Narrow minds on narrow waists

narrow waists

Problems of a 21st century girl

03|2014

The other day, after watching American Hustle in the cinema, I overheard someone say “Jennifer Lawrence looked fat in that, didn’t she?”. Had I not just finished the last of my popcorn (large box, obviously), I would have thrown the entire contents over the guy’s head. Jennifer Lawrence, as always, looked completely stunning and certainly could not be accused of being “fat”. The mind set of people with regards to this topic is, frankly, disgraceful.

Everyday I see jokes and memes about it on Facebook. There, a shapely girl who was brave enough to share her picture got ridiculed for saying “This is what a real woman looks like!”. There was a male response, with a picture of an unhealthily sized man, saying “what if men turned this on you?”. This girl wasn’t unhealthy, she was beautiful and had the courage to stand up to this absurd idea that our society has about beauty. This seems to be that somehow curves make one a ‘lesser’ woman.

I have quite a small frame and boobs, but I think I make up for it with my bum. I can’t help this, naturally. Does that mean I’m not woman enough? Being at university, I have met so many girls, all of them have different shapes and sizes and not one of them is happy with the way she looks. My girl friends are curvy, have big boobs and small bums or no boobs and big bums, some have the most  amazing hips I have ever seen, others only just make it to five foot and have fantastic figures. They are all different and every single one of them looks great and has something that someone else envies. But try telling them that!

Everyone looks different. That’s just the way it is. So why is being thinner better? I am not condoning being unhealthy, by any means. People who use money off the NHS because they make themselves ill with weight, no, that isn’t right. But no one is automatically fat – or ugly, for that matter – when they don’t fit a size ten. 

I read something once that said “the most beautiful thing a girl can wear is her smile”. Yet everyone seems fixated on being that little bit thinner, rather than being confident in who they are and how they look. I lived with three boys last year, and they all agreed that if a girl is confident with the way she looks, she is instantly much more attractive, regardless of size.

To counteract the negative thoughts we all seem to have about our looks, I tried an exercise: I wrote a list of all the things I liked about myself, including personality traits, and things that other people had complimented me on before, and read out them in front of the mirror. I acknowledged the things I don’t like, but rather than focussing on them and then eating an entire box of Jaffa Cakes in misery, I contrasted them with the good things. Yes, it took a while before it really made much difference, but it did give me some perspective on what is important. What if my arms were skinnier? What if my tummy was more toned? It would make no difference if I was boring, or unfriendly or a bully. I’d just be thin and friendless.

Yes, my arms sometimes look weird (massive, to me) on photos, and yes, if I bend or sit down my tummy wrinkles over my jeans, and yes, I have a flat chest which, despite my best efforts and most expensive push-up bras, will always look flat. But I also have “a great arse” (thank you, Nathan), and “beautiful eyes” (thank you, Ben), and I have friends who I can laugh with all the time, and rely on when I’m upset. Why does the media not focus on the importance of that?

Everyone has attractive attributes as well as flaws. But neither boils down to just  size. It should not be a big deal that shops have started using curvier mannequins, so much so that they actually discuss it on Loose Women and search for the pros and cons. Cellulite is not worth discussing, either. However, it should be a big deal if girls criticise one another and accuse each other of being ‘obese’ or ‘anorexic’. We should be able to eat a Big Mac without feeling guilty afterwards, and we should be able to go on a night out feeling like we look good, whether we’re curvy or not. As long you’re healthy and happy, who cares about the rest?

I understand that it’s not always easy, and that models in magazines, fashion designers, and idiots who hide behind a computer screen writing mean things seem like they’re out to get us. But confidence makes a hell of a difference, so girls need to stand together and not fight amongst each other about what looks beautiful. I used to get upset looking at pictures in magazines of all these skinny women with gorgeous thick hair and cheekbones that looked like they had been crafted by Gods, so now I just tend not to read them. Because even these women, who have been carefully selected because of their looks, weight and height, are photoshopped. Perfect, or what society appraises to be perfect, just isn’t possible.

I’d rather just go out and have fun and maybe untag myself from the pictures that I really can’t bear on Facebook. Remember that not so long ago, society deemed female curves to be attractive, and skinny women tried to make themselves gain weight in order to fit the ideal. There is always going to be a gap between the real and the ideal, so you just can’t win.

Personally, I’d rather decide for myself what I think is beautiful and I hope that, even if the media and fashion should suggest otherwise, all 21st Century girls will be able to do the same. Because honestly, I just haven’t got the time or the will power to avoid a chippy tea when I get the urge.

Photograph by Hey Paul Studios, via Flickr. Used under a Creative Commons licence.

Cate Triner

Cate is an English student at Loughborough University and takes creative writing classes in her free time. Her social comment column, Problems of a 21st Century Girl, appears on The Re|view since December 2013.

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