If you take a quick peek on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram, there are more than a few people and pages devoted to creating more toned and muscular female bodies. Throw in eating clean and the countless before and after shots of ladies in bikinis who are ‘toning up,’ and the strict regulations for what a female body should look like becomes evidently clear.
The message of what it means to have today’s ideal female body — visible abs and hardly any body fat — is everywhere.
That’s great. Now women not only have to watch what they eat, but they also need to lift weights. I think I’ll just order a lifetime supply of vegan protein bars and move into the gym.
It hasn’t always been like this. Once upon a time there was no such thing as a personal trainer or a skinny Starbucks drink. The ideal female body shape has been on a roller coaster for thousands of years, and the history of sexy shows us that if the ideal isn’t one thing, it’s another.
Back in the 1800s the perfect woman was plump, pale and full-figured, appearing both fertile and nurturing. Women with more voluptuous bodies were put on a pedestal.
But the 1900s hit and things changed dramatically and rapidly. Slender and trim became the new body type and women stopped wearing corsets to accentuate their body proportions.
This continued into the 1920s. With the women’s rights movement came a more boyish look, complete with shorter bob haircuts and straight hips. This switched over once again in the 1950s and Marilyn Monroe’s body type was idolized: full-figured and curvy.
In the 1970s and 1980s, weight loss, dieting and the obsession with aerobics accelerated, and in the last two decades the pressure to be skinny has persisted. According to today’s society, women must be thin and have large breasts, leading women to seek alterations with extreme diets and plastic surgeries.
According to Kate Moss, “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels,” and women are more obsessed with health than ever, aiming to be strong, toned and in shape.
These are great aspirations if you look at them objectively. Eating healthy is essential for giving your body nutrients, maintaining longevity and preserving your well-being.
Lifting weights is also great for preventing osteoporosis and increasing bone density. There is nothing wrong with making healthy lifestyle choices, but where does this come from as an ideal?
When I say ideal I mean what most people assume females should look like, whether they truly conform to this or not. And obviously not every woman fits or aims for this supposed ideal either.
The ideal becomes popular because celebrities have it, media repeatedly portrays it, other girls you see or know have it and you have probably given some thought or effort to attaining it. It is therefore the product of several factors, evident in the changing perceptions through time.
In my ideal world I would eat cream puffs and peanut butter M&Ms all day without gaining a pound or giving it a second thought — but that just doesn’t happen.
Who’s gained weight, who’s lost it, who was looking a little chunky in their skin-tight dress this past weekend and “Oh my God! The freshman fifteen,” are all hot topics of discussion. God forbid you get a little hungry while studying.
When Glamour magazine conducted a survey on body image, they found that adolescent women have an average of thirteen hateful thoughts about their bodies per day. And when they anonymously surveyed women of all ages from across America, 97 per cent of women reported having at least one “I hate my body” moment each day. This is probably half the problem.
Chances are that most ladies spend a solid portion of their time thinking about what’s wrong with their own body and then another hefty time chunk scrutinizing everyone else’s.
Stereotypically, men’s bodies are supposed to be strong and muscular while women are biologically supposed to have more body fat. This trend of being strong could be considered healthier than the trend of being underweight or too thin, but even this obsession with strong has a slight catch to it — the desire is to be strong and slender, not strong and bulky. Females want to be thin and toned, not to look like bodybuilders.
The pressure to look a certain way is monumental in today’s culture. The message that your body is somehow unacceptable the way it naturally looks comes from everywhere, and it is directed at both women and men.
The problem with any ideal is that it is not going to be attainable for each person.Everyone’s body is different and no amount of grooming or work can change that. For two girls of the same height, a healthy weight will look different because their bodies are different.
But strength can be more than physical. What is attractive will be unique to different people. Take a look at yourself; whether you’re strong, thin, curvy or anywhere in between, you’re gorgeous.
Remember that at some point in history your body — exactly the way it is — was society’s ideal.
Graphic: Cody Schumacher / Graphics Editor