Recently, a video went viral on the internet showing a mother of three children from Idaho in her bikini in the middle of a crowded market place. Amy Pence Brown believes that all bodies are beautiful and she wanted to promote radical self-acceptance by displaying what she calls her fat body. Amy had her eyes blindfolded and a message board was at her feet stating "I'm standing for anyone who has struggled with a self-esteem issue like me, because all bodies are valuable. To support self-acceptance, draw a (heart) on my body."
It is clear when hearing the interviews Amy did that it took her courage to get past her fear of criticism and worry that people may not draw hearts as requested but the response Amy got is quite amazing. Her message resonated with so many people, old and young, men and women and many walked up to her and thanked her for her courage, not to mention drew many hearts on her body.
As I was watching the video, I found myself feeling like I would not have the courage for such an act, regardless of how brave I see it but the act is actually a symbolism for the relationship we have with our bodies. For a woman to be able to stand in public and show her “imperfect” body, she would have to be very comfortable with the way it looks and Amy’s message made it clear; although her body does not fit the norm, she still loves it, and that shows a women who has done a certain amount of inner work to break free from the society’s judgment of her body and make her own.
I lived in many countries and found that each has its own widely accepted standards of beauty. In some countries, women are considered beautiful when they are tall and thin, with a large bust area and small hips. In others, it was quite the opposite, large hips were a sign of beauty because historically, they were associated with wealth. Large eyes were considered more beautiful, blond hair more desirable.
Two things these standards have in common are:
1- They rank certain women higher than others based solely on the way they look
2- They create an enormous amount of pressure on women to make their bodies look a certain way, deemed to be the right way.
When I look at the many women I have crossed paths with in my life, often conversations revolve around our bodies. We want our bodies to look more like this or more like that. In fact, what we are really saying when we make those statements is I want to make my body fit the norm so I can be more desirable, more acceptable to society and therefore, hoping to be more loved.
Who has thought us what our bodies “SHOULD” look like and where did they get the right to that?
I don’t have the exact answer to those questions but it is clear the media is a big source. We turn on the TV and how often do we see a movie star with a normal body? We watch commercial after commercial and we are bombarded with images of women wearing certain clothes, using certain cosmetics, buying certain brands, all asking us to consume more, buy more, in order to be more like that girl. The perfect image of the perfect woman on that screen. If we were to see it differently, those images are telling us “you are not good enough until you look like this and what you have is not enough until you have this”. So much fueling of the idea that we are not enough.
How many women have you seen in your life actually look like the perfect dolls we pay so much to put in our daughter’s hands? How many fairy tale heroines look like real life women? Even most mothers have a tiny waist and when I think of it, the evil ones are the “fat” ones.
Who started all this loop of insanity we are trapped in, so much that we subject our bodies to incredible pain, whether through surgery, dieting, starving ourselves or a myriad of other ways. We have found many detrimental and painful ways to continuously try to “be good enough”. What if we choose to step out of this insanity and decide that we are beautiful enough regardless of whether we fit the model or not. Imagine the amount of businesses that would go bankrupt because their business model is built the premise that women have weak self-esteem and unfortunately, too many of us are proving them right.
What if we shifted our mindset from the fear of not being enough to loving these bodies that work incredibly hard to keep us alive? Isn’t it time we took our power back collectively as women over our body image and stopped falling into the traps that are so skillfully laid out for us to lure into the idea of being perfect? And what if we went one step further and focused on doing all we can to have a healthy body and a healthy mind, a mind of our own, not one that has been made up for us by others? A mind which is clear that we do not need to drain our bank accounts only to reinforce the idea that we are not enough. How ironic that we pay so much to be told we are not enough.
Do we want to raise our daughters with this same pressure? The truth is perfection is a total illusion. How long will we keep fighting the truth and what will it take for us to accept reality and make peace with who we are and how we are made?
It is not that I am against the idea of a woman getting plastic surgery or dieting. I am against the idea of doing it for the wrong reasons, for external reasons, for seeking validation rather than standing up for who we are and being the best version of ourselves as an individual in any sphere of our lives.