A beautiful, strong, fierce and independent Bedouin woman near Kerak, Jordan.
This is a story most women will recognize - women who are judged solely for their looks, despite their many, often heroic feats. Accomplished women who are told they're not good enough because they're don't meet Hollywood-promoted ideals: bodies that resemble hairless, adolescent girls more than grown women with natural curves. French actress Audrey Tautou - who is a gorgeous, petite woman - recently said she wouldn't want to work in Hollywood, where "every inch of your body is scrutinized."
Since when did size 0 or size 1 become accepted as standard? Why did an American size 8 or 10 morph into "plus" sizes? And why are women starving themselves to conform to such unrealistic - and outrageous - expectations? Why is every detail of a woman scrutinized and found wanting, unless she echoes fashion editors' rail-thin dictates of au courant chic? And when did a woman over size 8 begin to be considered fat? More importantly, when did "fat-shaming" become culturally acceptable in our society?
I don't understand this preoccupation of diminishing women until they practically vanish - in size and influence. Why did women begin to allow themselves - and their body shape - to be dictated to by companies or magazines who want only to sell more clothes or misogynistic film producers who want to control their female stars? When did women acquiesce to giving away their power - including the right to let their bodies be their natural shape, not fashion's "ideal" of the moment? When did we all become brainwashed about modern standards of beauty, often at the expense of our health? What happened to thinking for ourselves?
Three days ago, my daughter and I were in several Amsterdam shops and department stores. In all these shops, I saw only one store where a clothing line for "normal" women of size 10, 12 or 14 - now referred to as "plus" size - was available. The clothing line was tucked away in a corner, as though not to offend the sensibilities of all the skinny fashionistas shopping for tiny dresses.
Yesterday I received an email from one of my favourite stores in Paris. Their new clothing line is offered only in sizes "petite" or "medium." Heaven forbid if anyone is a size "large!" Because those aren't the customers the shop wants, apparently. Is it any wonder that I bought so many designer handbags, shoes and scarves while living in Paris??!!
Now that I'm on "the wrong side" of 50, I find myself in a perplexing stage: either I am treated as though I'm invisible or I am viewed with a critical eye. People who haven't seen me in a while, look closely to see if I've gained weight (I have; it's a constant struggle, aggravated by a genetic health issue). One friend who came to visit insisted on eating nothing but salad and boiled eggs or brown rice, even for breakfast. She turned up her nose at my husband's cooking and lectured us both on whatever we ate (which was nothing unhealthy). She is a smart, funny, immensely-talented artist, but has dieted and exercised her way to the size of a 12-year-old.
I consider my friend's sparking wit and personality - and her art and accomplishments - far more relevant than her reduced size. Weight shouldn't define who people are, no matter how the media and fashion and film industries - and even our family and friends - would have us believe otherwise. The trick is for us to stop letting others' skewed perceptions shame or define us.
We are not our size - whether that's a 0 or a 14 or larger - or our age. We are mothers and teachers and scientists. We are artists and activists and community leaders. We are writers and poets and inventors. We are pathfinders and trail-blazers and rock stars, who make valuable contributions to the world despite our society's twisted obsessions with size and youth.
What say you?!