I happen to be shopping there one day trying not to overspend and not really paying too much attention until something caught my eye. It was a top that I thought was particularly cute. Then, my eye caught a few more tops until it ended at the mannequin’s display of more cute pieces. Upon closer inspection I had come to realize that the mannequin wasn’t some weird postured skinny version of a woman. It was more like….well, my size. Then my view widened and I began looking at all the posters in the ads too. They were all normal sized women throughout the store. Have you noticed?
Is size cultural?
You bet it is.
I’ve just recently come back from a short stint in LA and had run into a woman in a bathroom as we were shopping for food to eat and she started off the conversation by stating a claim, “Your butt is HUGE!” I looked at her and said, “Excuse me?” As I’m trying to figure out where she’s going with this, she continues: “How do you get it to look like that?” I still don’t have an answer, because, you guessed it, I have no idea where she’s going with this. “It’s phenomenal!” Bingo! I see. Now we have a direction.
I sincerely thought this was a joke. We are in LA, right? Were there cameras somewhere? Are there cameras everywhere? Was she an actress practicing her craft? What in the world? Is she crazy?
In an instant I unexpectedly went into a giggle fit. I hadn’t engaged in conversation with her, but now I really couldn’t. So I left, knee deep in my giggle fit as she followed me talking about my butt! I was mortified. I finally shook her loose as I ran towards my husband as if he’d be able to prevent this scenario. She walks past me wearing a sheepish grin.
Then I started thinking, had I been someone who wanted to be skinny, I would be devastated at the thought of having a large anything. So, because of my culture, it was almost permissible, even a compliment for her to tell me my butt was big.
Generally Latinas and Blacks tend to like a smaller waist, bigger hips and thighs.
I have had people make that comment to me in my self-conscious youth. I’d have to say that back then, I definitely would have been devastated considering my mindset.
I was having a conversation with someone who knew upon my meeting her that I was a personal trainer. She had already “should-ed” all over herself before I had met her.
“I should lift weights,” “ I should exercise, but I hate exercise…” along with numerous other stories of her intense hatred for working out. I couldn’t help but ask myself, “does she really hate exercise or does she just not know what she likes to do?” That is possible, you know. A lot of times people just do what they think is exercise and tend to associate it with being inside a gym, or lifting weights etc. The best exercise is the one you will do. It’s good for your health to do something, but start first with something you like & enjoy & the rest will take care of itself. Pretty soon, you begin to make it intentional.
I told her that I thought she looked rather slender and she says to me, “The only thing I heard you say, was slender. In my world, the skinnier, the better. If I could be see through, I would. In my world, skinny is beautiful.” Her reaction seemed visceral.
I was intrigued, because skinny in my world is not a kind thing to say about a woman. I’d never be mistaken for skinny, and I don’t want to be. I mean I want to look good in my clothes, feel good in my skin and look good in my video demos, but skinny is not something I dream to achieve. For some women it truly is. I will confess that it did take me some time to arrive there (come to this conclusion, to feel this way about myself) and there’s still some work to do, but overall that is my truth. I did feel the pressure to look like everyone else, or who I thought people wanted me to look like as someone in my industry. But trying to be something you’re not is just too painful.
The current conundrum
As of the time I’m writing this article, we are in an age of scolding those that body shame and increasing self-acceptance. I think this is great and has been a long time coming.
Where we start to push the envelope a little bit I believe is when women tend to border or cross over into obesity and then label is it as “self-acceptance”. This is my own personal opinion.
Two people come to mind when I think about this Star Jones and Monique. They were both very vocal about being large and fabulous when they were obese, and then later recanted and made attempts to reduce their size (both successfully).
Star Jones, opted for gastric bypass while Monique did it the good ol’ fashioned way with diet and exercise.
I got into an incredibly interesting discussion with one of my clients about the way women feel about themselves and their bodies. This got me thinking about how many differing stages women have been through regarding bodies over many, many decades.
For some reason, Twiggy comes to mind. Remember Twiggy? She was the one who set off the trend of being so thin.
I wanted to look into it a little bit deeper. So I did. By end the of our conversation we both agreed that if women gave less a f*ck about what others think about us, it would make our lives so much easier. After that admittance came another confession; That not caring what others think is very difficult to do.
In addition to that, we are very affected by what we see in the age we are living, whether we know it, or believe it. So we try to fit into the mold of our current times.
Here's a very brief & interesting history lesson about women's bodies and trends;
Venus of Willendorf BCE
She was the first “official” standard of beauty founded by an archaeologist in 1908. This is one of the few figurines of the female figure to survive this time period. Childbearing and voluptuousness is apparently emphasized. There have been lots of speculation about the symbolism of such things on this figurine about the breasts, the facelessness, her over abundance. I’m leaving out the professional speculation of this figurine in this article for the sake of letting you form your own opinion about her. There really is not a whole lot of information about her except the time period she came from. Everything else written is professional speculation, and we can do that ourselves. Right? We can look at her ourselves and form our own speculation about what was important in that era.
1910: The idea feminine body type was the figure 8 (think Beyonce). The proper term for this era is the Gibson Girl look. It was termed the Gibson Girl look because a guy by that name, Charles Dana Gibson decided that that look should be the standard of beauty. The caucasian female standard of beauty. These were pen and ink illustrations from this artist that spanned the twenty year period between the 19th and early 20th century. She was portrayed as a fragile and voluptuous woman who had large bust and hips & buttocks, was not vulgar or lewd. She had a thin long neck and hair piled on top of her head. She was statuesque and had a very small waist. Stylish and of the upper class society. She was confidently poised, athletic, sharply dressed, independent, calm, and sought her own personal fulfillment. She was also sexually dominant and if standing next to her, men appeared to be simpletons, bumblers and most likely couldn’t provide her with satisfaction.
1920’s: The Flapper Girl Look
In this era, women cut off all their hair, hiked up their skirts and listened to jazz music. They wore excessive make up, were considered brash, drank (alcohol), smoked and had sex in a casual manner. The slang word for “flap” was used to describe a young prostitute as early as 1631. Flappers were slender in their build, had boyish hips and started to become a little more masculine in their expression of style. They took men’s suits, tailored them to their slender bodies and added shoulder pads. The flapper girl is also synonymous with the automobile because it was during this time that more automobiles were becoming available and this meant more freedom for this flapper girl. Cars meant that the flapper girl could come and go as she pleased. Flapper girls promoted the ideals of fulfillment and freedom where women were encouraged to think independently about their garments, careers and social activities.
1930’s The Soft Siren
This look became less boxy, the waist re-appeared again, slender shoulders were back and the silhouette was more fitted. Bustlines were a little more accentuated as well as more curvature. This look was saucy, sassy and the attitude mimicked that of the Flapper Girl look.
1940’s The Star Spangled Look
Pointy bras emerged with names like “torpedo” and “bullet”, and back style are the broad and boxy shoulders yet again. Squarer silhouettes, taller and longer limbs and more commanding attitudes. Women continued to expand their roles into the workforce.
Think Jessica Rabbit. In this era skinny women were advised to take weight gain supplements. The ideal at this time was a tiny waist and large chest.
1960’s The Twig.
Narrow, boyish hips were the order of the day. Fact: Twiggy was 5’6” and weighed all of 91 pounds! This was the era where she made gaunt famous and trendy. In steps Weight Watchers to help us all lose the weight from our voluptuousness to jump on the Twiggy trend.
1970’s The Dancing Queen.
Bell bottoms, long and lean dancing queens. Dr. Robert Atkins begins the low-carb revolution. The tall order of the day was to maintain the flat bellies, slimmer hips to be able to rock the bell bottom, belly exposing pants in addition to rocking the less forgiving fabrics of the hip hugging long disco dresses. This is also the year that Beverly Johnson was crowned first black super model and donned the cover of Vogue magazine.
1980’s The Supermodel Look
So, somehow in this era, we were supposed to get taller as the standard had become leaner, leggier, to represent the new feminine ideal. Think Elle MacPerson, Naomi Campbell. These women are close to 6 foot or taller. Jane Fonda also made leg warmers and leotards a thing and muscles began to be acceptable and desirable on women. As if?! Why do we need permission from anybody to look the way we want?
1990’s The Waif
Sir Mix a lot became the anthem as retaliation to the drug induced waif look. “I like BIG BUTTS and I cannot lie! You other brothers can’t deny!” Grungy and drugs were cool. Think Kate Moss, or the druggie look. Women were still reeling from the Twiggy look trying to be as slim as possible. Spanx starts to make some traction because by now we’ve started dieting and unknowingly damaging our metabolisms, so the diets stopped working so we turned to Spanx to suck in what we couldn’t diet off.
2000’s The Buff Beauty
Spray tans and visible abs. Now we are well on our way to hiring personal trainers for some muscle tone and even though we got rid of the pale look of the drugged up heroin addict look. At least we are mindful of our skin where we make sure to get an artificial tan so as not to damage our skin.
2010 The Booty Babe
Butts, butts, butts, booties, booties and more booties. And I’m not talking about the baby kind. It’s all about the bass and no treble.
As I was doing the research for this, all I could think of was “Embrace.” As women we must embrace what we’ve been gifted with. It’s what all women should do.
JLo has been accused of starting the bigger butt trend. Instead of trying to look like her, be like her and get butt transplants etc, we should have observed that she just simply embraced her assets.
Many moons ago, I was watching an interview with JLo. I can’t remember the question, but what I do remember was her saying that when she was a young dancer she looked around and saw how thin all the other dancers were. She knew she couldn’t compete on that level and she didn’t want to that thin, so she said she took a long hard look in the mirror and started looking for something that would set her apart from everyone else. She turned around and looked at her butt and said to herself, “It’s my ASS!” The rest is history. She simply embraced it. It’s not her butt we want, it’s her confidence and her ability to embrace who she is and her ASSets.