This woman is gorgeous, isn’t she? This image is utterly feminine. Her body is soft and luxurious looking. There are no hard edges. Ask your spouse, partner, or an appropriate person what they think of this image. I think that this woman’s roundness only adds to her appeal. A lover might want to touch that loose belly, kiss it, bury his face there for a while. Her breasts are not visible in this image, but I imagine that they are as full as the rest of her and probably hanging a little lower like her belly. A lover would want to spend a lot of time there, too. Her bottom is full and soft as are her thighs. There is a lot to delight in here. Do you see what I see?
Let me say this clearly. We are not defined by what is done to us sexually, but if we can imagine a lover loving all the parts of us–even the parts of our bodies that we do not like (especially the parts that we don’t like)–then it might be easier for us to begin to see ourselves differently.
Do you think that Ms. Miller’s body is beautiful in any way? This photo of Lizzie Miller appeared in Glamour Magazine in September 2009 and received more emails and letters than any other photograph to date. Clearly, American women appreciated Glamour’s use of a “normal” woman. I think her face is beautiful. It’s her smile, I think. She looks completely comfortable and happy with herself, and that’s attractive. And, oddly, I’m drawn to her stomach. I think that only adds to her overall appeal. I think the softness of her lower body increases her feminine appeal. She looks very good naked. No matter your body type, do you feel comfortable with yourself naked?
To contrast Ms. Miller, I’ve given you Pink. Pink is a very talented woman; I’m not “picking on her”. What I want to point out is that the media uses Pink’s body type far more often to sell products, ideas, entertainment, maintain and further the standard of the new North American ideal of beauty, but who is setting this standard? Objectively speaking, whose body type do you find more aesthetically pleasing? Pink’s body is obviously more toned. I like Pink’s body. Speaking for myself, I am probably closer to Pink’s body type than Ms. Miller’s. If Ms. Miller’s body type, in times past, represented the archetype of femininity, then one could assert that Pink leans toward a newer and more extreme kind of beauty. Her body fat percentage looks to be so low that she’s losing her breast tissue. She’s got the coveted “six pack” which is very hard for even men to attain. She has the body of a committed athlete. She is beautiful, but it requires enormous commitment in the form of a rigorous diet and exercise to maintain her physique. How realistic or attainable is this definition of beauty? Why do you think this new definition of beauty is more popular and used more often in advertising and in film than Ms. Miller’s representation?
The media seems to represent women in the extreme. Actresses must be a size 0 or 2, but then they must have large breasts, too. It’s a challenge to have such a low body fat percentage and maintain breast tissue, too. Articles are published in noted psychology journals citing that men prefer the hourglass figure. So, what’s a woman to do who has a more athletic build? What about women who carry extra weight around their waist? What about the changes women undergo after giving birth? What if you’re a woman who really loves her lean abdomen? What about that loose skin you find there now? All the celebrities seem to have their babies and be back in fighting form within 2 weeks–no loose skin on their bellies! How is this possible?! The media in all its forms sells its own ideal of beauty, and we get to choose to buy it…or not. This goes for men, too. We have the privilege of deciding what our own ideal of beauty will be. We have to do the work of recreating our ego-ideal. If you are an athlete, strong and hard, then revel in it. If you look like you just stepped out of a Rubens’ painting, then take joy in your own wondrous form. Wherever you fall on the spectrum of beauty, enjoy yourself. In any case, we can be soft and hard at the same time. For those of us who have given birth, those muscles pushed a new life into the world, and the skin that might hang there now once had to stretch to allow for the growth of that little life. It’s a beautiful metaphor not only for what a woman is but also for what a woman can do. Strong and steely, soft and feminine. All at the same time–no matter your form. It’s something to think about the next time we look in the mirror and can’t decide if we like what we see. Who decided for us what our definition of beauty was going to be? You? Or someone else?