If you want to know what the Beauty Standard is - what a woman’s body is “supposed” to look like - look at the most privileged people in the world. Currently the people who have the most privilege are those who are white, male, and rich.
Look at the women they keep. This is the Beauty Standard.
The reason I push back against the idea - and find it a distraction and counterproductive - of women that fit the Beauty Standard in one aspect or another having size privilege (in the way we see class, sex, and race privilege) is because this privilege is conferred upon them by men in an extremely conditional manner, and can be revoked at any time, and has been throughout history.
In my last post I said that women’s bodies are a symbol of status and a mirror by which a man sees his own worth reflected. This aspect denies women ownership of their bodies.
The fact that the most privileged people in the world are spending a lot of time focussing on further taking away ownership of women’s bodies through the normalization of rape culture and removal of women’s reproductive choice should make this point saliently clear.
During other times in history, men valued a different kind of female body. During times of extreme economic disparity, when food was scarce, the Beauty Standard valued a larger female body. Privileged men kept women who were larger, as proof of their wealth. They could afford to feed these women. A thin body was completely undesirable.
During the 20’s, a straight, boob-free boyish shape (of varying sizes) was desired by the elite. So women everywhere taped down their breasts.
During the Victorian era, as in others, a plumper, curvy figure was required for male enjoyment. So women laced themselves into corsets.
If the most privileged group on earth decided tomorrow that a size 18 woman was the one they wanted to keep, you’d see a change in the women represented in media very quickly, and thin women would be powerless to do anything about it.
This is why women of every size feel insecure about their bodies.
I have learned, over the past 16 years of dressing women (PUG started online 14 years ago but I started making clothes for women two years before that), that no woman, no matter her size or shape, likes to have her body commented on, and no woman feels truly secure about her body.
The only comments women enjoy about their body are the ones that are very general and don’t mention size or shape. Things like “You look amazing”. “That color looks great on you”. “That dress is perfect on you”.
If it’s a woman complimenting another woman, sometimes things like “Wow your boobs look awesome in that!” work. There is a little more leeway because among women, comments like this show a lack of competition, and that’s a nice change. But women (and men) must also be aware to not fetishize a certain type of body either. This is why we don’t allow comments like “real women have curves” on our pages. Real women have all sorts of shapes.
We can focus on the hollow, conditional privilege conferred upon some very specific women by male fiat, or we can choose to see how a privilege that makes a person feel insecure and powerless is, in the words of a smart lady on twitter (@chMarietta), more like being the “Favored Inmate” - you may get some benefits the other inmates don’t enjoy, but you’re still in prison.
To destroy the Beauty Standard, women of all shapes and sizes must ignore it. We must dump out of it. We must worry about our own bodies and nobody else’s. We can tell women they are beautiful and attractive without talking about her size or shape because size or shape does not dictate or determine a woman’s attractiveness.
We must resist any and all pressure to fit any physical ideal beyond our own. And we must help other women resist this pressure. None of us can do it alone.