The last few years have given rise to a new movement among feminists and women everywhere, promoting body positivity and feeling comfortable in your own skin. I have always been a big supporter of this, as someone who was plus sized for a great many years I took a lot of comfort and pride from knowing that other women were learning to love themselves at any weight/height/shape. While my self-esteem has always been pretty high, thanks to my mother “not raising ugly children”, I know that a lot of people- women especially, haven’t had such a positive environment to love themselves and nurture their self-esteem. I would like to take this week’s entry to talk about how awesome I think body positivity is and what it was like to grow up before it was widely adopted.
Growing up in the 90’s and 2000’s, things seemed pretty great. Technology was advancing, politics were progressing, TV and movies were pretty excellent, and I had no complaints. When I was reaching my formative years in middle school however I started noticing that there weren’t a lot of women on TV who looked like me. The only women who did look like me were always in the “fat best friend” role in movies, which was discouraging to say the least. I think the first movie I remember seeing where the “fat girl” got the leading handsome guy was Hairspray. I’m of course referring to the 1988 version, which my mom and I watched often growing up. Seeing Link Larkin fall for Tracy Turnblad gave me hope that I could find a gorgeous man who would love me despite my weight. At the time, that was the best example I had of a plus sized woman being with a thinner man. I had no idea that curvy women were desirable to men, because it’s not something you ever really saw at the time.
Link was a hottie, and falling for Tracy made him even more attractive.
When I was in high school a new show was gaining popularity on AMC about the advertising industry in the 1960’s, featuring a beautiful buxom actress by the name of Christina Hendricks. That show of course is Mad Men, which became a national phenomenon and that character was Joan Holloway-Harris. Joan became my hero and gave me an ideal image I wanted to look like, but was still realistic for a plus sized girl like myself. Seeing her adored by so many men made me long for the years when my body type would’ve been seen as desirable. However I was stuck in 2007, where high school boys wanted to date the skinny girls I went to school with and not me. I yearned to be Joan and to capture the attention of so many men, and not long after when I had my first “serious boyfriend” he made me feel like I was perfect even at a size 16.
For those of you living under a rock, this is the beautiful Christina Hendricks as Joan Holloway-Harris on Mad Men. She was everything I wanted to be: curvy, confident, and killer in heels.
In the years since Mad Men began, especially the last 5 or so, plus size women have started rising to elevated roles and come to the forefront of pop culture. Melissa McCarthy went from Lorelai’s best friend on Gilmore Girls to leading lady in films such as Spy, The Boss, and the new Ghostbusters. Ashley Graham has made huge strides in bringing truly plus sized models to mainstream media, being a cover model for the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. Even Mattel has gotten with the times and started offering Barbie dolls in different shapes and sizes that represent all little girls instead of just the tall, thin shape she’s always had. Dove has commercials featuring plus size women and showing how body positivity is important. We now have an entire week dedicated to body positivity in May, which brings attention to the movement and many media outlets use to shed light on it.
Every body type is beautiful and it’s great to see women of all shapes and sizes beginning to be represented in mainstream media. These changes have been for the better, I hope that one day we reach a place where all women are represented and every little girl can see women that look like them in popular culture in diverse roles.
The moral of this story is there is no perfect body, so long as you love the one you have you’re doing great.