Editor’s Note: I asked Stormy Riot from GeekGirlStrong to offer up some of her thoughts on body shapes and image this week… and she definitely delivered!
I think it is fairly common for most kids to think that eventually, they will look like the adults they see most often.
For a kid today, the adults they see the most often are the ones they do not even know personally. Even once we grow up it seems that we are forever aiming to look like those we see before us.
Whether that is Scarlett Johansson, Lara Croft or maybe Ororo Monroe, we believe that there must be something we can do to achieve a look we thought we would grow into.
Society (I’m painting with a really big brush here) expects for us to look something like an hourglass or a pear for women, and an inverted triangle or carrot for men.
So much so that we have found all kinds of shapes and objects to describe different body types/shapes. It is said that there are evolutionary reasons behind this, women with wider hips (think waist to hip ratio) appear better able to carry offspring to term and give birth. Men with broad shoulders (the waist to shoulder ratio) seem strong and capable of protecting and providing.
Current studies and articles in academic journals support this. It is not that we would rather be in a long-term relationship with this person, but the evolutionary attraction is definitely there.
For some more insight, check out these links:
Those who become “internet famous” on social media usually uphold these physical qualities.
With the introduction of the very visual world of social media it does not take much to realize why individuals with the described physical characteristics seem to hold the e-world’s attention.
With just a thumb movement one can scroll through countless people who fit that description!
In fact, you can build up an entire world of people who only look that way. Whether this is people you find attractive or people you follow to do whatever it is that they’re doing to get the body that they have… it sounds very similar to the days of watching adults and wondering when you were going to be like them. Doesn’t it?
I can remember the first time I noticed that Jubliee and Kitty Pryde looked different than the rest of the X-team. I can remember noting that their uniforms/clothes covered more of their skin than any of the other/older X-women.
I remember noticing their bodies were more like… mine.
They didn’t have some astronomically low waist to hip ratio, with breasts at a size rarely found on what would be most likely be typically classified as an underweight frame. Their limbs were pretty long in proportion to the rest of their bodies but they were also not seemingly 6 feet tall.
I mean really, women who are built similarly to Jean Grey, Storm, Psylocke, and sometimes Rogue (depends on what they were going for when it comes to her) are in fact… attractive.
But as it as been pointed out time and time again, that many times the way fictional characters are depicted are not only uncommon but actually physically impossible.
Not to mention the impossible poses their impossible bodies hold at times.
We see the same thing in movies, on TV and in video games too!
We watch as Hugh beefs up time and time again to become Wolverine, my middle and high school students go mad over Chris Evans’ huge biceps, triceps, deltoids, traps, and lats… once I showed a picture of him (during a lesson on body image) to the same students who had been yelling at the students who they felt were objectifying Sofia Vergara, and there they were screaming and fanning themselves because of a picture of Captain America.
What can I say?
Before I really knew why, when I was younger, I was cutting out pictures of male pop stars without shirts or even with white button-downs that were now see through because for some odd reason they were all standing in the rain or a pool together.
They were on my walls, and so were the ladies who I not only found beautiful but also envied, wanting to be as beautiful as them.
There were a few bodies that I thought I could possibly grow-up into or wanted to be similar as… Think Britney Spears circa 2000. For a very thin girl with an athletic build, I was sure that if I could achieve some womanly curves… I could at least get me some Britney Spears ex-gymnasts curves… somewhere. Please? God?
Sure, I was a huge Aaliyah fan, wanted to be as cool as Gwen Stefani doing her push-ups on stage, and thought Jennifer Lopez was attractive (but was unimpressed with the size of her butt seeing as I was growing up in New York City, surrounded by women with similar body types).
I thought I was being realistic with my goals and what others found attractive.
How can we come to terms with it?
Well, we could all agree that we are honestly short changing ourselves by only giving that amount of attention to just a few types of bodies.
We could, as a society, stop putting a very small group of body types on a pedestal.
We could also refrain from shaming those who are attracted to body types outside of that range, or who are proud for the body they have even if it does not fit that prototype.
But that is probably unlikely… I mean how many times has the ideal body changed anyway, right? I hear big butts are in right now… for mostly non-black women… and only if they also have a very small waist ratio with a very flat stomach… oh.
Not only this but it has been reported many times and again more recently that most children (namely, girls) start hating their body around age 8.
What should we be aiming for then?
To start, I’ve obviously left out the option of cosmetic surgery.
The reason for that is the whole health, behavior and lifestyle change thing that this website and my company focuses on. Surgery is an option, but carries the dangers of adverse effects (think of all the celebrities who have seemingly gone too far).
It’s just that the idea here is more about what’s going on with exactly what you’ve got already.
So, what have I found?
I’ve found that once you accept that your body is shaped a particular way you can focus on specific changes.
You begin to aim for what you believe a hot person for YOUR body type looks like. (You can also maybe add in making certain things closer to what you thought they would be once you’re pleased with the overall look…) As someone who had terrible self-esteem surrounding my body image, I am just getting to a point in my life in which I recognize where I feel my best.
I know how to recognize changes in my body that make me feel as if I am smaller than I’d like to be, as well as bigger than I’d like to be.
That being said, I haven’t yet figured out the exactly formula of workouts that give me my body’s favorite look, but I’m getting there.
To be completely transparent about what that means, I’ll share:
I like to be around 130lbs, I do not like being as toned as I am at 125lbs because I like to have more curves (in what I consider my “right” places) than my body is capable of at that weight. I like having biceps that cause the guy serving me ice cream to comment on how awesome they are and ask me “What do you do?” I like for my students to call me “brolic”. I like to be able to lift heavy, I would like to lift heavier but am not a huge fan of how I look at 135lbs on a strict power lifting program. I like how my body looks when I am pole dancing twice a week, doing Crossfit WODs at least twice a week, and power lifting at least once a week.
I think that may be the formula, but I don’t know yet!
It is going to take a while to see, it is going to take some days of my pouting about the bit of muffin top that develops when I go about five days without doing a high level workout. It’s going to take some of the days where I want to show off, where I think to myself that I may have been aiming for a body I can’t exactly have but I can make what I’ve got compete against that old ideal.
I can appreciate the balance I’m trying to find having the smallest waist I can achieve while holding on to certain fat deposits.
I can keep aiming for what I think is my very best.
I think about this a lot.
I think about it for myself, even in terms of how much time and money I have saved in the four years that I have not chemically straighten my hair. I think about it in terms of my students, who are growing up in a world that is telling them that they need to hope and pray they turn out a certain way and if not… there is no happiness for them.
This is hard work and we keep raising kids into the same predicament with which we were raised in. It has only been made more difficult by the constant images and messages they are receiving at a number and speed we have never seen before.
But we, as a people, are working that out too.
Bulima.com recently had an article “Video game characters with average body types” that has gained a lot of attention.
They took the game images of characters such as Cortana of Halo 4, Bikini Girl of Grand Theft Auto V, Jade of Mortal Kombat, Lara Croft of Tomb Raider, and Sonya Blade of Mortal Kombat, and made them into what many media outlets are calling “real” women.
It is a great idea, until people feel the need to again tell each other what is right and what is not.
Saying that now others represented are not “real”… kind of defeats the point.
All the characters have gained weight in their redesigned images, and I must say (even aside from video games lacking black women) I still don’t see myself in any of their images. Not the physically impossible as before, or what is described as the “average American woman’s measurements”.
That is not to say that these kinds of acts and social experiments are unwarranted or unneeded. These conversations are necessary, to point out that we are presented with the same prototype again and again and that there is no room for healthy, emotional growth.
It’s time to allow ourselves the same; open the discussion with people you trust.
Hopefully your own name is at the top of that list.
How do you view yourself, and how do you cope with seemingly unrealistic standards? Speak up!
– Stormy Riot
About the author: Stormy Riot is a geek, feminist, Physical/Health Educator (B.S./M.S. Ed), and citizen of the Internet living in New York City. She also offers up health coaching for geeky girls of all shapes and sizes through GeekGirlStrong.com.
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