Well Being

Are Ultra-Curvy Celebrities Actually Helping Women Feel Body Positive?

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Last week,  I wrote about how much I love Mindy Kaling, both for her brain (because she is brilliant), and for her body, which is real and healthy and female–and neither “model skinny”, nor Kim Kardashian/Christina Hendricks/ Insert bodacious celebrity here- “curvy.” Because while scary-skinny models airbrushed into oblivion aren't helpful for women, to be honest, the recent boom of “curvy” women may not be either.

This isn't the first time we've touched on the subject of the resurgence of ‘curves'. Editor Briana wrote about the “C” word some time ago, and wondered if, despite its use as a positive attribute, it wasn't actually just another euphemism for “not skinny”, and thus, another way to separate thin women from everyone else. Which is exactly the problem–despite its good intentions, “curvy” is just another way to make anything besides very slender into an acceptable category.

But word usage aside, the recent resurgence of “curvy” celebrities is doing more than just giving people a new way to talk about non-skinny body types. It's also giving women another impossible standard, under the guise of giving them positive role models. And while Christina Hendricks and Kim Kardashian are exceptionally beautiful women, with unique and awesome bodies, they're still not realistic for most women. They aren't offering a new, more positive alternative to being very thin–they're presenting another unattainable body type that's just as difficult to conform to as the “standard” sized model.

Which isn't to say that having a variety of body types in popular culture is a bad thing–clearly, it isn't, or else there wouldn't be so many women who do feel inspired when they see someone who's built like Joan on Mad Men.  But having two sides (curvy or thin) isn't a variety. It's just two idolized body types. Without a third–that is, an “average” sized woman–represented, there's still too much potential for isolation and body-negativity.

Idolizing any body type, whether it be super-skinny or voluptuously curvy, is, by necessity, indicating that some bodies are better than others. And as long as that's a reality, women will have to, as Mindy Kaling put it, “pick a lane” and decide what sort of mold they want to conform to. But they're still conforming–and that's not very positive.