In Defense of “Fat-Bottomed Girls”: The Tricky Balance of Body Image

There is a thin– literally– line between healthy and dangerously skinny. Also between obesity and healthiness. There are two ends of an ever-expanding spectrum of the idea of “normal” body weight and image, but I am not– not today– going to address the issue of obesity. Instead, I’d like to discuss anorexia, body image, and modeling.

Modeling? Derek, you know nothing about that other than that conversation you had once with an Abercrombie model over Frosted Mini Wheats once and the fact that your girlfriend watches Project Runway. Well, sure, I don’t know much about modeling, but I do know what I find attractive. And the truth is, I don’t find many professional models attractive. Not so much in a sexual way: I’m sure most guys could be sexually attracted to a bag of rocks. But as far as character goes, modeling and the stigmas surrounding it make me a little sick.

Yes, I am also not a psychological expert on the teenage body image. I am not a sociologist or doctor. But I did spend four years in a public high school, so that seems like qualification enough.

There has been much conversation recently about modeling in general, the expectations for model, and how this translates for the psyches of adolescent girls. The most recent attack on a model was Kate Upton.

Let me introduce you to one of the foremost “thinspiration” blogs skinnygossip.com. While masquerading as a blog that helps girls lose weight, it really shames celebrities and young girls about their bodies. It promotoes ultimate skinniness, and when I say skinniness, I mean starving-having-eaten-in-days skinny.

What’s so unhealthy about aspiring to be skinny, though? There comes a point where being skinny becomes an addiction. I completely understand the desire to look good, be attractive, but when girls strive for “the xylophone look” with their full rib cage on display, I feel like that might be a tad ridiculous. What we try to write off as crazy, however, has become a normal notion for many girls, especially adolescents.

Now, I get annoyed just as much as others by the down-your-throat preaching of love-yourself gurus. It is a natural human instinct to try to improve yourself. If a girl or guy tries to became fit, that’s absolutely admirable. But we must understand that there just because you’re thin, that doesn’t inherently make you beautiful nor healthy.

I also am not just some guy with a fetish for big girls; I also think obesity has overwhelmed us, but shame, ridicule, and bullying is not the way to reconcile these problems. Instead, we need to approach building a healthier future with positive thoughts and energy toward exercise and good diet, not starvation and bulimia.

There is simply a misunderstanding involved, and the shaming creeps into our common vocabulary with phrases like “she eats like a man.” Sure, biologically men have higher metabolisms, but that’s not a hard-and-fast rule. I know many athletic girls who are very attractive but not exactly skinny– no, they have muscle and toned bodies that reflect a healthier way of living.

Magazines and modeling agencies glamorize only the skeletons, only those who live in misery because of their habits. I’m not saying girls can’t be naturally skinny; I think that too is attractive. But if a girl must starve herself into thinness, then that lack of confidence, that lack of self-esteem translates as unattractive. What we should really emphasize is pride in our bodies and their amazing feats, not an empty worship of the rib cage.

Because I work in a photography studio, I know plenty of tricks with Photoshop. I could warp anyone into a fig tree figure, but it would of course not reflect their natural look. It would instead be a pale shadow of their beauty and personality, an emaciated cardboard fake. So whenever you see these too-thin models on magazine covers, remember how easy it is to alter appearances. As far as airbrushing’s contribution to girls’ self-esteem, that’s a topic for another day, but still one that needs much discussion.

I just wanted to state my own opinion on this. What I find attractive isn’t particularly “thick” or “thin” girls, but instead the confidence to accept who you are and not try to the point of death to be what you may never be able to be. Instead, if you don’t like your body, attempt to keep healthy, not simply starve yourself; this twisted idea of beauty is simply unflattering, and the sooner teen girls see that those attacking their bodies are doing so only to make themselves feel prettier, the better.

Sources:

http://www.booksnreview.com/articles/527/20120718/kate-upton-fires-back-anorexic-website-skinny.htm

http://www.skinnygossip.com/kate-upton-is-well-marbled/#more-2233

http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2012/01/most-models-meet-criteria-for-anorexia-size-6-is-plus-size-magazine/

http://www.parentdish.com/tag/anorexia/

http://www.anfocal.ie/lifestyle/468/still-waiting-for-a-size-revolution

http://itsallstyletome.com/2012/02/01/the-skinny-on-skinny-a-new-look-for-new-york-fashion-week/

Share your thoughts in the comment section!

About Derek Berry

Derek Berry is a novelist and spoken word poet. Derek is the author of Heathens and Liars of Lickskillet County (PRA Publishing, 2016). He co-founded and organizes The Unspoken Word, a literary non-profit based out of Charleston, SC, which provides an intendent home for the poetic arts through regular readings, workshops, and community fundraisers. He is on the Executive Board of the Charleston Poetry Festival, the inaugural production of which will be Fall 2017. His work has appeared in The Southern Tablet, Cattywampus, Charleston Currents, Illuminations, RiverSedge, and other journals.He has performed in venues across the United States and Germany. He has worked as a photographer’s assistant, busboy, and bookseller. He currently works at a curation facility for Cold War History.

Posted on July 19, 2012, in Blogging, Controversy, culture, Manifesto, Rant, Teenagers, writer, Writing and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. Thank you for this wonderful post – I completely agree. Something a very intelligent man pointed out to me: the modeling industry hand-selects women for proportions that clothes will look attractive on. And guess who is the overwhelming engine behind the fashion world? Straight women and gay men. Who find -men- attractive. Not women. And what is the model ideal? Tall and lanky with narrow hips and sharp features: stereotypical masculine qualities.

    Which isn’t to say their artwork is bad or to be discredited for it, but we should keep in mind that the fashion industry is the -fashion- industry, not health industry or the dating industry or the self-esteem industry. Their job is to make beautiful clothes, not tell you how to live your life.

    • I never considered this. I would not venture to call them out-and-out mannish, but still, hm… It’s not that I don’t find skinny girls attractive either. I do. But when they get to a certain point… that just makes me sad.

  2. Excellent post!
    Skinny Gossip…gr. Gr. Grrrr. I loathe the writers of that site, I never get fired up over gossip sites, but they are just downright hideously cruel!
    It’s lovely opinions like theirs and ads that encourage thinness that contributed to my development of bulimia when I was only 12. Being healthy should be our first priority, not looking like stick figures.
    Psychologists have proven anyway that men aren’t attracted to extreme thinness, it’s all about the hips-to-waist ratio, a ratio that is far more easily achieved if one allows one’s hips to exist.
    It’s downright awesome that you’re male and you wrote this, we need more bloggers like you.

  3. These photos are so disturbing. Whatever happened to wanting to be look healthy? You have wonderful insight and I applaude you for blogging about this dangerous trend.

  4. I came across the picture of the skinny girl on the ramp (through Google Images) and was literally shocked to even see something as “sorry” as that! Great post! Wonderful blog too.

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