Why I’m Not Celebrating Curvy Women

U.S. Women's FIFA World Cup Team, photo from npr.orgEach week, social media explodes with “real women,' showing off their curvy or plus-sized bodies with pride and confidence. Like everyone else, I was applauding the positivity--the intended message that women are beautiful at all sizes.

This week, we turn our attention to U.S. Olympian Amanda Bingson, with her self-described “dense” body. Undeniably, this woman is not only strong and talented, she’s bravely showing confidence to appear in a national magazine naked. She’s encouraging a lot of women who have body image issues, and she’s dispelling stereotypes about what top women athletes look like.

But this well-intended, politically correct “celebrate your body” cause has run amok. What we’re really doing is objectifying our bodies more. The reality is, we don’t post photos of overweight men and call attention to how they do or don’t compare to Channing Tatum. We don't post photos that we claim are "real men." We don’t objectify short men, tall men, skinny men, stocky men. While we certainly appreciate the rare perfection of a man who resembles the chiseled physique of Michaelangelo’s David, when we see most photos of men, we are not categorizing their body types.

Yeah it’s pretty clear, I ain’t no size two

But I can shake it, shake it like I’m supposed to do

’Cause I got that boom boom that all the boys chase

All the right junk in all the right places

I see the magazines working that Photoshop

We know that shit ain’t real

Come on now, make it stop

If you got beauty beauty just raise ‘em up

’Cause every inch of you is perfect

From the bottom to the top

Yeah, my momma she told me don’t worry about your size

She says, boys they like a little more booty to hold at night

You know I won’t be no stick-figure, silicone Barbie doll,

So, if that’s what’s you’re into

Then go ahead and move along
— I recently took a burlesque dance class which was choreographed to a version of “All About That Bass.” I hadn’t really thought about the lyrics until then:

I was hoop dancing the other day with my beautiful, tall and thin friend Megan, and told her about the class and the song we were dancing to. Surprisingly, she said, “That song offends me. What, men won't like me because I don’t have a big booty?” She went on to explain that growing up thin was no piece of cake either, with people always asking her if she had an eating disorder. Is Megan not a real woman?

Yes, beautiful women come in all shapes and sizes. But we need to be more inclusive with our messaging. And how about we just stop making this a conversation about appearance all together? If we really want to celebrate our bodies, we should be celebrating what our bodies are doing, not how they look.

At 36-years-old, I’m stoked that I’m able to do the splits or challenging inversions in my yoga practice. Whether I’m a size 0, a size 8 or a size 16 has nothing to do with it. The only way I have these accomplishments is through regular practice and training.

We can’t ignore size completely. I applaud my curvy friend and yoga instructor, Amber Karnes of Body Positive Yoga, who focuses on teaching yoga to bigger women. Her focus is on teaching women to accomplish asanas with instruction that helps address their specific issues, such as a little junk getting in the way during a forward fold. Likewise, when a thinner girl takes pole dance classes, she’s got less thigh fat to hold onto the pole with, which presents a challenge. We all have challenges, and it’s important for instructors to teach to every body type. But outside of an instruction setting, do we really need to call so much attention to our bodies?

I was so proud this weekend to watch the U.S. women win the World Cup, in awe of their athleticism. And for once, Americans were gathering to watch a women’s sporting event, making it the most watched soccer game in American history! Who cares what their bodies look like, look at what they accomplished! Let’s start appreciating healthy bodies by what they can do, and not by size, shape, or appearance.