This week’s crapdate is in the form of a picture, which has circumnavigated the Internet approximately 40 million times:
This version was taken from knowyourmeme.com, but it’s basically everywhere.
According to knowyourmeme.com, the picture was first on Facebook in early January, and first tweeted on January 16 by yoga instructor Katherine Budig with the text “embrace your bodies + curves!we’re on the same team as our body—love it, treat it right and know you’re beautiful.”
The short answer comes in many, many, many, many forms. One answer is here (for more, check out knowyourmeme.com):
It doesn’t get to the real problems, but it’s funny! Which works.
As shown by the text from the early tweet, the poster of this picture is almost certainly trying to show that they are progressive. You don’t have to be thin to be loved! Real women have curves! You are beautiful!
But if you think about it for more than 15 seconds, the problems become quite apparent. Let’s break it down.
First: the picture is supposed to turn a truth on its head, to fight a system. The problem, though, is that the opposite actually happens.
Imagine if I showed you this:
and then this:
And here’s the argument: Brownie sundaes are for suckers, because they do absolutely nothing for your vision. Carrots, on the other hand, will make you see in the dark.
If you are anything like me (I would wager a guess that you are, if you are reading this), the text did nothing to take away from the fact that I want a fucking brownie sundae, in my stomach, now. The visual that is presented in the “This and This” picture has the same problem: for those who buy into the system, it reinforces the specific standard of beauty, even if the text challenges it.
Beyond that, it is a roadmap for the impressionable. Remember reading Seventeen Magazine as a 13-year-old, and thinking, “Oh, this is what fashion is supposed to be”? The top row of pictures works as a guide for “this is what society thinks is attractive,” even if the bottom row is trying to fight the system.
Which brings us to #2: The system. The system tells us that there is one type of beauty, and the poster is trying to point out the fallacy of such thinking. X is wrong. Y is right. But instead of fighting the problem, it reinforces the idea that there is, and should be, a certain type of body that is beautiful.
But there is no wrong. There is no right. Women come in all sorts of bodies, and thin is no better than fat is no better than curvy is no better than tall is no better than short is no better than white is no better than brown is no better than freckled is no better than blonde is no better than brunette is no better than thin. The value of a person is not found in their appearance. This meme, instead of saying that women shouldn’t be judged by their appearance, simply enforces a different standard.
Which brings us to #3: The point of the post is that “Hey, look at me, I love curvy women!”—as though the picture proves that the poster is accepting of all body types. But it isn’t. It is accepting of a very specific body type, with just as narrow of a framework as the one that is being rejected by the poster. The pinups in row 2 have very specific proportions, and such a body type is certainly not more common than the celebrities from the first row. Marilyn freaking Monroe, for Pete’s sake. That is supposed to represent an attainable standard of beauty?
#4. Speaking of attainable standards of beauty. The top row is made up of candid photos, mostly the result of invasions of privacy, mostly women with beach hair and minimal makeup. The bottom row is made up of carefully staged, specifically lit, Photoshopped pictures, and the women have meticulously done hair and makeup. The women are posed provocatively, and the message is clear: women who have been manipulated to be sexy are sexy! Women who are caught in their natural habitat are not. Once again, the media tells us (all of us, even those who might look like Marilyn Monroe) that beauty is not something that is attainable by natural means.
#5. Women do not need to hate other women in order to love themselves. Women do not need to hate other women in order to love themselves. Women do not need to hate other women in order to love themselves.
In the end, the goal of the post is to make women feel like they don’t have to be super thin in order to be “hot.” In fact, it was reposted by moveon.org to “fight eating disorders,” assuming that thin people are, by definition, sick. Some people are just thin. Some people are just fat.. Some people are just Marilyn Monroe. Oh wait. That’s just one person. At any rate, how does it make sense to champion any standard of beauty as better than any other?
The result of the post is an across-the-board dismissal of: women who are thin (and yes, “real women” can be thin), women as they occur in nature, women who aren’t posed so as to arouse the male gaze, women who aren’t Photoshopped, women who are larger than the “curvy” example, and women who have different proportions than 1950s pinups. It adds fuel to the divisive fire between women, and instead of challenging the system (which is the goal of the original post), it pits women against each other and the only winner is the system, one which encourages self-loathing and a belief that worth is found in physical attributes.