Text by Hannah Wolny
Photo by Amuna Wagner
6 ft tall
So so lucky
To be born in a time and an environment where my body type is the beauty standard.
I am not trying to be arrogant. I am not trying to say I am THE beauty standard.
I am not saying that I’m everybody’s type because luckily enough overall preferences are very personal and even if I am their type they still might not find me pretty.
However, there are a few things that got me thinking lately.
When I turn on the TV I see girls at model casting shows being turned down because they do not have my height or my weight. When I look at a magazine I see dark skin women being photoshopped to appear lighter. Furthermore, I can easily apply for a job without having to worry that they might find my choice of hair style too extreme, whether I decide to leave it natural or to cover it up. I have women coming up to me asking me if I can give them diet tips. I can travel anywhere and people will ask if I am from Hollywood and how I got such a lovely skin tone. I never have to be worried about getting treated worse because of my appearance.
Of course I know other women who are also tall and skinny, but when I look at the majority of my environment women just don’t look like me. Even though most of my friends do not fit into my clothes, women like me are nonetheless representative of fashion world-wide.
Body types like mine run on catwalks and pose on posters.
Body types like mine will be shown in TV adverts for the latest anti cellulite body lotion.
Body types like mine make money just because they are lucky enough to be born in a time where the industry picks these handful of women and idealizes them in order to make money out of this standard that most women will never be able to reach.
Therefore, I would like to go deeper and understand this phenomenon.
Theories explaining what people will find attractive about other people say that evolution has taught us to always look for a healthy partner in order to have healthy children.
This may be why hetero or bisexual men naturally look for women whose bodies look like they will be able to feed and take care of their babies. Keeping that in mind, it actually makes no sense to find someone who is very skinny. During ancient times or even in other cultures nowadays, women like me were or are very often NOT the beauty standard for the reason that being skinny isn’t the best precondition for an upcoming pregnancy.
However, in modern Western culture signs of a healthy and wealthy body are defined in terms of being skinny or extremely muscular in order to show a life style which allows the time and the money to go to the gym and buy organic food.
The beauty industry has understood this phenomenon and endorses it in order to make money out of it. Obviously, it is a lot easier to make money out of a standard that only a few people are actually able to reach. Promising everybody who wasn’t “lucky” enough to be born skinny, tall and white that if they only buy THIS pair of “body shaping” underwear they won’t have this “ugly” tummy or if they only get THIS anti cellulite lotion they will get legs just like all the girls on the runway have. By buying THIS shampoo and taming your natural hair with it you can make it more “appropriate” for society and using THIS bleaching creme will make your dark skin look just a little bit more like the “beautiful” skin tone all those Calvin Klein models have.
If every kind of body shape and skin color were praised and if we were told that there is no need to change, how would those products still be profitable? Therefore, it makes perfect sense that the industry is trying to sell unrealistic body types as the ideal of the 21st century.
In my opinion, we should start realizing how we have been brain washed into this unhealthy kind of thinking.
We, as the few women who were lucky enough to be born in a system which makes us profit, should encourage other women to wear whatever and appear however they want.
Women like me should start joining the ones who don’t look like us in order to speak up against those standards. We need to criticize the big brands using mostly our types when advertising their products as well as the film industry promoting our type as the super hero or, even more likely, as the love interest of the male super hero.
Yes of course, when I was younger it was nice to hear “Wow you could be a model” and going into a toy store where all the barbies just appeared to be tall, white and skinny and therefore reminded me of myself. But by now I have realized that I was just lucky enough to be born in the right time at the right place. If I was born in a world where being white doesn’t put you in the most powerful position (due to the racist system we live in) and rather somewhere where tiny women with short legs are considered the beauty standard and if that was all that mainstream fashion and beauty product industry showed, I would probably doubt my looks and consequently myself. Especially if all seemingly powerful and admirable didn’t have anything in common with me, I would probably want myself just in order to become more like those women I see everywhere but in reality.
With all this being said, there is another huge problem. Obviously, I am not the first person to call out this problematic “skinny, white and tall” trend” and luckily enough, other body types are increasingly being represented and praised. There are female music artist who are known and loved for their natural curvy looks and there have been a few campaigns featuring “real women”.
But there are also popular role models such as the Kardashians and thanks to modern plastic surgery, we are experiencing yet another trend that has 2 major issues:
First, the beauty industry is appropriating this trend towards curvy girls and so-called “body positivity”. Women are now being shamed for not having a “big butt”, a small waist or “big boobs”. This encourages girls to buy waist trainers or have operations, for example “booty shots”. Just because skinny should not be a trend, thin girls must not be shamed either. More importantly, we must not get tricked by the industry once again, this time with different, but just as unrealistic, standards. They already succeeded in making us believe in new “beauty laws”, such as “you must have thick thighs and a huge bum, but please hide your tummy with this piece of clothing and still buy that lotion against stretch marks since they are still not desirable either“. If we just accepted curvy girls being awesome with all the things being curvy comes with, how would they be able to make money?
Second, those upcoming trends are endorsing a body type which is often found amongst Latinas, Caribbean, African or African-American women and it is great that those women finally get their time to shine. For hundreds of years those women and their looks have being treated horribly so seeing them represented in the main stream media is a great start, even though we are still far from these women being treated they way they deserve.
That being said, it seems like some white women are starting to feel threatened by those trends, which is why they “steal” whatever society will find admirable about those women to fulfill these new beauty standards, thereby adding to their already exiting privilege of being white, skinny and tall. So now you will see tall, white women getting their lips or butts done, creating unnatural looks while completely ignoring the fact, that black women and Latinas were and still are being assaulted for having such big mouths or bums. Having these features should NEVER be a trend since it is not just something you can buy, but something you are born with. Therefore, it is nothing you should be able to just change back when it is not convenient for you anymore. Those features should be simply considered to be as beautiful and women with those bodies should be as well-respected by society as those white “Victoria Secret models”, without us copying them.
Representation is key and women like me have more than enough of it, which is why I want to see other women, no matter how tall they are, how much they weigh or which skin color they have, in the spot light as well.
Note that I say AS WELL because it should be our goal to praise every woman for what she is instead of turning certain types into desirable trends which leads to excluding other women and making them feel undesirable.
Therefore, representation is only key if it is diverse and all-inclusive.
At the end of the day every single one of us is just as beautiful and just because the industry might not make money out of your type right now does not mean you are not as desirable as any other woman who is shown on TV or successful on social-media. Regardless to say that true beauty comes from inside and if you manage to ignore the constant influence from the modern media world we are living in you will be able to start loving yourself for who you are.