By: Emily Algar, Guest Blogger
After reading yet another interview with a celebrity emphasising her curves, explaining how she definitely wasn’t one of those “rail thin” supermodels (she was most definitely a “real” person), and seeing a barrage of Jennifer Lawrence quotes immortalized on Tumblr where she espoused her skinniness whilst insisting how much she loves food, I started to think: when did we start categorizing “realness” and “authenticity” based on a person’s body shape or size? Then I started to think, what is wrong with being a “rail thin” supermodel or rather what’s become so bad about just being a thin woman? I had a think, and you know what I realized? What dress size we are or how much we weigh or if we have curves or if we are a supermodel--all of this has no bearing on our “realness” or our worth as individuals.
All these statements are constructed the same way: “I’m this, I’m not that” or to be more specific, “I’m curvy and real, I’m not one of those skinny girls who never eats.” Why do we insist on defining ourselves at the expense of another person or group? Is it a weird power dynamic or rather a pack mentality approach to dealing with a person or a group not the same as us? Maybe it’s just an inevitable consequence of all the media images we consume on a daily basis, which emphasize the “perfect” body (which as we know doesn’t exist, see my previous post) that leads us to feel this need to defend ourselves by throwing one another under the proverbial bus.
For some reason, when I was thinking about all this mud slinging, one of my classes I took at University kept coming to me. We were discussing the concept of the Other with respect to the Middle East and colonialism. Now please bear with me, I am well aware that supermodels and colonialism don’t usually go hand in hand but this idea of the Other seems to be particularly applicable to the issue at hand.
The concept of the Other can take on numerous forms but it generally refers to an individual or group who is perceived by the dominant group as not belonging; they have been culturally constructed as fundamentally different in some way. The dominant group sees itself as the standard or norm and judges those who do not meet that norm. They are perceived as lacking essential characteristics possessed by the dominant group; the Other is almost seen as inferior and is treated accordingly.
This seemed particularly true of a lot of the interviews and quotes I’ve been reading where a woman’s authenticity and innate worth is measured against her possession of curves or how much food she consumes. It seems to me that in order for us to exist as individuals and be distinguishable from the masses, we need to use others’ attributes as a yardstick against our own. I get this, and I even think it’s necessary because how are we ever going to know ourselves, our likes and dislikes, our similarities and our differences, without looking at the world around us and finding our place within it.
However, like with anything there is always a fine line, and in this case the line is between self-discovery and the marginalization of the Other, or rather the suggestion that if you don’t possess curves you’re less of a woman. This fine line I believe has not only been crossed, but it has been danced upon with jest like a person dancing on the grave of their hateful boss.
We are currently in the midst of the fourth wave of feminism, so why are we still bullying the girl who doesn’t quite fit in with the crowd? There has to be a conscious effort from all of us to be at peace with who we are, whether that be in our tastes in music and literature, or the films we watch, or the politics we support; we have to be comfortable enough in who we are and what we look like, so we no longer feel this need to make anyone who isn’t us feel any less included in life.
Judging and making assumptions: Uggh. the worst.
- How do you take a stand against judginess?
- What needs to change in the culture for people to stop measuring their self and self-worth against things like body image, job status, or beauty standards?
- Pledge today to judge yourself LESS and love yourself MORE. Write out a personal contract or find a self-affirming mantra you can repeat every day!
Emily Algar is an International Relations graduate who has just completed her Masters in International Security. She lives in a small town in Oxfordshire, UK where she writes, listens to music and walks her dogs. Since completing her studies, Emily is trying to figure out where she fits in the world and until she does, she is enjoying the ride.
Image via jimpalmerblog.com