Women are expected to live up to, or at least aspire to impossible standards of beauty- that’s not news to you. You see this every day but it seems as though that things are changing....
Women are expected to live up to, or at least aspire to impossible standards of beauty- that’s not news to you. You see it on the billboards on your way to work, you are reminded of it when you’re watching TV or when you go into a clothing store. Some of us have been explicitly told that we should do more to fit that standard and others are just subtly reminded of it every day. It’s been like that for years and even though society now acknowledges this problem, we still have a long way to go before we actually deal with it.
That’s why a few years ago when Meghan Trainor, an arguably bigger woman; was embraced by popular culture, I couldn’t stand the song but I have to admit that it was refreshing to see a different kind of body on a music TV channel. Hip-hop artist Drake rapped “I like my girls BBW” on his verse of Nicki Minaj’s Only and even though we know that when rappers say that, they really mean Big Booty Woman instead of a Big Beautiful Woman, some women still liked it. I was loving this new confidence that I saw in heavier girls all around me and on social media. They seemed to walk with just a little more pep in their step.
Over the next few months, this movement gained in popularity, it went beyond black people on social media and hip-hop culture. “Your ass looks fat in those jeans” was no longer an insult. We started seeing bigger women actually be highlighted and praised for their beauty instead of shamed for their size on an international level. The word “Thick” which is used to describe this type of woman was also used more often. It was still all about that bass then but that didn’t last long. Somewhere along the line, things took a turn and this word that was supposed to be an alternative to the f-word started being used for a specific kind of figure. Kim Kardashian was thick but Queen Latifah who had a few more inches on her waist was fat!
That’s when I realized that what happened was just a shift in the standards of beauty. The media went from praising the skinny girl with a generous bosom to the curvy, hourglass woman. I was a little surprised at first. I watched women on social media go from juice diets to wrapping themselves in saran wrap and endangering their lives by wearing “waist trainers” for long periods of time in order to have a skinny waistline. I met a girl at the gym who happily told me that the only exercise she did was squats because She just wanted a little more ass. Another told me that she was already getting thick because the natural supplement that she bought on Instagram had led to an increase in her bra size! At this point, I was upset.
A few months later, Nicki Minaj released the song Anaconda and in an interview, she confidently explained that the aim of the song was to uplift women with curves and make them feel sexy. Something that I didn’t really understand because the video featured nothing other than slim hourglass figured women who were only portrayed in a sexual manner. I got angry. We were basically trading in one evil for the other and the internet spoke: this change was here to stay!
I am still angry because this “Thick” girl movement that is still being marketed as accepting and celebratory of women with curves is rooted in satisfying the male gaze and sexual appetite. Should I have known this? Probably! I mean, a lot of it started with a song that tells you not to worry about your size because boys like a little more booty to hold at night! Even more frustrating though is the fact that it has now led to the shaming of skinnier women. “Fuck those skinny bitches in the club” isn’t a lyric that is body positive in any way.
Pop culture is creating a new body ideal for women right before our very eyes and the internet is preaching it to anyone who will listen.
The truth is that at this point, we are dealing with a wolf in sheep’s clothing that could be starting another unhealthy trend like runway models did in the past. Recently, the hashtag #thickgirlappreciationday was all over twitter and it was a vision! Bigger women with all kinds of body types participated by sharing pictures of themselves with captions that inspired nothing short of confidence and positive body image. The fat shamers were silent- for the most part. So there is still hope that this movement, that was originally focused on all the wrong things, could end up doing some good for even just a few women.