Fighting the Wrong Villain: Thin Women and the Thin Ideal

It’s the beginning of a new year, so I expect to see a lot of posts and articles about losing weight, working out, eating healthy, etc. I’ve been encouraged by seeing some fighting back against the annual guilt fest and claiming their right to love their bodies and selves as they are.

However, as you can easily guess, the positive body-image posts and resolutions are the minority. Even on sites whose entire mission is to fight the unrealistic expectations of the thin ideal, there is body disparagement, ranging from the typical self-critique to demonizing and criticizing others.

A couple of days ago, Beauty Redefined posted a quote from Zooey Deschanel about refusing to give in to unrealistic beauty standards, and I was dismayed to see how many people dismissed what she had to say because she is thin.

But I probably shouldn’t have been. It’s not really much different from what I have gotten on a regular basis from others.

I’m not a particularly large person, though certainly not as small as Zooey. My mother was very petite, and I inherited her small bone structure. My freshman year of college, I went through a brief period of being slightly heavy, according to the charts, but for the most part, I’ve always been within a “healthy” weight.

That doesn’t mean that I haven’t struggled with my body image. Even though I can’t be classified as overweight or obese, I’m still far from meeting the standards of the thin ideal.

I’ve been working hard the last couple of years to learn to accept and love my body for what it is instead of what it isn’t, but it’s been a lonely journey. It’s difficult to express my insecurities to others. More often than not, when I dare to bring up my own struggle with the thin ideal, I’m met with comments such as “You’re thin; you have nothing to worry about” or “If only I were your size. You’re perfect.”

Perhaps comments like that are meant as an encouragement, but they don’t feel encouraging. Failure doesn’t really come in degrees. I fail to meet the thin ideal as much as anyone else who fails. The goal is still as much out of a healthy, realistic reach now as it would be if I gained an extra hundred pounds, and my need to overcome the thin ideal and to accept my body is as great as any other woman’s.

I’ve grown so tired of being dismissed. I’m tired of seeing women like Zooey vilified for being small. The goal of redefining beauty standards shouldn’t be to make thin “bad.” Rather it should be to accept the range of healthy expressions that women’s bodies can take–“fat,” “thin,” and anything in between.

More importantly, it should be to break away from the idea that a woman’s value is based in her appearance. Zooey’s wisdom or my journey aren’t diminished because of our weight—or at least they shouldn’t be. No woman’s should be, no matter what her weight.

So while we’re all talking about our resolutions and health goals for the year, can we also please stop demonizing women, whether heavy or light, for their bodies? I’d love to see every woman reach a place where she can stand up and celebrate her body as a beautiful part of herself, as my beautiful and amazing friend Dani did, but I understand that kind of journey is a long one that some may not ready to make.

At the very least, though, we can refrain from making the journey harder. The next time you feel like dismissing someone’s body concerns because they don’t match yours, take a step back and just try acknowledging that she is allowed to struggle too.

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2 thoughts on “Fighting the Wrong Villain: Thin Women and the Thin Ideal

  1. micah says:

    great post!

  2. Blown says:

    I think the most important is to feel that the way you are is who you are. If people have a problem with that, their problem. If you do, then change to what you want to be, not to what others would like you to be 😉

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