Body Image & The Patriarchy

Hint: it’s all a distraction

*** Warning: strong language ahead***

There was a time in my life where looking at photos of small to medium sized women hunched over to emphasize their belly rolls was inspiring. In my feed that was full of edited models and highly posed and sucked in photos it was impactful to see a body that looked like mine being broadcasted as “beautiful” and “normal.” It helped me realize that even the beautiful, perfect women I followed had cellulite when they sat a certain way, or that their bellies weren’t flat 24/7. I’m truly not trying to hate on those women, I am simply going to encourage us to take it a step further.

The mid sized white woman sitting with terrible posture to accentuate her perfectly healthy amount of body fat is a reaction to the media throwing unattainable body types at us and being told that in order to be happy, loved, healthy, that we have to look like models in magazines. However, I am going to argue that although well intended, this message and practice perpetuates the issue. The capitalist and patriarchal society we live in has diminished women’s value to the shape and size of their bodies. When we play into this narrative, we keep ourselves and others from being freed to become who we’re meant to be. What if we stopped drawing so much f*cking attention to the female body all the time. I have recently become more aware of how the rampant issues of body image in our society today are so tied to capitalism, misogyny, and the patriarchy. 

We all know and can agree that societies idea of the “ideal womans body” has changed throughout history (https://www.cnn.com/2018/03/07/health/body-image-history-of-beauty-explainer-intl/index.html). We often look to these changes as reassurement that all bodies are beautiful but it’s so much more than that. I firmly believe that all of these changes, the expectations for us as women to keep up with them, are a distraction. I’ve even seen evidence that many of these changes in societal ‘preference’ line up with pivotal moments in history for social justice. It’s a distraction to keep us from being who we really are and reaching our fullest potential.  A society that benefits from the oppression of women and minorities wants to keep our brains so occupied with our bodies that we can’t pick our heads up and say “hey, the world we live in isn’t fair” and start to do anything about it.

I’ve said time and time again that if we could cumulatively use all of the brain power we use focusing on our bodies to other feats, we would quickly change the world. Women are taught that being pretty is the ultimate mark of success, and with it comes certain privileges. Our capitalistic society profits off of this idea. The beauty industry, the fitness industry (cringe), the fashion industry, diet culture, all promise that if you buy their product, you will be small and happy. We spend endless time and attention and brain power fixating on these people, and then purchase their products in hopes of being as happy as they are someday.  

You are so much more than the skin sack that you’re in. By naming, drawing attention to, and trying to “love” all of our insecurities we perpetuate the problem. I’m not sure I would’ve ever had body image issues if I hadn’t grown up hearing the older women around me picking apart and shaming their bodies. You’re so much smarter than this. I don’t say this to be a dick, I say this to help untangle you from everything you’ve been taught about what being a woman should be. 

The way to pave the way for our future daughters, sisters, friends, isn’t to keep talking about loving our bodies, it’s to put our big girl pants on and show the hell up exactly the way we are right now. It’s to follow our dreams, be bad asses, and show up authentically AND be successful without compromising who we are. Isn’t that what you want for them too?

What if we just showed up in the bodies that we’re in right now and did whatever the hell we wanted. What if we talked about our trades, our passions, our careers, our friendships instead of our bodies. Who taught us that it had to be this way? What if we stopped posting photos highlighting our cellulite and instead focused our minds and hearts on our true passions. Society putting so much pressure on women to look a certain way is a distraction, because they’re afraid of what we could do if we didn’t spend half our day wishing we weighed 5 pounds less. So I’m here to give you permission to exist in the body you’re in now, and let it be the least interesting thing about you. With love always, Nat.

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