Tuesday Soapbox: Take a good look, American women… this is your future.

Posted on | November 2, 2010 | 9 Comments

I was on twitter last night with one of my friends, Raising Madison, when she mentioned an alarming fact to me… a size 30 waist was considered, at least on one clothing site, to be “Plus size.”

Here’s the problem I have with that fact…. real women have curves. We say that all the time, right? So what if just ONE clothing manufacturer paid attention. What if just one designer took a moment to say “Hey, I’m fostering a terrible, terrible trend in America.” What if we actually took steps to CHANGE how American teens, namely American female teens, view their bodies?

I know it’s not “kosher.” I know that Marie Claire has problems with so-called “Fatties” and their existence in the public eye. But what if we stopped dividing women into two categories? Why does every woman have to be either petite or plus sized? What happened to just plain normal?

I’ve never been small. I’m not obese by any stretch of imagination, but I’m not small. I’ve struggled off and on with weight and with thinking that I’m not good enough. When I was in high school I counted calories. I remember counting out how many grapes I could eat at lunch. GRAPES. And when I look back at pictures I think “Why?” I was small by any definition. I was 5’9 and weighed around 120 pounds. I shouldn’t have felt large on anyone’s scale. But I did. I thought the reason I never had a date was because there was something physically wrong with me. I thought that I wasn’t beautiful because no guy wanted to date me.

And that lack of self-esteem packed itself up in my bags and traveled with me to college. It sat in my dorm room with me and made me feel ridiculous when everyone stared at me during a game of Truth or Dare when I admitted, at age 22, that I was still a virgin. It made me feel like I was supposed to look different than me to have anyone love me.

I took pills. I took every pill that would stand still long enough to take if it was marked “diet” or “weight loss.” I smoked because I thought it curbed my appetite (and because someone told me it looked sophisticated). I tried everything I could think of to make regular old me just fade away and re-emerge as someone beautiful. Because I was never happy with what I looked like. I always thought I needed to be thinner… no matter how thin I was.

Someone out there is doing a dis-service to young girls and I don’t know who to blame. My parents always told me I was beautiful just the way I was. I don’t remember anyone every specifically pointing at me in a crowd and saying “You! You are ugly and fat and need to hide yourself away from public!” So where did I come up with this idea that I wasn’t perfectly okay just the way I was? The only answer I have lies in the media’s perception of what it means to be a woman. Apparently a real woman is svelte. A real woman is curve-less and edgy. A real woman is… not. me.

But here’s the thing. I AM A WOMAN. And I’m tired of being ashamed at how I look just because I don’t fit into the right size jeans. Why can’t we learn to look at each other as more than sizes? Why are women’s clothes separated into “Petite” “Full-Figured” “Woman” and other labels while men are just labeled “Men.” Why do we need labels in the female world? Who decided what was the “right” size for the American woman?

What if we just stopped with all that nonsense. What if clothes were just labeled by sizes and not “P” or “W.” What if we called everything “Average?” Would that change anything? Because I can’t stand the thought of young girls growing up thinking they aren’t worth anything because they don’t fit in a size two. I hate remembering how excited I was when I bought a size 8 dress for high school graduation and then how embarrassed I was that it wasn’t smaller.  I am a woman. I birthed a child. And even before that, I wasn’t tiny. I don’t want to be tiny! My body works well just as it is. I am a few pounds over my “ideal weight” as prescribed by physicians, but overall? I should be happy with who I am and what I have to offer.

It’s a shame that our society does so much to belittle the “average” girl. It’s a shame that our fashion industry, our music industry, and our entertainment industry as a whole buy into the concept that to be loved, a woman must be desired. Why can’t a woman be desired because she is loved? Why can’t we turn the tables and say that women, by their very nature, deserve respect… regardless of how much or how little skin they show.

Being a virgin at 22 shouldn’t have been something I was embarrassed about in a college dorm room. It should have been something I was proud of. We should be teaching our daughters to be proud of themselves in ways that transcend their sexuality. We should be teaching them to be proud of the person they are… not the person they look like.

I don’t have a daughter, but if I did? I’d want her to be secure in her own self. I’d want her to grow up believing that she was just perfect… just as she is. I’d want her to take pride in keeping herself healthy… not thin; to take pleasure in being respected, not salivated over. And as the mother of a son? I want those things for him as well. I want to teach my son that women are not play things. And to be honest? That is a hard job with the way our society is leaning. Women are strong. Women are powerful. Women should be respected, admired, loved… but only if they respect, admire and love themselves.

I wish there were a way to teach our nation’s youth that it’s okay to be a dork… if being a dork means respecting yourself. It’s okay to not be on the “inside circle” if being on the inside circle means forgetting who you are and who you can become.

I am a thirty-two year old woman. I survived middle school and made it through high school. I wasn’t on the inside track. I didn’t have a boyfriend in high school. Hell, I didn’t have a boyfriend until I was well into my third year of college. And you know what? I survived. I can look back on my middle and high school years with a mixture of happiness and nostalgia and honestly? Without one iota of regret. Did I want to be more popular? Sure. Did I want to be a part of the crowd that everyone seemed to love? You bet. Do I still wish I were a part of that group? Not. On. Your. Life. We all make our paths through life. We all make our way the best we can. But as women, we can not forget those that come after us. We have a duty to the next generation. We have a job to do. We have to look back on our own lives and remember. We have to make the way better for the next generation of women… and to be honest? I don’t think we’re doing such a great job. We’re so busy with “Don’t get old” and “go go go” that we’re forgetting to look back and make sure we’re lifting up our daughters.

There shouldn’t be a debate about what is appropriate for teenagers to wear; clothing companies simply shouldn’t be making some of the clothes they are making. But do you know WHY they are? Because we tell them it’s okay. Because we are buying them and we are not only putting them on our children, but we are putting them on ourselves.

That’s not okay, guys. It’s not. We are supposed to be setting an example. So let’s set a better one, shall we? Women fought so hard for the right to take control of our own lives. But the fight isn’t over yet. Our foremothers didn’t fight for us to be more sexual… they fought for us to be more respected. And I think if they were here today to witness what women were doing with their so-called freedom, they’d be appalled. They’d wonder why they fought so hard in the first place.

I’m not saying a woman can’t be desirable, nor am I saying that women can’t be sexual. They can. But do we want to teach our daughters that they are ONLY worthwhile if that is what they are? Because look around you… that’s what we’re teaching them.


9 Responses to “Tuesday Soapbox: Take a good look, American women… this is your future.”

  1. ~*Jess*~
    November 2nd, 2010 @ 1:31 pm

    AWESOME post. Love it.

  2. LCW@ WakingUPWilliams
    November 2nd, 2010 @ 2:42 pm

    I agree, and even though you don't have a daughter you can teach your son to love a girl/woman for her brains and personality because her pant size doesn't matter.

  3. The Thomsons
    November 2nd, 2010 @ 3:08 pm


  4. Anonymous
    November 2nd, 2010 @ 3:09 pm

    This is such a great post. I love what you have to say about women setting an example and being respected for who they are and not their sex appeal.
    You are absolutely right that you should have been proud to be a virgin at 22. And I say this as a non-religious person who also waited until the absolute right person came along (which didn't happen until I was in my late twenties). I hope that I am able to teach my daughter to be self-confident and proud of her body just the way it is.

  5. WTH am I Doing?
    November 2nd, 2010 @ 3:11 pm

    Amen. Amen. Amen.

    I think our skinny fixation is disgusting. Not everyone is supposed to be tiny skinny. They're just not. Nor should I have to feel like less of a woman because I'm not tiny skinny.

    My philosophy (which sometimes bolsters the ol' self-esteem & sometimes doesn't…) Is that 30 years from now? I'll still have my brains & personality and I haven't been using my body to get by this whole time. Because those women? Are screwed when they're body goes…and it will.

  6. Mommy C
    November 2nd, 2010 @ 3:51 pm

    As an overweight individual this really resonates with me. I remember "dieting" back in high school and I wasn't even close to overweight then. I remember hiding my stomach thinking that it was big, little did I know that it was actually pretty flat. I remember hating myself for my fat arms and wishing I could afford plastic surgery to get them "fixed". Wouldn't you know that now I would give anything for to be that weight, have that stomach, and have those arms.

    The clothing industry puzzles me beyond belief. Wouldn't we buy more clothes if we felt thinner? Wouldn't we feel thinner if you didn't categorize us or tell us that we aren't the right size? I am a size 18 (almost a 16!) and I can't find clothes to save my life. Either I spend hours hunting down actual 18s or go to the plus size and where slightly big 16Ws. You don't really 'belong' in the average clothing area unless you are a size 14 or under and I have seen some brands only carry 12 and under. Nothing says "ef you, we don't want your business, we are too good for you" like not carrying someone's size.

    Oh and work out clothes for bigger girls? IMPOSSIBLE!!! I want to lose weight but to find QUALITY gear to work out in? I will admit, I sometimes end up in the men's department to find something.

    Ok, I will stop my rant for now. Thanks for getting me all riled up. 🙂

  7. Facie
    November 3rd, 2010 @ 12:37 am

    Well said and unfortunately true.

    At the end of the summer, I ran in a 5k and entered the heavyweight division, which is 145 pounds for a woman. Years ago, I never would have had the guts to do so; I would have thought of myself as overweight. But, like you, I tell myself I have birthed a kid, and THAT is what is significant.

    I am older and wiser and am okay with myself as I am. I can only hope, wish, and pray that my daughter will gain that wisdom at a much younger age than I did. Even better would be she would never feel anything less than beautiful because of what society tells her.

  8. Diana @Hormonal Imbalances
    November 3rd, 2010 @ 1:44 am

    Because you feel this way, J will grow up with a healthy perspective on women and their bodies, and a respect for it too.

    Great post.

  9. Anonymous
    November 11th, 2010 @ 3:08 pm

    You need to watch this on youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M6wJl37N9C0

    Kate Makkai does her poetry slam on beauty and our cultures' obsession with women's bodies from her own lived experience. It's very powerful and everyone needs to hear it – all women in our society have gone through some form of hating ourselves, just to different degrees and to different ends. Very powerful.

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    Spilled Milk (and Other Atrocities) by Law Momma is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
    Based on a work at http://www.law-momma.com.
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