Monday, June 23, 2014

Health vs. Beauty

There has been a lot of talk lately about what "true beauty" really is. I agree with a lot of the arguments, but I believe there are a couple of huge points that are being missed that are kind of important.

I think it really started with the infamous 'thigh gap'. Pictures on Tumblr and Pinterest started popping up everywhere, images of skinny girls with a gap between their thighs.


This was quickly combated with a multitude of anti-thigh gap pictures and sayings, featuring popular celebrities like Beyoncé, Marilyn Monroe, and Jennifer Lawrence.


I think this was great. Nothing negative, just people saying that girls don't need to starve themselves to be beautiful. However, this is also when the problems started to begin.

More and more of these images started showing up, focusing more on complete body image (not just a thigh gap). Signs like "Curvy is Beautiful" were very popular.


I suppose this still isn't so bad. I mean, it's true, right? Curvy definitely is beautiful. I completely agree with that. But with these types of proclamations came more, this time starting to head in a negative direction. Pictures with the caption "Real Women Have Curves" were seen everywhere.


Real women have curves? Implying that women who are thin...aren't real women? I understand the direction they are trying to go, but I think people aren't realizing that the way they're complimenting curvy women is also downgrading women who are skinny. 
 
I think this was the main point everyone was trying to get across when this whole thing started: Girls who have thigh gaps, girls who are that skinny, have to be starving themselves to look that way. And yeah, that is definitely true in some cases. It's not true all the time though, and that's where the damage is. 

For example, I have two very good friends who look pretty much exactly like the celebrities in the top picture and the Victoria's Secret models in the second picture (only maybe not quite as busty). They are both tall, skinny, and beautiful. One of these friends totally has a thigh gap. But they are two of the healthiest people I know. One runs track at MSU and has a six-pack like nobody's business. The other runs cross-country for Northwest Christian University and eats ridiculously healthy food. And both of them eat A LOT. They don't starve themselves, they don't over-exercise, they just live extremely healthy lifestyles and that, combined with genetics, has given them the bodies they have now. 

So what exactly are the points I wanted to get across with this post? 

1) These "Real Women Have Curves" campaigns may have the right intentions (to let curvy women know they are beautiful), but they are also making all skinny girls look unattractive and unhealthy. There are plenty of thin women out there who are healthy, like my two friends I just mentioned. Which brings me to my next point-

2) All we are focusing on is outside beauty. What we need to be focusing on is HEALTH. I hope I can say this in a way that doesn't offend anyone, because that is not my intention. I believe that every single woman in the world is beautiful just the way she is, tall or short, skinny or curvy. But just because a woman is beautiful on the outside does not mean we can just disregard her health. We've covered this pretty well with anti-thigh gap campaigns, saying clearly that things like starving yourself to be thin or developing eating disorders just to 'look pretty' are not ok. I think it's easier for us to say that anorexia is a much worse problem than obesity, and maybe that's just because the average size of a US woman is large, not skinny. Maybe it's because seeing someone's bones right now is scarier than the idea of seeing them suffer a heart attack twenty years from now. They are both very serious conditions. However, a girl with anorexia is still a beautiful girl, she just has a problem and needs some serious help. The problem now lies on the other end of the spectrum: a woman who is plus-sized and curvy is still very beautiful, but being overweight can cause serious health problems now and in the future. I'm not saying all curvy women are overweight, but if they are, it is something else they should be understanding on top of knowing they are beautiful. 

I am definitely not a "skinny" girl. My abs are a little too shy to come out in public, if you know what I mean. I could stand to eat a few less sweets and be a little more active, but I am a healthy weight and so I am comfortable with my body as a whole. I eat healthy overall and exercise regularly, so why should I be ashamed of my body? Sure, I struggle with my self-image sometimes, but who doesn't? My point is that if you are healthy, you shouldn't feel like you should have to change anything about yourself. 

Tall or short, skinny or curvy, anorexic or overweight, every woman is beautiful. No woman should ever feel physically ugly, for any reason. That doesn't mean, however, that we shouldn't take into account our health. It's ok to change yourself if you're changing for the better.