Why The 'Body Acceptance Movement' Isn't Exactly What It Seems

by Gillian Fuller

In early September, Vogue Magazine controversially declared that we have officially entered the “Era of the Big Booty.”

While the magazine faced major backlash for the irresponsible statement, it was, to an extent, true: For the first time in what seems like ever, the media’s portrayal of the “ideal” female body is not the thin, heroin-chic look that dominated the 90s. Instead, it's a curvier, more voluptuous figure.

It’s hard to pinpoint a single catalyst that ushered in this new body ideal.

Perhaps, it was born out of our cultural fixation on the famously bodacious Kardashians. Maybe it was inspired by Megan Trainor’s ever-popular body acceptance anthem “All About That Bass.”

No matter the cause, however, it’s clear that when it comes to curves, the more, the merrier.

While the newfound appreciation for the curvier body is great — no longer are women held to impossible standards of thinness — it is, at the same time, also flawed.

See, it’s not so much a body acceptance movement as it is a glorification of curvy bodies. And in glorifying the shapely, we’re effectively ostracizing those who lack so-called “womanly” curves.

This realization was introduced to me by Natty Valencia, a singer-songwriter who performed a lyrically altered cover of “All About That Bass” on her Youtube channel.

In the video’s introduction, Valencia explains that while the song is awesome, it also shames thin women (in one line, Trainor refers to thin women as “skinny bitches,” and in another, insinuates that ladies who don’t have curves can’t please a man without something to “hold onto at night.”)

The backlash against Victoria’s Secret (admittedly poorly-labeled) Perfect "Body” campaign, which featured thin women modeling one of the brand’s lines of underwear, reveals another instance of skinny-shaming.

Almost immediately after the advertisements' release, the company was publicly apprehended for the “perfect” label coupled with thin women.

Many complained that the advertisements suggested that the thin body is the perfect body, insinuating that those with curvier figures were imperfect.

While the campaign could have been better thought-out, many argued that the women in the advertisements didn’t reflect what “real women” look like.

And therein lies the problem: To suggest that thin women aren’t real women is to discriminate based on body type — which is exactly what we’re trying to get away from.

Instead of embracing all body types, we’ve essentially replaced one ideal with another, outcasting all those who don’t fit into society’s newly-defined body norm.

Instead of idealizing a specific body type, we should be accepting all bodies because all bodies are beautiful.

By allowing ourselves even to suggest an ideal body, we’re simply perpetuating the notion that a woman’s worth lies in her appearance. That what a woman looks like is more important than, say, her intelligence, or her skills.

It’s not time to change the discussion, it’s time to end it. To discuss the female figure is to allow the continuation of appearance-based judgement; we cannot idolize one shape, one size, without denying the beauty of all others.

Who we are is more important than our dress size. It doesn’t matter what fruit or letter our bodies resemble -- what matters is that we have bodies, beautiful bodies. We need to drop the negative speech and instead celebrate ourselves for who we are and what we can do.

Until that happens, this vicious cycle of judgement cannot end.