The reason there is so much criticism on how the media does or doesn’t portray women, men and diverse communities comes from people who feel their voices aren’t heard. The criticism comes from people who want to be comforted by people similar to them – to know they are okay in living their truth. Wanting to be allowed to live as yourself as truthfully as possible is a congenital desire for everyone where we need to feel not just accepted but represented. For example, our entire government is built in a way that is meant to make individuals, in the public eye with large amounts of attention, be a representative of us. From childhood, we read books and watch movies or look at our friends and the people in our lives to emulate and practice how to play and treat people, how to just be an individual or just be able to function well in a group of people, a classroom, a work environment, a church or a home. When a person cannot see a representation of themselves in media or around them, they try to become something they aren’t and are criticized for not being able to fully become whatever their environment’s norm is.
This is why, particularly, displaying only a few body types and praising them over any other can be damaging to our character. Portraying specific relationships in films or even having the happy ending of a film be a romantic relationship is the kind of story to which we listen and hope to see ourselves, but if you decide not to marry or settle down with someone, then the media showing you this can weigh a person down or make someone feel incredibly alienated from their peers. We, throughout our entire lives, are trying to feel okay with ourselves and the comfort and support that comes from seeing people like us represented all around us is invaluable.
Lately, movements like #effyourbeautystandards and #TransIsBeautiful have been gaining momentum. People who are marginalized and made to feel like they have to be a certain way or feel a certain way to not be harassed or demeaned are coming together and communicating and crying out. The people using these hashtags and supporting these dialogues are demanding to be viewed as a standard, beautiful part of society who have the right to be heard and contented.
When I still walk past coworkers having a conversation about how they really do love a knee length skirt “as long as your legs are toned,” and when people of a certain pant, shirt or dress size are segregated to a separate section or store entirely, I know that there is still a problem with people’s perception of our bodies. Melissa McCarthy thinks so too, having recently commented on this (she also has a new clothing line out that is so fun!). These kinds of water cooler conversations and segregation of clothing sizes is one of the many reasons why a video like Tess Holliday’s is so enlightening! The video shows how to get a “bikini body.” Her snarky and tongue-in-cheek response is exactly what is needed amidst the pressure and oppression that is out there against our bodies! How simple and seemingly obvious that since you have a body you can put a bikini on it, and that is what you need to do to wear a bikini. You don’t have to look a certain way to do anything. You do you, boo.
To women and men who have pooches or freckles or cellulite or stretch marks but are still shamed into not wearing something, find a blog online. Look for inspiration and look for someone like you. Just because your thighs got juicy during college, you have chub rub or stretch marks, doesn’t mean that you should feel bad about any of this. These kinds of things that we hide about ourselves are what we need to accept and what we need to shout about. Look for your peers on Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook and Twitter. There are so many strides to be taken to get to a place where your neighbors not only just “tolerate” your size 26 bikini body or your c-section staple scars or the stretch marks from when your biceps got really big when you had time to work out every day, but in the meantime, search out your peers. We’re everywhere!
There are people who are out there that you’ve never had the opportunity to see or been able to come to understand, but it’s important to know that, whether they ever confide in you or not, these are your brothers, sisters, beloved coworkers and friends. There are people whose bodies look like nothing you’ve seen in public or on tv or in a magazine before. One of the biggest pushes in normalizing all body types and styles of dress has been the clothing stores and blogs dedicated toward making clothing for people to celebrate and be proud of their bodies, to be proud of the strides they’ve made, the children they’ve grown, the muscles they have or had. When there are people around you who dress like they love themselves (whether it’s the store mannequin or a new friend on Instagram), it lets you know that it’s okay to love yourself. It is also best to love yourself for yourself and not anyone else. You aren’t on this Earth to please another human. Here is a great quote about this is:
I do my thing and you do your thing.
I am not in this world to live up to your expectations,
And you are not in this world to live up to mine.
You are you, and I am I,
and if by chance we find each other, it’s beautiful.
If not, it can’t be helped.
(Fritz Perls, “Gestalt Therapy Verbatim”, 1969)
It’s important to recognize that the phrase “it can’t be helped” isn’t admitting defeat or being helpless. “It can’t be helped” means that it is not of important concern that someone may not be meant to be with you and live up to your expectations. Perceiving this as freeing instead of lonely is one of the greatest lessons someone can learn on their journey toward self-love.