Women should embrace their genetics, body image

If Joan Holloway’s seductive strut in the award-winning television show Mad Men is any inclination, we’re living in the curvy era.

You’d think with all these beautiful, curvaceous women running around, we as a society would be more inclined to accept beauty of all different types.

The USC Women’s Student Assembly held “Love Your Body” week last week, as part of a larger effort to embrace all body types, as opposed to the one the media imposes on us.

Yet somehow women still idolize models who are at a level that’s genetically unattainable.

While First Lady Michelle Obama is running her “Let’s Move!” campaign, she neglects to focus on the most important kind of health: emotional.

One does not need to be Einstein to realize the media and our society are consumed with the idea of beauty.

We live in a world where girls constantly tell their friends they are ugly only so they can receive a compliment and the cries of “No, you’re not! You’re like, so gorgeous.”

We open magazines and see not ourselves, but these beautiful goddesses who have the ability to strike such fear and sadness in women just because of the way they look.

Rail-thin models have unfortunately become normal for us. So normal, in fact, that plus-size models are considered the minority in the fashion world.

Why are these curvy, beautiful women considered the minority when the average American woman is a size 14, according to The Cleveland Plain-Dealer. That’s right — 14. Not 4, not 2, not 6. 14.

Critics of plus-size models find themselves in a peculiar situation.

If they disagree with having healthy women represent clothing lines, that means they support the anorexic women lining our magazine pages.

This is the world we live in. If I call an extremely skinny  girl “anorexic,” that is just as disrespectful as if she were to call someone “fat.” Both sides are offended.

Skinny girl stereotypes include claims of anorexia or bulimia while curvier girls have to live with people calling them emotional overeaters.

The success of positive self-image lies in people taking a stand for health, whatever shape that might be. Some might think  healthy is an all-organic diet and a six-pack.

But, being healthy means being the size you are naturally supposed to be, which is different for every girl out there.

This is the real problem.

Women compare themselves to other women when every single body is different. Even if I were 125 pounds, I would look nothing like Gisele Bündchen because our bodies are built differently.

Women need to start respecting themselves for the shape they were given, not the shape they desire. If that means being a size 0, so be it. If that also means being a size 16, then it’s fine because it’s your body.

If someone is unnaturally changing his or her weight, by excessively overeating or by throwing up or by starving, that is when we would need to take action.

Acceptance is the beginning of emotional renewal. Even though we thought our mothers were lying to us every time they said, “Every one is beautiful in his or her own special way,” it actually rings true.


Sheridan Watson is a sophomore majoring in cinematic arts-critical studies. 

5 replies
  1. Mind Body Spirit
    Mind Body Spirit says:

    I think the author is clearly successful with bringing out the emotion behind obesity and anorexia. We can quote statistics and give opinions, but God forbid if one should actually feel good about the weight they are carrying. No need to get up in the morning, stay down.

    I agree the First Lady is doing an amazing job with her campaign “Lets Move”. Unfortunately the jury is still out on the next generation of young minds who are watching their parents receive treatments like botox, face lifts, liposuction, all in the name of obesity, anorexia and ageless beauty. I think we should all race to check statistics and leave our emotions at the door. It’s academic.

  2. Anon
    Anon says:

    The fact that the average American woman is a size 14 (and the average men’s waist size is now about 36”) is not a means to critique our cultural body image. It’s actually a statistical symptom of a growing obesity epidemic in this country. The sad reality is that Americans are so sedentary and have such poor diets that overweight has become the new average. This is not something we should celebrate or even accept. The phrase “healthy/beautiful at any size” is absurd. There are simply some body masses that are never healthy. Carrying too much extra fat places enormous strain on your joints and organs and can lead to all kinds of circulatory and digestive breakdown. The relationship between obesity and health problems is a matter of incontrovertible medical consensus. Telling people that it’s OK to be overweight is a very dangerous message to be spreading.

    And the tired excuse of “I’m naturally overweight” is absurd. There are only a small minority of people for whom obesity is the result of genetics. Genetics didn’t make our obesity rates suddenly explode over the last 20 years, poor lifestyle habits did. The vast majority of people who are overweight are overweight because they eat too much and don’t exercise enough.

    And yes, anorexia/bulemia/etc are also very unhealthy. I’m not defending that either. But obesity is (statistically) a far, far, far, far greater problem for our society than these eating disorders are. Obesity-related illness kills literally hundreds of thousands of Americans every year. There are, at most, a couple hundred deaths from anorexia a year. To suggest that these are comparably-pressing public health issues is simply not an accurate statement.

    This popular idea that the only two options in life are to look like Kate Moss or to look like Christina Hendricks is a false dichotomy. There is in fact a healthy middle ground between size 0 and size 16, and it’s something that most of us need to get back to before it literally kills us.

    • To be fair
      To be fair says:

      Eating disorders have the highest mortality rates of any mental health disorder. At least 20% of people with anorexia will die prematurely due to complications–and only 1 in 10 people with an eating disorder actually receives any treatment for their disorder. And it is estimated that up to 24 million Americans suffer from an eating disorder (including Anorexia, Bulimia, Binge Eating Disorder, and EDNOS). The rates of eating disorders and health problems resulting from them ARE very significant and important. And so is the obesity epidemic. The two issues need not be in conflict or competition with each other. They are both centered around dysfunctional relationships with food and unrealistic expectations for our bodies. We all need to work on finding balance in our diets and our lifestyles.

      This article is just so poorly written, I can’t really take it seriously. I lost all respect for the author and the article when the author baselessly criticized the First Lady for promoting healthy lifestyles, more nutritious diets, and increased activity levels among segments of the population with the highest obesity rates and weight-related illness rates in the U.S…. Emotional health is inextricably linked with physical health. When our bodies are being nourished properly, our emotional stability tends to follow. When we get adequate exercise and physical activity, we boost our endorphins and thus our mood. Encouraging people to find healthier outlets for their emotions (instead of using food to regulate them, whether through starving oneself, bingeing and purging, or emotional overeating) makes people healthier all around.

    • Mind Body Spirit
      Mind Body Spirit says:

      It’s hard to believe that with all the statistics somehow we always loose sight of what’s being served to families all over the country. Some people will never have a chance to be healthy or thin because in their community, restaurants and grocery markets are serving a very low quality of what’s being called food. Until this changes we will always have obesity and anorexia. This is emotionally disturbing to some.

  3. Annie
    Annie says:

    I appreciate the intent of this article, but it has some critical flaws. The onus appears to be left on women for somehow subjecting themselves to this, when in reality, the issue is with our culture at large – men, women, media, you name it.

    “Yet somehow women still idolize models who are at a level that’s genetically unattainable.”
    – Women learn to accept particular women as idols. While of course there’s personal choice involved here, we have to consider the forces at work that lead women to accept and reject particular notions of womanhood and beauty.

    “Women compare themselves to other women when every single body is different.”
    – Women are instructed to compare themselves to other women (again, by men, women, and other cultural forces at large.)

    You’re identified a lot of key points, but I think it would also be useful to consider WHY women are lead to these behaviors, which you have aptly described as destructive.

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