Saturday, July 9, 2011
Size, Fashion and Beauty
A while ago, I was reading a post from You Look Fab regarding clothing size trivia, and was surprised to learn that the average size a runway model wears is a 4, not a 0 or 2 as most of us suppose. Granted, these women are often 6 feel tall, so a 4 on them may look like a 0 on a woman of "normal" height! :)
Still, it started me thinking...how have our presuppositions about style influenced our perceptions of ourselves? Do we hold ourselves to an unnatural, impossible and unhealthy standard so that we may look like the fashion-world's "ideal", or is this ideal all in our heads? Because we think that a fashion model MUST wear a size 0, because she looks so tiny, do we force ourselves to be a size 0 too? (Or feel constantly sorry for ourselves when we're not?)
The beautiful young lady in the picture above is Whitney Thompson, the winner of season 10 of Tyra Banks' reality show "America's Next Top Model"...and the lovely Whitney is considered a "plus-sized model". I don't know about you, but when I see her picture, I think of how beautiful she is and how awesome it is that there are actually real women out there with a figure like I have! I don't think of how fat she is, how she should tone up, lose weight, get fit, so that she can be a "true" model. Unfortunately, though, that is the reaction of many in the fashion industry.
The fact of the matter is, women have curves. Some of us have more curves than others, but we've all got them. The fashion industry wants to make us feel that, unless we resemble an adolescent boy, we are not desirable. And if we don't look like an adolescent boy, we won't fit into their clothes! This last statement I can definitely attest to. ;) But who are we trying to please (or dress for)? The fashion-industry? Other women? Our husbands? Ourselves?
I think that it goes without saying that trying to please a Godless societal standard is hardly a calling worthy of Christian women, and yet we all fall prey to this thinking. We are sabotaged and bombarded on every side with images of what the "ideal" is, how the "perfect" woman should look. And if you don't look that way, don't even bother trying to be happy about how you look. But don't worry! There are surgeries and diets and exercise programs and pills that can help you achieve your goal. Or ruin your metabolism, but what's a little sacrifice for beauty, right?
The real question we should ask ourselves every day as we look in the mirror is, "How can I glorify God today? How can I serve those that He has put in my life? How can I reflect His love to those around me?" Being beautiful is part of this, since he didn't make us ugly. He made us to be gloriously beautiful to our husbands, to cause their pulse to quicken and their heart to beat faster when they see us (and part of that is having curves! It's a scientific fact that men's brains respond to curvy women). God made us to reflect the glory and beauty of the gift of His eternal life to those around us, and He didn't make us all the same. We're not all 5' 9" with blonde hair, blue eyes and 34-24-34 measurements. He didn't make us to be Barbie.
Now, part of reflecting God's image is to "shepherd" ourselves...we are called to be wise women of the Lord and act as such. "She girds herself with strength, and strengthens her arms." (Prov. 31:17) I don't think that this means we're supposed to be body-builders, but I think that we're definitely supposed to take care of our bodies. Reading the rest of Proverbs 31, it's fairly obvious that this fine lady worked hard at everything that she did, and part of that was "strengthening her arms". I'll bet, though, that she still had a bit of arm flab when she waved goodbye to friends. And I'm sure that it didn't stop her from waving. :)
We have to change the way that we think about beauty, and we cannot let the world define our terms. Beauty is faith in God; it is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. It is getting out of bed every morning with the sole purpose of serving God that day. It is reading to your children, cooking for your husband, sweeping your floor and wearing a pretty dress and a smile while you do it. It is not perfection; it is being perfected through God's grace.
I came across this fabulous post from Emerging Mummy that really sums up what our attitude towards our bodies and beauty should be. I am including only some of it here, but I would encourage you to read it all. It's so excellent!
"And so I will sing a song of wonder and beauty about womanhood for you to learn from my lips.
I will lead the resistance of these lies in our home by living out a better truth.
I will not criticize my sisters for how they look or live, casting uncharitable words like stones, because my words of criticism or judgment have a strange way of being more boomerang than missile, swinging around to lodge in your own hearts.
I'll wear a bathing suit and I won't tug on it self-consciously. I will get my hair wet.
I will easily change my clothes in front of your Dad, proud of my stretch marks that gave us a family, of breasts that nourished his babies.
I will prove to you that you can be a size 12 and still be sexier than hell.
I will prove to you that you don't have to be all angles and corners, that there is room for some softness because you all love to hug on my soft bits, burrowing into my arms and my breasts to rest for a while.
I will eat dessert and raise my glass and laugh my way to deeper smile lines.
I will celebrate your own beauty, my tall girls, but I will do my best to praise your mind, your heart, your motives as much as I praise your beauty.
I will not let the words "I'm fat" cross my lips - especially in front of you, my beautiful girls.
I will celebrate beauty where I find it, in a million faces uniquely handcrafted by a generous God with a big tent of glorious womanhood.
I will tell stories of women and surround you with a community of women who are smart and strong, crazy and hot-headed, gentle and kind, women who love and you will see that this is what is beautiful, that a generous love is the most gorgeous thing you could ever put on."
Be beautiful, and be confident in the beauty that God has given you. Don't argue with Him and insist that "if He'd only made me a size 2" or "if only He hadn't given me brown hair" you'd be beautiful. Learn to be beautiful as who you are. And that doesn't mean that you can't dye your hair or put on pretty clothes or jewelry...just do it as a frame to the beautiful picture that God has made in you and loudly proclaim His Lordship in all things.