This picture has been posted all over the internet lately...
I understand that a lot of the pictures and rants on the internet relating to weight resort to a sort of ad-hominen, all-or-nothing, “You think THIS is attractive, but actually it’s UGLY and THIS is more attractive!” or “She’s only skin and bones! She’s not a REAL women!” approach…which is obviously problematic, and, understandably, upsetting to naturally thin girls everywhere. But not every body-acceptance message is so polarized or aggressive. Never-the-less, I've noticed that almost every time any image pops up promoting acceptance of more diverse (and yes, often more realistic) body types, there is this counter-cry of purportedly naturally thin women shouting “I can’t help it, that’s just my metabolism, stop judging me!”
This is frustrating because these women seem to be missing the point. Those pictures of Marilyn Monroe or the Dove models are about the pressure EVERYONE feels to be thin-- they are about the majority of women who are made to feel insecure because they aren't that thin, or the very thin women who did get that way through eating disorders, obsession with calories, or ridiculous and oppressive fitness regimes. Sometimes, those women shouting “I’m just naturally thin” aren't actually 'naturally' thin; they are thin because they eat salad for lunch and turn down dessert ninety percent of the time– not because they don’t like dessert, or because one piece of cake would wreak havoc with their health, but because they are trying (harder than they may realize or admit) to maintain the body shape that society deems most attractive. Just because not all thin women have severe eating disorders doesn't mean that a large number of them aren't affected- oppressed even- by damaging pressure to conform to ideals. And when those same women excuse that cultural pressure or pretend it doesn't exist, I think that’s a problem. And as for the girls who really, truly are naturally thin, the girls who can eat cake and Doritos and never put on a pound...they need to just pipe down for a minute-- unless, of course, they want to contribute to the discussion instead of suppressing it. They need to let this conversation take place and give other women room to fight back against the rigid ideals that not everyone fits into so easily. And I say this as a relatively thin woman. When other women complain about feeling pressured to be a size two, I don't stand up and say "Hey now! I am a size two, and I eat cookies, and I even write a body-image blog, so stop complaining," because that is obviously not helpful. Because not every woman is in my same situation. Because there really is too much pressure to be thin, and not as much of a problem the other way around. And because I want them to keep talking about it.
Real oppression works like a bird-cage, constricting you from all sides.
So I think the focus of these healthy body-image promotion posts is rightly being placed on moving toward accepting women who aren't necessarily as thin, toward deeming those women attractive too. These pictures praising Dove models aren't there to say “being thin is bad;” they are there to say “the fact that all women feel constant pressure to be thin is bad.”
Woman talking about these topics shouldn't feel pressured to censor themselves or avoid talking about serious and obvious issues, like the plummeting weights of super models, in an effort to avoid offending others. We can't stop questioning and criticizing harmful societal expectations just because some people happen to fit within them. I don’t think the people posting images of healthy women and denouncing the pictures of super-thin Victoria's Secret models (who probably aren't naturally thin, who probably do maintain those weights through abnormal eating habits) should have to worry too much about offending the handful of women who are naturally thin, totally healthy, and completely body-anxiety free…because those women were never being targeted. And meanwhile we do have a growing number of insecure and confused young girls who wonder why they don’t look the same as those models, or even the same as their naturally thin (or permanently dieting) classmates. This discussion is vital for women everywhere. Rigid, unrealistic body ideals are harmful to everyone, even those who already, effortlessly, live up to them, because those ideals pave the way for even more unrealistic expectations and more objectifying treatment of women. And all women, thin or curvy, underweight or overweight, should be a part of keeping this discussion going.