Most of you who read this have seen me in person, but if you haven't, here is as unbiased a portrayal as I can offer: I am 5 feet 5 inches tall and the quarter Mexican in me shows in my features. I have mid-length, usually undone dark, dark brown hair, a forehead that recently decided that it wanted to behave like I was 14 again, smallish but pretty light brown eyes behind glasses- contacts are a torture I don't understand, and full lips. Based on compliments, I'd say my best feature is my smile, and I hope it always was, but the smile I have now isn't exactly mine. In the interest of full disclosure, I had braces for, from what I can tell, cosmetic purposes only, as is the norm these days, and my already-white teeth have been whitened. According to my BMI, I am on the border of average and overweight and I'd usually say that doesn't mean anything... but I don't exercise as much as I need to to be healthy. I still have a rather slender, long torso, carrying most of my weight in my short legs, especially around my hips. I wear nice clothing, but I am not really all that interested in high fashion. So I'm average.
And I'm happy. I like to live in my body most of the time- it can sing, dance badly, hug, write, smile, and most importantly, think. So what should I care that I don't look like the girls they put in magazines? There are so many more important things in the world.
But sometimes, I can't even look in the mirror. I don't stand in front of it hating myself. On the bad days, I can't stand my body enough to look at it. So I pretend the insecurity isn't there. Being ashamed of my body makes me ashamed of myself for not recognizing the miracle that it is, it makes me ashamed of myself for falling into the trap society has created for me, it makes me ashamed of myself for wishing I could look more like my sister, or at the least (and most horrible) she could look more like me.
The reasons I spend days wishing I could trade in parts of my body are multifaceted and complex, from my frustration that due to tendinitis in my wrists, I sometimes have difficulty doing all of my favorite things (writing, playing music, etc) to being upset that my body doesn't look the way it "should."
And today I want to focus on the "should." Though I mostly judge what my appearance is "supposed to be" against the slightly-more-attainable standard of my sister, there is a reason her body shape is coveted and mine isn't looked at twice, and that is largely media images.
I like to read Seventeen, but it always upset me that when they (try to) show how to dress for your body shape, "pears" never get bigger than my sister, and "curvy" means plus sized. Isn't size 8 average? Where are those girls in this magazine? And I was majorly peeved when the first "Pretty Amazing" contest finalists (a contest to put readers on the cover who do amazing things) were featured and the focus seemed to be much more on the "pretty" than on the "amazing." I mean, I've never expected to find role models in the mainstream media that looked like me, but gosh, with all Seventeen's talk of "Body Peace" they could at least make it look like they are trying on more pages than one.
And to top it all off, the amazingly beautiful girls (most under size 3) that get featured in magazines (many sending women messages much worse than Seventeen does) all get their photos retouched even after spending hours in hair and makeup and, since they are models, devoting their lives to their looks. And that's actually insulting to all involved. If they are not pretty enough on their own for you, major magazines, no one is. And what kind of message does that send to the world? Seventeen tells amazing and empowering stories, but if the subliminal messaging is "no one is good enough," it doesn't mean anything.
That's why I'm standing with Miss Representation and asking major magazines to feature at least one unretouched photo in every issue. And especially to Seventeen- you can sell anything you want to young women. Why not sell something in line with the empowering stories you tell? Why not improve people's lives? I ask almost nothing, considering the very specific type of women still featured in magazines, but it is a small step to changing the norms. And once we get there, I have a few more ideas.