Beauty Standards Are Bullshit

17 Mar

You’ve probably heard that Marilyn Monroe was a size 14.

Or a size 16, or a size 12, or a size 10, depending on who you ask.

Whatever number someone quotes you, the message is always the same: our standards of beauty have changed, and not for the better. The women whose bodies we worship now are thin and sickly, all of them suffering from eating disorders. Things aren’t how they were before, when we appreciated “real,” “normal,” “average” bodies. Our current standards of beauty should serve as evidence of how deeply fucked up our society is; we ought to return to our parents’ and grandparents’ ideals.

This whole concept is so popular that there have been a string of memes made about it:

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become-hotter01

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You know what makes me say fuck society? The fact that we think it’s totally cool to compare two women and declare one of them the champion of sexy. Because you know what’s super empowering to women? Telling them that there’s only one right way to be.

Beauty standards in the past maybe have been different than today, but that doesn’t mean they were better. They still offered a narrow, rigid idea about what made a woman attractive, and anyone who didn’t fit that ideal was not good enough. Why do we have the idea that the past was some kind of magical time when women had it easier in the looks department? Because let me tell you something: when it comes to their appearance, women can never, ever, ever fucking win. They’re always too old or too fat or too thin or too tall or too short or some combination of the above. It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about now, or fifty years ago, or one hundred years ago, the story is always the same: women can never win.

I see people swooning over shit like the picture below, and I want to tear my hair out with frustration.

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This is not some kind of revolutionary fat-positive advertisement; It’s the same old shit we’re being sold day in and day out, just packaged in a different way. Stuff like this isn’t so very different from all the diets pushed on women today – both are ways of making women feel bad for whatever size they are. Both are ways of making money off of women by encouraging them to feel that their bodies are wrong or inadequate. Shaming one body type in order to promote another is never acceptable, no matter how you do it. There should never be a right way or wrong way for a person to look. All bodies are good bodies. I seriously cannot emphasize that enough.

All bodies are good bodies. All bodies are real bodies. All bodies are worthy of love and respect.

And if I hear one more person talk about how much “healthier” women looked in the past, I’m going to start flipping tables. You can’t tell how healthy someone is just by looking at them. There seems to be a lot of confusion surrounding that fact, so let me repeat it: you cannot tell how healthy someone is just by looking at them. Unless you are someone’s doctor, unless you have run extensive tests and made note of their blood pressure and their iron levels and their thyroid function, you have no idea how healthy another person is. This applies to all people everywhere – you have no way of knowing if a fat person exercises or eats vegetables just by glancing at them, and you can’t tell if a skinny person has an eating disorder based on the circumference of their waist.

I’m not saying that our society’s obsession with skinny women is anything other than problematic –  the recent spike in eating disorders can almost certainly be attributed to how pressured women feel to be a certain size. We’re obsessed with thinness, and that obsession permeates nearly every aspect of our culture, from how food is branded and marketed to us, to “vanity sizing” in clothing, to every headline ever in women’s magazines promising to tell you how to lose weight, how to keep the weight off, and which celebrities lost their “baby weight” the fastest. Our attitudes towards weight and size are actively harmful to women, and I seriously cannot overstate my concern about girls and young women growing up in this climate. I think we’ve only just started to see the detrimental effects of our infatuation with thinness, and unless a major societal sea-change happens, things are only going to get worse.

But.

But.

None of this means that we should be criticizing thin bodies, because all bodies are good bodies. Some people are naturally quite thin, and making comments about how unhealthy they look is pointless and hurtful. And if someone genuinely is unhealthy? If someone has an eating disorder? How do you think they will end up perceiving their comments, when their disease is warping how they view body size in general and their own body in particular? I can promise you that any remarks you make will do them more harm than good.

I would wager that all women feel fucked up about their bodies, and sometimes tearing down another body shape (especially if that shape is the status quo) in order to build yours up can seem like the fastest and easiest way to make yourself feel better. But seriously, you guys, we have to get out of this cycle of putting each other down, criticizing each others’ looks, and making each other feel bad. The best way to fight the patriarchy is to stand united. The best way to empower ourselves is to celebrate all body types. The best way to fuck with beauty standards is not to change them, but to do away with them all together.

And the best, most feminist thing that we can do is to love ourselves just as we are and refuse to let anyone profit off of our insecurities.

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130 Responses to “Beauty Standards Are Bullshit”

  1. Brenda March 17, 2014 at 2:49 am #

    What I hate is when I hear someone has been ill, and the only response others make is: how lucky you were, look how much weight you lost. That’s twisted.

    • Bohemian (@Morgen_im_Mai) March 17, 2014 at 8:52 am #

      Not just that, but when people internalize this level of self-hate. My mom is a cancer survivor and from time to time she says, in all seriousness, “I’ll never lose as much weight again like during chemo” :/

      • Brenda March 17, 2014 at 2:24 pm #

        Exactly. And so many women will agree that that was a good side effect. Really? Ugh. Why? Like that saying: you can never be too rich or too thin. You can be too thin, it’s not healthy to ignore your body’s signals. If you’re hungry all the time, then your body is not getting what it needs to perform at peak. And you can be too rich, help some other folks not starve, even if you choose to starve yourself.

  2. I loved reading this! Preach it!! 🙂

  3. V March 17, 2014 at 3:11 am #

    I pretty much hate all internet memes that put one body type down. My least favorites are along the lines of “men prefer…” 1) Self worth should not be dependent upon a man and 2) Men aren’t nearly as picky as the internet would have you believe.

    • Domenic March 18, 2014 at 6:43 am #

      Oh no, men are picky as hell.
      We just aren’t all the damn same.

  4. alm383 March 17, 2014 at 3:16 am #

    الجمال جمال الاخلاق والادب

  5. tilleybilley March 17, 2014 at 3:21 am #

    Yes. This, plain and simple. Women cannot win in the body size category.

  6. Mary B. (www.verilymerrilymary.com) March 17, 2014 at 3:31 am #

    *standing ovation* YES AND AMEN.

  7. Becca Joyce March 17, 2014 at 5:15 am #

    Beautifully said! Great blog 🙂

  8. roxannefrijas March 17, 2014 at 8:10 am #

    Reblogged this on frijasroxanne.

  9. always sincerely March 17, 2014 at 10:41 am #

    I completely agree! I would love for the words skinny, fat & weight to be banned from the media. Even just for a month, it would be great to see what effect it had.

  10. Willow Renner March 17, 2014 at 10:49 am #

    Yes to all of this! At age 16 I developed Anorexia and suffered with a body dysmorphic image. I never thought I was thin enough or pretty enough. Even when my bones were visible, I still thought I was huge! If I ate a cracker, I would punish myself with a half hour of exercise. Later, I developed Bulimia. After that I just started binging.

    It has taken me years to get back to a healthy weight, I’m a size 12 and I will never be a size 0! I agree, we do need to stop comparing ourselves to models.

  11. Willow Renner March 17, 2014 at 10:52 am #

    Reblogged this on Willow A Renner, YA Author and commented:
    Ladies, please stop comparing yourselves to models!

  12. Phil March 17, 2014 at 10:55 am #

    Just as much then as now, there were always skinny women and bigger women considered beautiful. People are into Christina Hendricks now as much as they were into Twiggy back then.

  13. Robin March 17, 2014 at 12:17 pm #

    The standards are bull! And I agree, every day we have to stay informed about how to live a healthy life but try to avoid all the annoying hype surrounding weight and health and all the fad-quick-fix diets and foods and images people are trying to sell to us. I like your comparison to the past. One of my pet peeves is when people say how a size 6 or 8 or 10 is just not what it used to be, like it was so much better and more accurate back then. It wasn’t. People were smaller then. It makes sense that the spec on people has changed and we shouldn’t feel bad if our 10 today is a 14 from the past…who cares. Are we healthy? Check with our Dr. Are we happy with our bodies? Where can we find healthy inspiration? So tough to weed through all the junk. But, love this post and think it fuels my healthy inspiration for the day, thank you!

  14. vjstracener March 17, 2014 at 12:23 pm #

    I love this. Thank you for another insightful post.

  15. vjstracener March 17, 2014 at 12:23 pm #

    Reblogged this on From the Tree and commented:
    Must read

  16. Carmel Maher March 17, 2014 at 12:30 pm #

    I’ve only been a fan of yours for a year but I have to tell you that each of your essays is a gem. Your insightful, thoughtful and passionate ideas always end up rolling around in my head for days and sometimes weeks. I’ve never spoken here before but I think I have to this time. I had stopped seeing the world through a young woman’s eyes and I thank you for waking me.

  17. jgroeber March 17, 2014 at 12:54 pm #

    My mother spent her adolescence in the 40’s and 50’s hating her stick-thin body. She was never enough. The irony. Thank you for supporting the cheesy adage I share with my girls every chance I get- love that skin you’re in.

  18. Alex March 17, 2014 at 1:18 pm #

    Thin shaming has become the new fat shaming. These pictures are by and large (no pun intended) shared by women on social networks, where men clamor to concur with the post in idiotic attempts to curry favor with women who post them because they think it makes them body-image progressive. Which is not to say that it’s ONLY women posting these. I knew a guy who lost out on a really cute girl from Hong Kong who wanted to meet him when she came to visit the states to check out schools because he was dumb enough to share a Marilyn picture with one of those “Now this is what a real beauty looks like!” comments.

    • MezzoSherri March 17, 2014 at 4:15 pm #

      I absolutely agree with the original post — cultural beauty standards function to keep all women trapped in feeling “not good enough” for some reason or another. And most people I know in the fat acceptance/size acceptance community would call out the memes here for being exactly the sort of anti-woman bullshit that the original post highlights them to be.

      However, I do feel like it’s a bridge too far to say that “thin shaming is the new fat shaming,” because that ignores the all-too-real and systemic prejudices around fatness that play out in employment, health care, etc. (For a brief exploration of this, see: http://thisisthinprivilege.tumblr.com/post/61437860866/thin-shaming-vs-fat-shaming-quiz )

      • bellejarblog March 17, 2014 at 4:20 pm #

        Yeah, I for sure don’t think that thin-shaming is the new fat-shaming, and didn’t mean to imply that snarking thin bodies happens more often than fat-shaming. There is definitely privilege that comes along with being thin. I am just exhausted by any kind of body-shaming, and by this weird idea that things were somehow better for women, body-wise, in the past. But I totally agree with everything in that link.

    • feisty_jenn March 17, 2014 at 5:20 pm #

      Hanne Blank’s “Real Women” (http://www.hanneblank.com/blog/2011/06/23/real-women/) is one of my favourite pieces on this topic. And the Glen Marla line she quotes — there is no wrong way to have a body — resonates so strongly….

  19. Andrea March 17, 2014 at 1:22 pm #

    Love the ranting girl, specially when it’s true

  20. NO ULTERIOR MOTIVE March 17, 2014 at 3:33 pm #

    Great read and true. As for a person’s appearance, be they overweight, underweight, or somewhere in-between, and as for as most other areas of human concern, priorities, values, ethics, standards, however a person looks at it, are all screwed up. As I see it, the only “standard” is… there is “no standard” and that’s unfortunate. It’s a free-for-all; whatever you can get away with, do it. If someone doesn’t have a real strong self-image, they’re in trouble, because they’ll go nuts trying— simultaneously—to live up to all the different “standards”.

  21. N March 17, 2014 at 3:40 pm #

    “You can’t tell how healthy someone is just by looking at them. […] Unless you are someone’s doctor, unless you have run extensive tests and made note of their blood pressure and their iron levels and their thyroid function, you have no idea how healthy another person is.”

    Is this meant to be hyperbolic, or literal? Because I’m pretty sure it’s possible to make certain statements about how healthy a person is based on looking at them.

    • Mary March 17, 2014 at 9:26 pm #

      Like how? I’m pale, but I am not anemic nor do I have bad circulation. I’m fat but my doctors say I have great cardiovascular health, low blood pressure, and am not at risk for diabetes. My good friend is extremely thin, but she does not have an ED or health problems. Yet, my sister who looks like the epitome of health has so many health problems, her doctors practically don’t know where to start. While anecdotal =/= statistical evidence, it seems like a lot of what we see as visual health cues are not necessarily true

      • N March 17, 2014 at 10:35 pm #

        It’s like smoking. A smoker may or may not be healthy, but smoking is inherently unhealthy. Likewise, some weights are inherently unhealthy. I’m not talking about the women mentioned in this post, I’m talking about people like this (warning, gross pictures):


        I don’t know the people in those pictures. I don’t know their blood pressure or their lifestyle. But I am very confident in my assertion that, at the times of those photos, their weights were unhealthy and likely to lead to their death.

        I know these are extreme cases, but the author of this article was very adamant that you could not assess health by looking at someone, and she did not mention any exception for extreme cases.

    • natsera March 17, 2014 at 9:44 pm #

      Maybe, but only at the very extremes. And the vast, vast majority of us are NOT at the extremes, so it is probably wisest not to make statements about ANYONE’s health.

  22. Samantha March 17, 2014 at 3:57 pm #

    Yeah, I see these memes WAY too much. All this ‘real woman’ talk needs to stop. ALL women are real women. Stop it, society. Just stop. CAN’T WE ALL JUST GET ALONG PLEASE

    • evelyneholingue March 17, 2014 at 4:51 pm #

      Love your statement, Samantha. Fat or thin. Blond or brunette. Old or young. We are happy to be women and want to focus on real issues.

  23. Carissa March 17, 2014 at 4:35 pm #

    This. A hundred times. THIS.

  24. Sam March 17, 2014 at 4:42 pm #

    Thank you!! As a skinny tiny-breasted teenager in an era of busty pin-up girls, I grew up with terrible body image and was convinced of my undesirability. As a feminist I am concerned with the massive shaming and prejudice against larger bodies, but have long felt that criticizing and pathologizing thin bodies is not the way to go. Very eloquent piece.

  25. syndathim March 17, 2014 at 4:57 pm #

    Reblogged this on A.Smith and commented:
    This. This I agree with.

  26. emiliabrasier March 17, 2014 at 5:00 pm #

    YES!!!! I am one of those supposedly thin sickly girls, and I have to say what you just wrote is perfect.I have been saying for a year now the problem isn’t thin women, it is a lack of variety. Including, and I really think this is a huge issue not being touched on, age and ethnicity.

    I love this article, thanks for writing it. 🙂

  27. Burns the Fire March 17, 2014 at 5:27 pm #

    This should be taught in schools. Well-said!

  28. Marissa Meekins March 17, 2014 at 5:30 pm #

    I’ve been trying to make this point for years, so thank you for putting it so eloquently!
    I’m a plus sized pin up model, and EVERY time I do a shoot, all I hear is “you’re what a real woman looks like, not like those skinny bitches you always see” Really?? Because that petite model that’s within earshot of your comment looks pretty real to me. I love receiving compliments about my body , but not when it’s followed by someone else being shamed.
    I’m linking this article everytime I see someone body shaming (big or small) on social media.

  29. emmaeosborne March 17, 2014 at 6:56 pm #

    Reblogged this on The Mountaineering Medievalist and commented:
    Once I went on a lunch-date with a guy. It was our first date. On the day of the date I had bad cramp and heartburn, which I routinely get once a month. This kills my appetite so I just got a small bit of cake whilst telling the truth ‘I wasn’t hungry’. Later on in the date, when he found out the cake was the only thing I had eaten for lunch, he accused me of having an eating disorder. Needless to say, that didn’t work out.
    Because I am slim (I put that down to genetics and exercise) he assumed that I MUST have an eating disorder. And this is the damage that promoting any type of body-type over another does. In this blog, the Belle Jar sums it up far better than I ever could.

  30. emmaeosborne March 17, 2014 at 7:00 pm #

    Thanks for this. I remember going out on a first date with a guy. I was crampy so wasn’t hungry (normal behaviour for my body which I’m well used to. I’m also a petite person who dances and plays a lot of sport, so I’m pretty slim. When I didn’t get something to eat I said the truth, I wasn’t hungry. He assumed that I had already eaten. Later on it came out that I hadn’t, and he immediately accused me of having an eating disorder.

    I’m also very self-concious about my small chest, to the point I was very uncomfortable around my boyfriend until he talked that out of my head.

    I’ve been thinking this for so long but never said it. It’s like there’s a silence on slim women – because we “are the right shape”, we’re not allowed to voice how we get treated. We’re not allowed to be upset about the stereotypes that surround us.

    Thank you so much for being a voice for all women!

  31. Shyloh March 17, 2014 at 7:36 pm #

    A smart person would see through this ad and know that some women can’t be a size 12-16 either. So this ad is promoting the same problem. When it says fuck society, it really means fuck skinny girls. Why does this subject have to be so extreme? As long as we take take care of our bodies and are happy. It shouldn’t matter.

  32. The Better Blog March 17, 2014 at 8:10 pm #

    I will pass this onto a friend of mine who is an Eating Therapist. I’m sure she’ll find this very interesting, thanks great post!

  33. Sin City Siren March 17, 2014 at 8:18 pm #

    Reblogged this on The Sin City Siren.

  34. Jenny March 17, 2014 at 9:16 pm #

    Perfectly written!!!!!

  35. iclimbedthemountain March 17, 2014 at 9:29 pm #

    Reblogged this on sugarcandymountain.

  36. reeree March 17, 2014 at 9:52 pm #

    Great blog. I am not naturally slim, as in I gain weight if I eat more, but I work at being slimmer. I often feel that this is frowned upon now too, that I am less feminist if I don’t allow myself to eat whatever fats and carbs I fancy. That I have succumbed to the media’s desires of me, that I have failed the feminist cause. Being pro body happiness must also include an acceptance of those who wish to change and control their size. It surprised me how much Happier I am smaller.

  37. No Circ is Whole Son! March 18, 2014 at 12:12 am #

    Same can be said for boys. When did a mutilated circumcised penis become more attractive than a normal intact one? At least, the girls in the picture can choose for themselves to eat unlike a baby boy who is surgically raped unnecessarily.

  38. C Adam March 18, 2014 at 3:15 am #

    Eating disorders have very little to do with someone wanting to be a particular size!

  39. Jumalan Palvelija March 18, 2014 at 3:28 am #

    Renaissance arts show more fatty girls. Skinny girl got no place in pictures of renaissance era. Beauty standard at that times is the fatter you are the prettier you are.

    • Heather March 18, 2014 at 2:09 pm #

      Exactly my point below- I think the old pin- up look is still pretty thin. It actually is the average beauty of today; if you skip looking at the cat walk or in fashion magazines…. Renaissance age, now you are talking 😉

  40. Amanda March 18, 2014 at 3:43 am #

    Reblogged this on .

  41. Splinter Unit March 18, 2014 at 6:01 am #

    I agree! Women of all bodies shapes are beautiful, especially if they have a kind heart. And women of all AGES are beautiful also! That is the nugget behind this webisode pilot called Emerging @60 🙂 Plus its funny 😉 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gbcZqFcYs6k&feature=player_embedded

  42. anawnimiss March 18, 2014 at 7:13 am #

    I grew up being told how nobody would want to marry me because I was too tall and skinny and looked like a boy. My sister was told nobody would marry her because she was dark and short and plump. Now, I’m “the right size” (whatever that means) and I’m still not desirable because I’m too outspoken. There’s no pleasing people, is there?

  43. macaronisharoni March 18, 2014 at 9:44 am #

    Thank you.
    I’ve spoken about this idea many times to people but never wrote about it.
    I fully agree with this and really want to thank you for writing it.

  44. macaronisharoni March 18, 2014 at 9:45 am #

    Reblogged this on Mac & Cheese.

  45. sosayselizabeth March 18, 2014 at 1:53 pm #

    Reblogged this on Curiouser and Curiouser (an inquisitve woman).

  46. Heather March 18, 2014 at 2:04 pm #

    I honestly think that a lot of the beauty standards are still the pin-up version of the older day. Yes there is a good % of men who like super slim Kate Moss figures. However look at Byonce, Kim Kardashian, Jennifer Lopez, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Scarlett Johansson, etc. They all have that old Marylin Monroe figure almost you know? I think that we are so much larger now as a society and we try to numb and band aid our bad feeling thinking back and saying; “This use to be sexy”. Marylin Monroe was actually pretty thin, I would say she was the average healthy woman of today. I think that clothing sizes have also expanded, I remember from when I was younger going to thrift shops looking for that great vintage look. a size 12 today doesn’t have the same room a size 12 did back then… I’m a size 14 on a good day, I would love to just get myself down to a 12 again and that would be fine by me. Life is too short and taste too good to starve.

    • Heather March 18, 2014 at 2:12 pm #

      Okay I just realized I used the word “Healthy” lol- but you know what I mean, lets not be so literal.

  47. Marlee March 18, 2014 at 3:22 pm #

    So it’s okay to skinny shame instead? STOP! Bigger is not more beautiful and thin is not in. Women who take care of themselves and are healthy are beautiful, but there is a limit. If you weigh 80lbs soaking wet, and I can play your ribs like a xylophone, you are either physically or mentally ill; that’s not sexy, that’s sickly. But on the other end of the scale, if you weigh 300+lbs and are not a 6’5″ women’s basketball player, then chances are you are overweight. That is not curvy, that is unhealthy. And yes, while there are men who like to start a fire in the sheets with a little twig, or roll around with a much bigger girl, since when do we place our self worth on what men want or like?? My point is, if you are a big girl and can’t tackle a flight of stairs without getting winded, or are sickly thin and can’t stand up too quick without getting dizzy, make the changes you need in your life, not for the men out there, but for you, and your health.

    • Heather March 19, 2014 at 2:59 pm #

      I felt the same way- I almost feel the author is being kinda condescending, in saying; “When did this (Showing very thin women) become more beautiful then this (Showing slightly more curvy women).” Which again I find the older pin up version even thin in today’s standards perhaps.

  48. aquilaspeaks March 18, 2014 at 4:05 pm #

    Reblogged this on LET AQUILA SPEAK.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Beauty Standards Are Bullshit « TilleyBilley Tells All - March 17, 2014

    […] Beauty Standards Are Bullshit. […]

  2. The Wearing of the Green (Eyed Monster) - March 17, 2014

    […] and their bodies: from “Scarlett Johansson looking “fat” in a bikini” to “Real Women Have Curves” memes, from “Marilyn Monroe was a size 16″ to “Denise Richards is too skinny”. […]

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