Are you strong enough to be sexy?

NAOMI ZUREVINSKI 

Strong & Sexy

Strong is quickly becoming both the new skinny and the new sexy for women, but history has shown us that all body types have been sought after at one point or another.

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

  • anon

    Its so true. I’m a fairly well adjusted person, but if my boyfriend says the tiniest comment I get completely self conscious. As its happening I feel ridiculous because I know that isn’t what he means, but I’m just so used to getting it from society at large. We really need to work on respecting people’s self esteem because no matter what we want out of ourselves unless we happen to be the lucky percent of the population that fits with the current ideal, we’ll never achieve it to society’s satisfaction. And that just sets people up for feeling like a failure,

  • Equality, not feminism.

    Oh you’re absolutely right, because there’s absolutely NO pressure for men to look a certain way or meet certain expectations by society. Women totally don’t snicker at men who are overweight or too short or skinny and non-muscular. A woman would never make a decision about a man based on appearance, that’s ridiculous. And there’s no way a man would ever look in the mirror, grip his excess belly fat and feel self-conscious and ugly.

    Naomi Zurevinski, you are a sexist. Grow up.

    • Feminism entails equality

      Whoa. She is writing about the shifting perceptions of what a “desirable” female body looks like. Ms. Zurevinski briefly mentions that men are stereotypically supposed to be strong and muscular, but in no way does she claim that men are not harmed by this stereotype. Your points regarding how men feel judged and self-conscious on account their bodies are valid and there is certainly a need for more literature and overall discussion about these issues. Nonetheless, calling Ms. Zurevinski a sexist who needs to “grow up” is a misplaced attack. She has had the opportunity to express that body acceptance is important for women. Tell us what you’d like to say.

    • lulu

      no where does it say that there is no pressure on men. The writer focused on on topic and that topic was women just because men where not the topic does not mean that men don’t have the same problem, that does not make the writer sexist, it just means they chose to write on one section.

  • Agree and Disagree

    While I agree that it is true women are scrutinized for needing to fit the ideal image and not be over and are looked down upon for even having the slightest ounce of body fat, it is not true that men do not go through the same things as us. I have met many guys who say “I would like to be able to look like the men on TV with the 8 pack and all the muscles any day but I can’t and I feel bad about it”. It’s just a fact of life.

    And at the same time, girls would like to be skinny, but it’s NOT ALWAYS HEALTHY. For those girls out there that have body fat on them, good for you. It’s HEALTHY to have up to 30% body fat on a women simply because we need that extra bit for pregnancy and child birth. (Note: I have looked into this and all health articles that I have read say women should have AT LEAST 10% body fat) The fact of the matter is is that the “ideal man” is one with an 8 pack and muscles and the “ideal women” is to be skinny with an hour glass shape and a toned body. These ideals are so unrealistic to every body type out there.

    I admit, I’m skinny, but at the same time I have fat on me; not because I eat unhealthily, I am a health nut, but because I know that it’s healthy for me to have some. Hopefully you all can see why I disagree with this article. It seemed to me that it was just emphasizing that we need to be skinny and toned. No! We need to be healthy looking, which includes the little bit of body fat we all want to get rid of. Just as the end of the article says, we are all beautiful. That part is as much true as saying that we all have things we hate about ourselves, but the key here is to not let those things that you hate get the better of you.

  • better things to worry about

    We should be strong-minded enough to have virtues and values of our own, and this is what we should be focused on, instead of trivial, insignificant media garbage. Here you are nagging about your healthy 20% body fat in the mirror of your comfy house, while people in third-world countries are willing to put their lives on the line for a morsel of food. Not directly related, but I mean there are bigger problems you need to focus on in life instead of succumbing to other people’s ignorant and naive expectations.

    And there are two definitions of Health: the type that has a medical basis, and the type the media tells you. Use your common sense to decide which one is correct, or if they are both the same.