On Body Positivity // Guest Post by Alejandria Solis
"It’s summer! The sun is shining, the water is ready to swim in, & girls are strutting their stuff in less clothing than ever. It’s a time of year where being comfortable with your body as a woman is painfully important, but often times difficult. Suddenly, you aren’t “bikini ready” or looking as good in those short shorts as you wish you did. Now, let’s be honest - healthy body image is a yearlong quest for most women, & it isn’t limited to bathing suit season. Self-love is a journey that many women, no matter the background, age, or size can crave, work towards, & deserve. What I want to focus on is how the media has gotten in the way of that journey throughout history.
Women do not often see their relationship with their body as a “health” concern, mental or physical. It’s an image thing for most, for we know that it is always expected of women to look a certain way. Just as the seasons change, so do beauty standards for us ladies, & this puts a TON of pressure on us to look the “way we should”. When I was asked to write for Under a Tin Roof I had a lot of ideas of what I wanted to discuss, but this topic, the topic of body image & body positivity, really felt appropriate. A little history for you -
At the turn of the century, “voluptuous” women were the height of femininity & beauty. Women achieved this idealized, feminine look pictured above through corseting, an uncomfortable process that pinched the torso & waist significantly. It was deemed beautiful to have large boobs and wide hips, & women wore modest dresses. This beauty standard for women was, ironically yet unsurprisingly, inspired by drawings by a man. Charles Dana Gibson developed his “Gibson Girls” in 1890. They were what he (& all of the magazines run by men that published his illustrations) believed to be the ideal of femininity, & women everywhere modeled themselves after it over the next twenty years.
Now, this is when things get interesting. We all know the iconic “flapper look” of the 1920’s so commonly (& often times historically inaccurately) portrayed by girls in their early 20’s on Halloween. (Thanks, Gatsby movie). We start to see a complete rejection of the Gibson Girl aesthetic that made room for a much more casual, “scantily clad” & radical look brought upon by widespread disagreement with Prohibition & the fact that frankly, women wanted to be noticed & have their voices heard (1920 was a big year, guys). This is also when one of the first pretty big dominos fell in terms of “thin” becoming synonymous with “beautiful”. An extremely thin, straight-up-and-down physique was a prerequisite for the shorter dresses being worn. Bras were made special to flatten against your chest so that you didn’t have large breasts. A sporty appearance was prized & demanded in advertisements of the time, & women often dieted & exercised to achieve the look.
1940s to 1950s
Ah, the pin-up girls. We talk about today’s commercial, dramatically re-touched portrayal of women are having a harmful effect on young women’s body image, yet forget that taking sexual photos of women with ”ideal figures” & mass-producing them to sell to the public is not a new thing. It was alive and well in the post-war era, where (likely male) artists would draw these photos of famous women (Hello, Marilyn Monroe) & elongate their legs, make the waist smaller, etc to further create an unattainable image for women to aspire to & young boys to hang on their walls. It is true, however, that the ideal was a heavier one in terms of weight in the 40’s and 50’s. Curvy was “in” again, but the female body was just as scrutinized as ever.
Twiggy changed the game. The short, rail-thin supermodel glamorized skinny & made it the feminine ideal-curves were no longer cute. Further media pressure includes the slender Audrey Hepburn, a film, fashion, & thus body icon of the decade.
The birth of “heroin chic” & the infamous, quite destructive Kate Moss quote, “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.” Grunge was in style & the women that modeled the looks were all of similar physique-extremely tall & extremely thin. The level of fame (& skinniness) supermodels achieved in this period of history paved the way for TV shows like America’s Next Top Model in which weight & body image was often a judging point or topic amongst the models.
2000s - 2010s
Nowadays, we still have “thinspiration” & curvy but photoshopped celebrities/models that try to pressure young girls & women to achieve the unattainable, but we also have the antidote. “Body positivity” has become a movement, & the fem-fighters leading it are something fierce.
My point is, negative body image and impossible physical ideals are nothing new, & have plagued women throughout history. I’m sure I’m not the first one to tell you this, so that begs the question, how do we stop holding ourselves to that expectation? I could tell you the history of unfair body image all I want, but how do we approach these upcoming summer months with confidence? Let me tell you - it’s a process. It is part staying active, part eating foods that are nutritious & fuel you, part taking everything the media portrays women as with a grain of salt, & part patience. Patience not with the “results” you hope to see, but with the way in which you look at your precious body. I have struggled for quite some time with my physical appearance, namely my weight, but I take steps every day towards acceptance. Loving the way that you look can begin NOW, not once you finally look the way you want to. Self-love truly comes from within, so honestly? Start today. Go out and buy that bikini this summer. Put on those short shorts & flaunt that crop-top. This season, make it your mission to absolutely LOVE whatever skin you are in. We must remind ourselves to be gentle when it comes to body image, for it must be a love affair. We all receive a vessel that we get to experience this world in-don’t let anyone tell you that yours isn’t precious. It’s very purpose & all of it’s capabilities are unbelievably beautiful. You owe it to yourself to acknowledge that. No matter how you appear, whether you’re a voluptuous Gibson Girl, a Twiggy, or some fabulous in-between, you are beautiful, too.
Have a (body) positive day.
Thank you so much Alejandria for your words on positive body image! We enjoyed hosting our first guest blog, something we are in the process of planning and having more of. Please feel free to leave a comment, question, or concern. This space is all about having an open discussion on women, womanhood, and motherhood!
If writing for Under A Tin Roof is something that you are interested in, please let us know! You can contact us through our website here or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org