Beauty in Many Sizes
By Jeany Miller
From the Diary of a Fat Woman Blog Series
Women of all sizes today endure judgment and chastising as the definitions of “healthy” and “attractive” continue to evolve. For instance, being “too thin” causes raised eyebrows, as people assume the woman in question is anorexic and/or starving. Similarly, being overweight is next to criminal, as society laments eating habits and wails that a person is “eating themself to death.” And while the same characterizations are made of men, the criticisms seem to be more pointed when directed toward women.
Currently, the products available for helping obese people lose weight comprise a multi-million dollar industry. The latest weight-loss drug is Qsymia, but help can allegedly be found in everything from books and specially-formulated food seasonings to exercise videos and milkshakes. But it wasn’t always this way.
As recently as the 1980s, ads for weight-gaining products used taglines to lure women into wanting curves. One product, for instance, implored their customers, “Don’t let them call you skinny” - obviously intended to help women add weight for increased sex appeal.
Ads prior to this time, remind us of an era when people may have worried more about being underweight than overweight. These tend to feature models who aren’t so much plump as well-endowed, such as Raquel Welch and other women with large breasts. “You sure are popular since you put on that curvy weight,” a man in one advertisement tells one apparently happy user of Wate-On (a product used for weight gain). Another vintage ad claims women who are too thin will “be left out of seaside fun.”
Today, supplements like Wate-On have been replaced with plastic surgery, which provides more targeted results for plumping up breasts, buttocks, and lips. And now, it’s all about skinny water, skinny rules, and skinny jeans. Obviously, times have changed since the days when gaining weight was preferable to being too thin. What, then, is a woman to think? In 20 years, will it be stylish to be fat or thin?
Because of the confusion over what women should be and the endless mantras telling us all to love ourselves, it’s hard not to feel some measure of resentment against those females with seemingly perfect bodies. Into this arena enters discrimination against thinner women, which is not something that’s talked about very often. It happens, though, and I’m ashamed to say I’m a culprit. I feel jealous, inadequate, and unattractive beside women who are smaller than I am. These feelings, in turn, breed anger, when the truth is I have nothing to be angry about.
I’m simply bigger than other women, not less human.
Creating a world in which weight stigma doesn’t exist means creating a safe place for people of all shapes and sizes. Not all skinny women want to be the way they are, as some struggle with food allergies, illnesses, or simple biological functions that prevent them from gaining weight (I think of rapid metabolism, which my younger sister has). Likewise, not all overweight women are able to love their bodies, despite the constant reminder that we should. As such, work needs to be done, both culturally and personally, to address weight shaming, whether it’s in regards to over- or underweight women. And we should stop scrutinizing others and ourselves over the constant struggle to determine whether or not we conform to the accepted beauty ideal.