It’s no secret that for a long time women have been subjected to body shaming. But as the popularity of photoshopping and social media have increased over the years, the issue has progressed to be about self-esteem as a whole. Women use Instagram to seek approval and see who can get the most likes and comments. And since when did a certain number of likes determine beauty?? Not to mention that magazines are constantly photoshopping pictures to set an unrealistic standard for what a “beautiful” woman should look like. We need to be the slimmest, most tan girl with the best hair and clothes. We need the Kylie Jenner lips and Kim Kardashian hips. We can’t have cellulite and, God forbid, that our eyebrows aren’t “on fleek.” Really today’s ideal of a beautiful woman is far from natural and the pressure to be perfect is unhealthy for women all over the world.
But the good news is that women are working to breakdown the unrealistic standards and glamorize all body types, even the classic curvy. This is particularly the goal of Sarai Walker (pictured above) who wrote the book Dietland. In her book, Walker redefines what it means to be a woman. The main character Plum Kettle is struggling with her weight as usual. She’s 300 pounds and saving for weight-loss surgery, she hides behind food, and she can’t wait to wear the tiny clothes hanging in her closet. She’s not happy. And then she gets involved with a feminist group led by Jennifer, whose mission inlcudes seeking revenge on rapists, and she starts to see her self differently. Yeah, Dietland is not your typical girl-goes-through-transformation book, but it’s all the better. By the end of her journey, Plum realizes fat is not a negative word. Fat is empowering.
In an interview with NPR, Walker says, “She [Plum] begins to think, you know, maybe there’s nothing wrong with my body; maybe it’s the way that other people are treating me. And so I think that she comes to see it as a politicized issue, because it is. I mean, a fat body is always a politicized body. I live in a fat body myself and you know… people assume all sorts of things about me. People look at you and think: Oh, well, she must eat all day or never exercise; she must have an eating disorder. All of these things that are projected onto fat people all day long. So you can never just kind of go about your day as a regular person. So I don’t mean political in terms of a political party; I mean structures of power — certain people having power and privilege. And so Plum comes to realize that her fat body, the mistreatment she receives because of it, is a political issue.”
Walker is causing a big change in what makes a woman beautiful by creating a powerful fat woman as a main character in her novel, and producer Marti Nixon is working to transform this fictional character from ink on paper to an on-screen presence in the form of a new television series. Dietland is a must read for those who can relate to Plum Kettle, and for those who just want to understand what it’s like to be a fat girl in today’s world. Let’s follow Sarai Walker and breakdown the fat girl stereotypes and stop stigmatizing girls who are curvy. Fat does not have to be a negative label. Having fat is a necessary part of survival, where some just have more than others for various reasons.
Sarai Walker is not the only woman working to support curvy girls. Barbie recently made the new curvy (and petite and black) Barbie so that girls of all shapes and colors can feel beautiful. Meghan Trainor’s “All About That Bass” was stuck in our heads all last year. And plus-size model Ashley Graham made it on the cover of this year’s Sports Illustrated magazine.
Of course, there has been negative backlash on all of these achievements. Sports Illustrated model Cheryl Tiegs told E! Online, “I don’t like that we’re talking about full-figured women because it’s glamorizing them because your waist should be smaller than 35 [inches]. That’s what Dr. Oz said, and I’m sticking to it. No, I don’t think it’s healthy. Her face is beautiful. Beautiful. But I don’t think it’s healthy in the long run.”
Graham replied, “I had agents tell me, ‘You’ll never get on the cover of magazines. You’ll never be an editorial model.’ I had agents wave money in my face and say, ‘If you drop some pounds, you can have a lot more of this!’ And not even THAT was something that encouraged me to lose weight! The moment I realized I had to be healthy and happy in who I was, that’s when my career took off.”
Just like Sarai Walker, Graham believes body weight and shape should not define beauty or happiness. Curvy is sexy. Skinny is sexy. Every woman who is happy and confident is sexy. Being healthy is a legitiment concern; however, the latest research shows that having a little extra weight may actually be beneficial. So contrary to Tiegs weight surveillance and fat phobia, girls can be both curvy and healthy.
Like Sarai Walker said, “I think it’s great to focus on healthy eating and exercise, but to say, as people in the health at every size movement do, you can be healthy at any size. You know, exercise, eat healthy; whatever size you are, that’s what you are. Because body shaming just doesn’t work. And those kind of anti-obesity programs I think are really harming children because it’s stigmatizing them. And I just think that, you know, experiencing more stigma and shame is certainly not going to help anyone be healthier.”
So let go of the labels and negative connotations. No one is perfect, no matter how much they project themselves to be. Look in the mirror and embrace your body. You are the only you. Your body is one of a kind. And, geez, imagine how boring the world would be if we all looked the same!