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*beauty campaigns & booty champions

There are a few things I don’t like about myself, physically. I think everyone has those.

I think my feet look weird, but then so does everyone else. No, there are two biggies for me. I really hate the fact that hair grows on my knuckles. WHY? I’m not sure why it bothers me so much but sometimes I’ll just be going about my day and notice the 3 friggin hairs on my knuckles, and it just drives me.. bonkers. I also inherited this weird bump thing on the back of my neck from my mom’s side of the family. I hardly ever see it, but sometimes it shows up in pictures and it’s another WHY? situation all over again. I can’t think of anything else at the moment.

There are a lot more things that I love about myself, like my eyes and eyelashes. I love that I have brown eyes, I think they’re very true to my character and personality. I also have been told more than once that they sparkle, which makes me happy on so many levels! *giggles* Also, the mascara-lover in me adores my long eyelashes. YAY. Also my eyebrows – is this weird? I have really thick eyebrows. They grow like grass, I don’t even understand how it’s possible. They can be a bit of a pain, but I also really love that they are a dominant feature on my face. Sure, I have lots to pluck, but I like keeping them thick.. I think they’re pretty that way, and maybe I like to channel my inner Lily Collins..? Not to mention, I HAVE A DIMPLE. Enough said. And I somehow managed a really nice figure. It’s a little thicker than most, but I don’t mind. I have a small waist and hip hip hoooorrayyyy if you know what I’m saying. I love my body. I love the way God made me. Seriously, I could go on and on, so I’ll save you and stop there.

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I’m not narcissistic or weirdly in love with myself, I just somehow happened to believe my Bible the first time around when God told me that he had formed me wonderfully. I think this has a lot to do with the fact that my father cherished me – every last inch of me – and told me every single day. I couldn’t count the times my dad has looked me in the eye and told me that I’m absolutely, no questions asked, beautiful, and that he loves me. And he has showed me those things just as often as he has told them to me. My mom taught me to be strong, to form my own opinions and believe them, which also has had a great impact in this area.

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(I think the look on my face should tell you everything you need to know about Dad.)

Sometime in elementary school I started noticing that my friends were really pretty. That my friend Lizzie had gorgeous blue eyes, for instance, or that Brianna had this shiny black-brownish hair. Still today, I think all of my friends are tremendously beautiful. My friend Ellen has amazing red hair, Des has green eyes, Jenna has one of those smiles that you just want to make sure never goes away. Anyway, in elementary, I thought to myself, “I wonder if I’m pretty too.” For some glorious reason, I didn’t ask anyone else, I asked myself. I’m not sure why I did that, but I thank the 9 year old me all the time for that first step to self-affirmation, and resulting confidence. I remember standing in front of the mirror that night and assessing myself. I looked over every feature and I couldn’t find anything wrong. I liked my eyes, my dimple, my rosy cheeks, and sandy blonde hair (it’s since grown darker). I liked that my skin colour seemed to be an even mixture between my mum and dad’s tones. After a few minutes, I was like, “Yep. I’m pretty. Nicely done, God.” I walked away and still have not, to this day, questioned the judgement I passed that night. I’ve come to love myself even more now than I did then. Sometimes in the morning I can’t help but grin at myself in the mirror. (Not everyday, because mornings aren’t the greatest for me.) I reaffirm me. I wish I could give you a formula for my success, but I don’t really know how it happened. It’s just a part of who I am. (I hope you don’t think I’m too obnoxiously confident. I’m just trying to lay the groundwork for the rest of this post haha!)

Another part of me is the fact that I’ve (pretty much) always been overweight. Frankly, it’s not something I fixate on, and I don’t think I have some sob story in the closet waiting to be told. I’m 19, (relatively) healthy, I have a truly wonderful family, a purpose in life, an abundance of fantastic friends, I’m currently living abroad in an incredible country, and I have a home that I cannot wait to return to! God has blessed me in so many ways, and my weight has just never been a priority of mine. Oh sure, as all “bigger” girls do, I’ve had awkward moments.. You know, when people make an offhand comment that they never think of again, but I carry with me. Like, in the fifth grade we brought in baby photos to show our classmates. I remember the one I took, because it’s one of my mom’s favourite photos of me. I’m in a black and white striped bathing suit and rocking a hot pink hat whilst playing in the yard. I turned to one of my friends and, showing them, said “Look how cute and chubby I was!” I was (still am) genuinely pleased with that snapshot of my childhood. Pure glee is written all over my face. I knew swimming (my most beloved activity) was soon to take place, and I was in a hat (my most beloved accessory). The picture shows the contentedness of my childhood. Instead of smiling at the photo with me, though, and embracing my happy memory, she said (rather nastily) “Ya, and if you hadn’t noticed, you still are.” I remember being hurt for a second, and then deciding she must have been saying that I was still cute. (I agree!) Last year I was diagnosed with a medical condition that makes losing weight very difficult, it actually explains why I’ve been consistently overweight throughout life. Most women who are similarly diagnosed actually gain more weight over time, even though they attempt otherwise. I haven’t given up on myself, but I also know that realistically, I’ll never be 120 pounds haha. (Nor do I really care to be.) I hope to (and have been working on) getting down to a healthy weight for my size, which would be somewhere around the 160 zone. I feel best when I am living healthily and that is enough for me. As we’ve established, I’m comfortable in my own skin, thus I don’t feel a need to shed it. 

Now that we’ve established my history and my feelings about my obesity and body image, let’s talk abut the current “beauty campaign” or movement for body-type equality. I haven’t lent my voice to the beauty campaign for a myriad of reasons. To summarize, I basically think it’s crap. I think the concept is great; I think the execution is.. abhorrent. Let me explain:

First, (I’m sorry, this will probably disappoint you) it’s a money grab. When I say the words “beauty campaign,” Dove probably jumps into your head. For a years now, Dove has been promoting the idea that all women are beautiful through a social media movement of #truebeauty or #realbeauty. Watch this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=litXW91UauE This take on beauty “Evolution” tells you that the gorgeous personas you’ve been comparing yourself to are, for all intents and purposes, fake. In 2006, Dove was one of the first times a big name stood up and pointed at whoever it is exactly that we’re all supposed to be pointing at, and exposed them for holding women to unrealistic standards and expectations. It was inspiring, and it caught fire.

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Now, watch this commercial: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZCu6JQKNQvc It’s appalling, is it not? If you don’t think that was bad enough, check out this one: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rg05ufqK1Zo (I don’t know about you, but all Axe makes me think of is the boys in middle school who doused themselves in it and left the whole hallway choking.) I think we can all agree that these commercials objectify and sexualize women. The women we just watched were allowed no individuality or personality. I’m sorry to say that they were there for precisely two reasons: their boobs and their butt.

What if I told you that Axe (objectifying women since, well, forever) and Dove (encouraging and advocating for healthy body images since the early 2000s) are owned by the same company, Unilever? How can one company hold two entirely conflicting opinions about women at once? They can’t, and they don’t, because it’s an advertising campaign, and ads set out with only one mission in mind: to make money. 

Secondly, the beauty movement is focused almost entirely on women. As a matter of fact, I happen to think the beauty campaign is downright sexist. Now, before you take off on me (or quit reading), allow me to explain myself. Do I think women have body image issues? YES. Do I think women should be compared to Victoria’s Secret Angels? NO. You do you, girl. But the thing is, I have a brother, and I’ve always had better luck with guys than girls. I really value the guy friends I’ve had in my life. (Don’t worry, girlfriiiiiiends I luh ya too.) If you want to tell me that guys aren’t insecure about how they look, well, I’m calling straight bull on you, son. Sure, they don’t admit to it, they don’t talk about it as much, WAIT. Are you listening to me? I’m using male stereotypes to justify this! Because of the societal pressure to be “masculine,” most guys don’t think they can admit to it, don’t think they should talk about it. That’s wrong. Men are told just as often about what they’re supposed to look like as women are. The men’s underwear packaging I’ve seen is black and white with male gods and chiseled abs all over the place. The average Hollywood man comes with big blue eyes, a 6 pack, perfect pecs, and beautiful biceps all wrapped up in a bow. (And let’s not forget that they are oiled, shaved, and photoshopped every bit as much as their female counterparts.) Women have taken every opportunity to reaffirm the idea that a certain body type (doesn’t this sound familiar??) is preferred to what the average dude walks around looking like. Recently I was on Pinterest and I saw this photo compilation depicting Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum at the beach.

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Do you believe me yet? Channing Tatum was a magnet for bikini babes, and Jonah Hill sat in the sand with his towel around him. The beauty campaign encourages women to change their minds about themselves, but does nothing to help them see that all men can be attractive too, nor does it call attention to the challenges men face. That’s two strikes against it, for me. 1) It’s sexist. 2) It’s shallow.

I say it’s shallow because the campaign focuses entirely on your outer appearances and ensuing satisfaction, and does not in any way reaffirm you for just being the incredible human being that you are. It in no way tells us: “Even if you don’t love your body, you can still love yourself, because you are not your appearance.” 

Thirdly, I don’t think every body is beautiful, I think everyone is beautiful, and I think most of you would agree with me. I have had friends that are extremely thin and can’t gain weight even when they try. I have had friends in the opposite camp that are extremely obese and can’t lose weight even when they try. For this reason, I say this with a lot of care and a grain of salt: too thin can be unhealthy. Too heavy can be (and usually is) unhealthy. I don’t think it’s right for us to justify women being overweight. While I do think we should hold ourselves to more realistic standards, I also think we still need to have standards. I relished the “#losehatenotweight” movement. I thought it was so wonderful to see women confidently showcasing their bodies. That is a societal mental shift that is worth making: no one should have to be ashamed of who they are. But as I saw more and more pictures of severely overweight women, all gaining public attention and affirmation, something inside me screamed in frustration, for 2 reasons: 1, the real message people sent was, “Congratulations for being overweight, you’re beautiful anyway!” No. These women are beautiful because they were created beautiful, not despite their weight. Don’t sound so shocked that someone who is heavier is beautiful. 2, we should not be, as a public, condoning or encouraging people to remain in their state of being overweight. Being obese puts people at serious health risk. Do you think about your friends fondly after hanging out with them and warmly think, “I hope they get diabetes,” and then smile to yourself? No, you don’t.

Those are just a few reasons for me to not waste my breath on the beauty campaign, but the reason I’ve never blogged about it is because I just considered it too trendy. Now you’re probably thinking I’m shallow, right? But seriously, I am not considered a trendy dresser: 90% of my wardrobe is Old Navy, and the other 10% is CosCo. I have a hand-me-down iPhone 4. In my year off I came to work in Africa instead of aimlessly wandering Europe, or going to a Capernwray/YWAM. Not that there’s anything wrong with those, heck, my siblings did both. I’m a big fan, I’m just not someone who likes to do what everyone else is doing.

Anyway, with all my loathing for trendy blogging and the beauty campaign sham of a scam, there’s finally something that’s irked me juuuust enough to come out and say something. 

A few months ago, Meghan Trainor released the (now hit) single, “All About That Bass.” I laughed the first time I listened to it. It’s fun, it’s funny, and it’s fun to dance to. What more do you want from a pop song? (Before we get started: I recognize that her song body shames thinner women (to a degree). I also do not, under any circumstance, believe that women should be reaffirmed because boys like to hold “more booty at night.”)

Here is what I liked about the song: First of all, the music video features 5 chicks rocking out in a pastels and pink environment. Heck yes. Next, the video (and the song) is sarcastic, and I certainly do like a little sarcasm to hold at night. Trainor’s producer drew attention to the beauty campaign in a satirical way, which I appreciated. (From one cynic to another, haha!) One line in the song says “I see the magazines, workin’ that Photoshop // We know that s*** ain’t real // C’mon now, make it stop.” This is what the video depicts during that part of the song:

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I laughed. Another clever quip is a sort of “musical cameo.” Trainor sings, “I’m bringing booty back” as a nod to the classic JT “I’m bringing sexy back.” This is, however, followed by the “skinny girl shaming” part of the song.

“I’m bringing booty back / Go on and tell them skinny b****** that / No I’m just playing, I know y’all think you’re fat / But I’m here to tell you / Every inch of you is perfect from the bottom to the top.”

There’s a lot that’s been said about this song already, and you can just Google it to catch some other opinions and analyses of the lyrics and subsequent messages. I wish people spent a little more time obsessing over the last line (I bolded it) from that verse, but I’m not going to focus on it all that much. I will say this, I think the song could have been even more fun if she hadn’t felt the need to exclude the “treble.” Why can’t we be all about the bass, and love the treble too? 

Anyway, back to business. When was the last time you saw a movie with an overweight character, who’s weight wasn’t being made into a punchline? When was the last TV show? Have you ever seen a romance where the chick isn’t a stunning, size-2 actress? What about an action flick with an obese hero?

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(This isn’t entirely relevant, but it makes me laugh. Even the “too skinny” aren’t safe in the hero world, instead they’re given injections by Dr. Erskine to make them into super soldiers, haha!)

My newsfeed has been clustered with articles about why this song is so negative, why it is just a different kind of body shaming, etc. I honestly don’t think it’s that negative, and I think thin girls are being a little overdramatic about it. She didn’t declare a civil war between the body types, she just had fun with her own body type. I’m sorry to be harsh to my thinner friends out there, and I certainly hope no one was genuinely hurt by the song, but.. suck it up. Us thicker types certainly have been (since the beginning of time). You get every movie, TV show, 99% of all the songs, all the celebrities, to make you feel good about yourselves. Why can’t the big girls get one win in there? Why can’t we have this one, fun song to jam out to, without everyone raining on our little pink parade. We don’t hate you, we’re not out to get you, we just want to have a little fun. After all, that’s all girls want, right?

Do I approve all the messages associated with this song? Nah. I just think it was clever and different. Meghan Trainor, (as opposed to Colbie Callait, who basically re-did the Dove video I showed you earlier) was about original as you can be when all anyone wants to do nowadays is regenerate this same message over and over again. Not only that, she actually has some weight of her own, unlike Sara Bareilles or Selena Gomez, who have also released songs to feed the feel-good machine.

So, would everyone please just calm the heck down? The beauty campaign you’re defending when you bash this song around isn’t all that great to begin with, so let’s all just let the big girls have their day, and move on. I wrote this because I’m sick of hearing people make such a fuss over this song. I wrote it because I’m tired of the beauty campaign and it’s sham of a scam. But mostly, I wanted to draw your attention to this thought:

Do we really believe that trying to convince the media to stop idolizing size 0s, or telling big business to use plus size models will solve this problem? It won’t. You know why? Because you’re still relying on someone else to define your beauty. You’re still waiting for someone else to tell you that you’re good enough.

You aren’t “good enough” or “beautiful” because some company, magazine, celebrity, or singer tells you so.. You are because God created you with the utmost care. He gave you every last freckle and customized the little flecks in your irises. He thinks your beautiful when no one else does, maybe even when you can’t see it yourself. He stitched you together in your mother’s womb. He knows and values and loves your soul. When your body gets old, and the beauty starts to go, you will look just as beautiful to him then as you do today. I pray that you learn to create and found your identity in that truth. That you root yourself in him and that you will stop seeking worldly validation. There is so much freedom to be found.. And on top of all that, he loved you enough to die for you.

I hope I’ve given you something to think about today. I hope you can grin at yourself in the mirror because you are worthy, beautiful, and treasured.

much love & many blessings,

maggie

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1 Comment so far

  1. Kara

    Hey Mag! Enjoyed the read… I have to say though I could not stop laughing at “the weird bump ‘thing'” … I HAVE IT TOO and honestly it is the ONE thing I would remove if I could ha ha ha…. we are forever marked, there is never a doubt we ARE related and I will ask God, “why the bump” when I get to heaven, maybe it stores something we haven’t yet tapped into…… :0)

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