stop. This feeling of lesser than, of better than. We are perfect. We are perfectly Us.
So, if we see our physical appearance as something that “needs to be altered to look more like (fill in the blank here)”, I would urge us to think about where this “body perfection” originates. As babies did we think: “God, I’m fat.” As young adults, did we think, “Ugh, I’m not pretty enough.” As a young adult, we possibly thought this, I know I did. But where did this thought originate? Did it originate from the self? Or, were we told “You’re not enough”. I think we were told. In my humble opinion, I think we were instructed, and programmed, to see ourselves as, “in need of repairs.”
Imperfections are beautiful. They are what make us unique.
A stretch mark doesn’t need to feel like the end of the world. I don’t have to hide away in a cave somewhere and never let another person see my body because it’s not “perfect.”
At the moment, I could do as I’ve done in the past. I could listen to society telling me through it’s advertisements and messages that my physical appearance is in need of some repairs. I could look at a runway model, then look at myself and compare, but I refuse to do this anymore. It’s toxic.
Being thinner or bigger isn’t the problem.
The problem is that the vast majority of our advertisements, our societies collective unconscious, elevates “one kind of body” as the supreme being.
But is the appearance of a runway model, a Victoria’s secret model or an airbrushed woman on the cover of Vogue even a truthful image?
As a very talented fellow elephant writer Kimberly Lo remarked after reading my previous post, “Kate Moss doesn’t even look like Kate Moss without photoshop.”
And it’s true.
America is all a little make-believe; infused with plastic.
And who defines perfection anyway?
Perfection is a perception (one that is often times socially constructed).
Perfection is you. Right now, in this moment, you are perfect.
So embrace the way you look—your curves, your non-curves, your wrinkles, your thinning hair.
Your body is your own, own it or the advertisers will.
And remember, we are more than our bodies.
We are the heart beating inside our chest.
We are our laughter, our light and our compassion.
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Editor: Bryonie Wise