I watched a clip online today from the Ellen Show, where she had a guest, Ms. Robyn Lawley (a plus size model whose only plus should be for a fantastic personality). This beautiful 6’2” model from Australia was mentioning the newest insanity that has hit women and girls: the thigh gap. Allow me to explain for those of you who may be unaware. The thigh gap is the purported gap that occurs when you are so thin that standing with your feet together, your thighs don’t touch (more on this in a moment). Ms. Lawley went on to discuss how she’s been called fat, called a pig, and many other horrible names, not that it has made her feel bad about herself. What struck me as insane is that she was ridiculed by these names and she is a size 12.
It really got me thinking as I watched the clip about the image we’re putting into the media. This mostly pertains to women, but men are also increasingly victims of the “beautiful, perfect body.” Gentlemen, please don’t think I’m leaving you out, but I want to address the ladies this go round because I really think women internalize this on a deeper level than men. After all, there are still television shows where you have the heavy-set man and at his side is his thin and gracious wife. It is not to lessen the pain that size discrimination causes, but it is more acceptable to be a big man in our society than a big woman.
I just had a talk with my daughter a few days ago about the Photoshopped women in the magazines. I’ve modeled and even I’ve been Photoshopped. In fact, my daughter and I had a hearty laugh at how I lost an instant 5 pounds from photo A to photo B. Then I got serious. I told my daughter that she would never be the woman in the magazine. Why? Because that woman is a painting. Just like you can never be a cartoon character or a painting, you have to look at magazine ads as art, someone’s creation. She got up after chatting for a while and went outside to play with her friends, and I felt a small score for parenting.
Then I see things like Ms. Lawley’s interview and I’m stopped and stunned with the realization that so many girls and women are at the mercy of an impossible standard. Many of the models used are teenaged – i.e. not women… not filled out… not full of curves… and this is used to sell clothes or purses or shoes. Rather than showing women of all sizes, representative of life and all its differentiated beauty, they have the waif-thin girl caked with makeup.
I want to be very clear – there is nothing wrong with being a thin woman, either. Nothing wrong with being a thin teen. It’s wrong when we ALL begin to hold ourselves to a standard of beauty that is ONE way only. It’s wrong when we stop paying attention to the fact that we’re all different, that our differences make us beautiful. And we are all beautiful in our own ways. We should be celebrating that diversity, not buying into the billion-dollar diet industry because those very ads have placed in our heads that shadow of a doubt that, maybe I’m not pretty. Maybe I’m not good enough. Can you imagine what would happen if we all just said, ‘Enough, I am and I can?’ I can tell you – amazing things.
I want to address the thigh gap for a moment, and if I can reach one girl who is sitting there at 14-15-16-(or any)-years-old thinking she needs to lose weight to get a gap, I will be happy. Girls… there is always something. There will always be something that someone doesn’t like about you, or thinks you need to change to fit in, or thinks you should be doing because they are unhappy about themselves. Life is too short, far, far, too short, to spend it worrying about something so trivial. Life is too short to be concerned about other people. I’d like to drop a saying here that I’ve heard before: What other people think of me is none of my business.
We don’t need to spend any more of our time judging others, or judging ourselves. Sometimes there are huge puffy clouds in the sky, sometimes there are flat thin ones, sometimes it’s all gray, sometimes there’s nothing there – and we can still appreciate them all in their variations because underneath it all, it’s still the sky. Under all those various shapes and sizes and weights and hair colors and eye colors are human beings, and those things, human beings, can truly be beautiful if they choose to say, “I am and I can.”
I want to end with another saying that I think is pretty powerful. Silly, but powerful. I’m nothing but a ghost wearing a flesh suit. Our outsides aren’t what make us, us. There will always be something, but we don’t have to buy into it. We don’t have to race the vicious cycle of judging ourselves and others. We have the choice to say ‘Enough.’ We can love ourselves, deep in our souls, for who we are, regardless of what the outside is, and if we can show that compassion to ourselves and others, and spread that hope, and have it go exponential, and share it with our children so they grow up feeling it, too… the sky is no longer the limit, it’s the bar to be passed.
To Ms. Lawley and all the women who love themselves regardless of what anyone says, who go out there and choose not to conform, who are strong and courageous and warriors, you have my respect and admiration. For those of us who are still learning the way, let’s look to the wonder women of our pasts and march toward the future with heads held high, embracing our lumps, rolls, curves, bones, and souls. Who’s with me?
(See the interview here: Robyn Lawley on the Changing Shape of Fashion)