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Should We Empower ALL Bodies?

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Beauty standards have changed throughout time almost as much as fashion has. What hasn’t changed is the concept that there is such thing as the “ideal body.” The difference today is that media images bombard us 24/7, selling unrealistic standards about what it means to be beautiful. Body love activist Jes Baker would like to be the one who puts a stop to this once and for all. Her #EmpowerALLBodies campaign challenges other celebrations of plus-size women, like the #ImNoAngel ad campaign, which she sees as perpetuating the ideal of “the ‘ideal’ plus body: hourglass, perceivably ‘healthy,’ cellulite-free, able bodied, cis-gender, and ‘conventionally’ beautiful,” according to the Huffington Post. Baker has written an open letter to Lane Bryant, saying that “when a person is constantly bombarded by images of one 'ideal' body... it wreaks havoc on their psyche,” and claiming that “visible diversity is a solution to these problems... It’s absolutely necessary.”


 

What have we been up to? Oh, not much, just redefining sexy. #ImNoAngel

A video posted by Lane Bryant (@lanebryant) on

Baker's proposition both succeeds and fails. Let's break it down:

One the one hand, the criticisms she levies against Lane Bryant can be similarly used against her own images. The models she employed are hardly a representative cross-section of what all women look like. Where is an Asian model? Where is someone who has lost their breasts to a mastectomy? Where is a woman who chooses to grow out her body hair? Where, for that matter, is the non-plus-size woman? It seems nothing short of hypocritical to claim that you are representing "ALL" bodies when you choose to work exclusively in a specific size, no matter what that size is. Plenty of straight-sized women fall outside of the narrow boundaries of conventional beauty, and they also suffer from lack of representation by media outlets. If you truly want to empower everyone, working only in the plus size world is not the way to do so.


On the other hand, Baker issues an important challenge to the way that we understand the type of bodies we should aspire to have. I'll admit that my first thought when seeing Baker's proposition was, "but should we empower all bodies?" With obesity (and the problems to which it is linked) affecting America in unprecedented and dangerous ways, I felt that it was nothing short of socially irresponsible to promote the idea that it is okay for young people to think that they don’t need to take their own health seriously. With the alarming implications of obesity (and even just being overweight), it seemed that working to glorify “ALL” was not the right path. But then I did a bit more research, and got to know Baker's philosophy through her blog, the Militant Baker. Many times, she points out that health is hard to see. Someone who eats well and exercises can easily look less healthy than her friend who eats junk food all day and stays thin as a rail (I admit, I fall into the latter category). The judgments I initially passed about Jes's models (one of whom is herself) proved her point perfectly. We've been sold a certain set of conceptions about health and beauty, and they need to be reconstructed. The #EmpowerALLBodies campaign might be exactly the thing to do this. We need to live in a world where health the priority—whatever it may look like.


 

CHECK THE BLOG THURSDAY. There is going to be a thing that will make your heart burst.

A photo posted by Jes Baker (@themilitantbaker) on

In the end, #EmpowerALLBodies isn't perfect. But it's certainly a step in the right direction. 

What do you think, collegiettes? What's the best approach to fostering body positivity? 


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