Curvy Is The New Skinny — Or Is It?


The paradox of beauty standards is that no matter how rigid they may seem, they are always evolving, encompassing the new values and ideals of the society. With the rise of the body positivism movement, there has been a rather dramatic shift in the notion of the “ideal body.” The plethora of body shapes and sizes that exist are beginning to be appreciated, and it’s about time.

In a country where the average woman is a size 14 but a size 00 is coveted, it’s no wonder many teens struggle to accept their bodies. With photo-shopped models and #thighgap plastered across social media, the slim and often rare body figures are placed on a pedestal, causing an epidemic of eating disorders and body shaming.

But now, body positivism is all the rage. Body positivism promotes and emphasizes the beauty that can be found in all bodies, not just thin models. One of the many smaller movements that falls under feminism, it mainly affects women, who mostly experience the societal pressure concerning their appearances.

However, body positivism still has a profound effect on society as a whole. Our perception of beauty is heavily influenced by the media and our values. The “apple,” “pear,” and other fruit-shaped bodies are coming to be as appreciated as the prized “hourglass”. This new attitude has significantly changed the way women see themselves and is naturally boosting self-esteem across the board.

But what exactly is beauty? It’s such a subjective term, yet we all try to meet its standards. Looking to the past, European painters and sculptors depicted full-bodied women, as during that period they represented opulence. Palaces and museums were ornately decorated with curvaceous women boldly and proudly donning their wide hips and love handles.

Similarly, in modern-day Mauritania, the practice of Leblouh, force-feeding young girls to obesity, is still in practice as it remains a symbol of wealth. Moreover, belief is that these larger women would be stronger and healthier mothers. Thus, it appears that a society’s definition of beauty is strongly tied to its contemporary values. When obesity was a sign of wealth or motherliness, it was in demand. As time has progressed, however, size is no longer a symbol of wealth and so large bodies are no longer preferred. Rather slimmer bodies are considered a sign of youth, fertility, and a decreased chance of disease, making them more attractive. As our values as a society change, so do our beauty standards. Since our definition of beauty is in fact a social construct based on the desires of the male population at any given time period, the standards that we use to assess beauty are completely arbitrary.

Though body positivism promotes all physiques, there is still a stigma towards muscular women. Take the Williams sisters as examples of exceptionally strong and athletic women who still face sexism and shaming for their toned figures despite them being two of the best tennis players of their generation. Serena Williams, arguably one of the all time great if not the greatest tennis champion, particularly had to go through many incidents related to body shaming. Generally many women athletes must make a choice between bulking up to play their sport or remaining slender to feel “feminine.” In fact, I find this struggle to look “like a lady” to be very relatable. As a size 12, athletic teenage girl, I’m larger than most of my peers, which can lead to awkward situations when it comes to shopping together. As my friends look through the XS-S section, I’m on the other side of the rack looking through L-XL.

I’ll tell you what, though, if I was born into a mid-renaissance Italian family, I would probably be Michelangelo’s muse or DaVinci’s stand in model. Who knows, that Mona Lisa smile could have been mine.

As beauty standards are constantly redefined, this new view of universal appreciation and adoration has sparked change in attitudes across society from the impressionable minds of teens to those of the trend-setting fashion industry. Human beings pride themselves on their uniqueness. Why do we want to conform to one ideal figure, completely diminishing this inherent sense of uniqueness?