Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Not Strong--Still Beautiful

There has been a lot of hype on social media and like recently regarding a “Strong is the new skinny” campaign (if one can call it that). I'm not sure where this started and I'm not actually going to bother researching that bit of information, but it's definitely out there. I'm going to extrapolate a little and say that what I think is being inferred here is that where once 'skinny' was seen as the standard of beauty, now 'strong' is that standard. Perhaps this doesn't sound like such a bad thing. After all, isn't it time we stopped associating beauty with a singular attribute such as size and started associating it with something more useful and complex? Well, yes and no. I have a few problems with this. (Gosh, it's SO easy to be the critic!)

Well, for starters, when you make a statement declaring that X-attribute is beautiful, there is at least some (perhaps unintended) inference that the opposite is not. That is an unnecessarily confusing way of saying that, for example, during all those years where 'skinny was beautiful', there was an undercurrent that being larger was not. I'm really into analogies lately, so the way I visualize this is that when someone makes a bold statement like “Strong is the new skinny”, they create a bus...Let's call it the “Strong-is-Beautiful bus”...And this bus is decorated with banners with that slogan on it, and there are beautiful people hanging out the window, in this case, flexing their biceps, flashing their abs, taking selfies, and posting their workout schedules to facebook. As you can imagine, this is a pretty cool bus and lots of people want to get on, but there is this angry bus driver/bouncer dude taking %body fat and quadricep measurements at the door deciding who can get on and who can't. And dude just turned me down because at present, with a going chronic illness that prevents me from working out, I just didn't make the cut. Tell me, is the most prudent thing for me to do at this point to walk away with my tail between my legs and catch the first 'ugly bus' that will let me on???

Well, Strong is a state of mind as much as a state of body, you say? Well have a look at this...




F&*K! She doesn't even have a head. Assuming that the mind is located in the head, that is not what these images would suggest. And if you think that this headless image endorsing this mantra is an anomaly, you would be wrong... Have a google sometime or just take my word for it.

Going back to the “Beautiful bus”, don't think for a second that because I am on this rant that I am suggesting that I am/have been above trying to squeeze my ass on that thing in times past. I am not, and dude may even have let me ride occasionally, but the point I want to make is that the older I get, the more I realize that beauty is a feeling that has nothing to do with riding that bus or any bus. I wish I could follow this by saying that I have come to not care about the definition of beauty and instead pursue the that which makes me feel beautiful, but that is only exactly 44% true. I absolutely do try to focus on pursuing those things that make me 'feel beautiful', some of them superficial (wearing clothes that make me feel awesome) and some of them not (blogging and spending time with my husband and besties, etc.). The other 6% of the time I am trying jump on the #skinnyjeansbeautiful bus or some such nonsense. The other 50% recognizes that how beauty is defined in the media has real consequence because those buses driving by with their beautiful people and flashy signs are very much affecting each of my three children's feelings of beauty. And that matters VERY much to me.

What I would say to them about this when they are ready? Two things:

One. When you do manage to catch that bus, whatever the banner says, have a look around...you will probably notice that it is the same people that were on a different flashy/beautiful bus with a different flashy slogan a few weeks ago, and those people are no more or no less beautiful for being on that or any bus.

Two. Don't get too comfortable, because as long as you're jumping onto a bus where someone else chose the slogan and hung the banners, dude can ask you to get off at anytime.


Of course, we know that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes, and is most certainly NOT limited to physicality, but my point is that campaigns (or whatever you want to call them) like these are dangerous. Young people especially who are looking for identity, belonging and beauty (as we all do) really buy into this stuff with their wallets and their persons. However well-meaning or even well-chosen the trait, beauty just cannot be summed up in any single adjective. As my kids grow, and god-willing become aware of traffic (when does this actually happen?), no doubt these buses will still be passing by. They have been for all of time. My hope is just that they will have the courage to pull out a can of spray paint and decorate that bus themselves.