I have noticed a movement to shift away from the idea that women must be skinny. It seems to have risen as a reaction to the pressures young women and girls are facing daily to be stick thin, causing eating disorders to be a rampant problem in our society.
This message is predominantly communicated to young women through media, and their reaction seems to be taking place specifically through social media. Rarely can I log onto Facebook, Twitter, or Tumblr without encountering at least one graphic proclaiming that “strong is the new skinny” or that “real women have curves.” Even my Instagram feed is littered with images of my friends working out tagged with #girlswholift, #fitstagram, and #motivation.
At first, it was really reassuring to be witnessing this shift in teenagers and young adults. I knew several girls in high school with eating disorders and I definitely still feel the pressure to look thin, which can become very overwhelming some days. A reprieve from images of women that I know I’ll never look like was amazing. However, as these “fitspiration” images became more and more prevalent, my attitude started to change. I realized I’ll never look like the toned or muscular women in these graphics promoting “healthy living”, and neither will a lot of other beautiful women I know.
“Strong” should not be the new “skinny”. Nothing should be the new skinny. The problem with images promoting skinny body types and “thinspiration” in my social media was that it was encouraging an unattainable physical standard for young women. The attitude toward strong body types isn’t any different.
I’m not less of a woman because I don’t have abs or because I prefer cardio exercises to weight lifting or even if I don’t work out at all, but that’s the message that this new “strong is the new skinny” mentality is sending.
Ultimately, there is no one way that a woman should look. Pressuring young women to be strong is not the healthy response to pressures to be thin. It may be healthier to promote strength over dieting and fasting, but the level of pressure applied to young women to be skinny should be eliminated, not turned in a different direction. Pressuring women to be “strong” will cause problems for women, just as it has for men who already deal with this pressure.
The message I want to hear, and what I want all women to hear, is that there is no right or wrong way to be a woman. Whether or not you have a gym membership, your experience and expression of womanhood will never be wrong. Tweet that.Note: Thanks to Taylor Small for the guest post!