The OpEd Project
January 9, 2015
By Erin Nwachukwu
I love Meghan Trainor’s “All About That Bass” just as much as the next girl, but what about girls who don’t “have a little more booty to hold at night?” Should they be called Barbies, forced to feel bad because they don’t have “all the right junk in all the right places?”
As a size 14, I definitely have some “bass” to be proud of, but I don’t think one group should be empowered at the expense of putting down another. Whether it’s fat-shaming us big girls or skinny-shaming thin ones, girls need positive messages of self-acceptance no matter the shape, size or color. Besides, girls and women have bigger issues than body-shaming at hand, like fighting for equal pay and access to opportunity.
Unfortunately, we live in a society where bigger isn’t better when it comes to body image. Big girls are taught to feel bad about themselves, to be ashamed and think no one could ever possibly like them. This cultural messaging has a serious impact with deadly consequences. Here are a few facts about teens and body image from Teen Futures Media Network at the University of Washington and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
– TV commercials during shows most watched by teen girls frequently use beauty to appeal to viewers (56 percent of commercials). Only 3 percent of television commercials aimed at males use this tactic.
– 15 percent of young women have substantially disordered eating attitudes and behaviors.
– More than 90 percent of those afflicted with serious eating disorders are adolescent and young adult women.
– A survey of girls 9 and 10 years old shows 40 percent have tried to lose weight, according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.
– The CDC found 13 percent of students had not eaten for 24 or more hours to lose weight or to keep from gaining weight.
– Females were more likely to skip meals, and more white girls (18.7 percent) avoided eating than black (16.6 percent) and Hispanic girls (22.8 percent).
For quite some time, I accepted the lies I was being force fed. I hated going shopping because I could never find anything that fit well. I vowed never to wear skirts or dresses because I wouldn’t dare force someone to look at my “monstrous” legs. Short-sleeved shirts were forbidden because I had to hide my stretch marks. My body—but more important, my mentality—had imprisoned me. So I hid. I hid from those around me, and I hid from myself.
The great thing about growing up is you change. You change your attitude, your lifestyle and your outlook. So while I can proudly profess I still wear a size 14 (and love the magic of Spandex), I can also say I don’t care. The numbers don’t matter as much to me because if I have been learning anything, it is to love and accept myself for who and what I am.
Just as great, society has been changing, too. The mainstream is jumping on board with the idea that it’s OK to be big. Recently, I went to Forever 21, and they had a plus-size section! I can’t tell you how great it felt to find a pair of jeans that fit in all the right places.
While I believe we’re all beautiful in our own way, I more strongly believe beauty is more than skin deep. So while we continue to promote acceptance of all kinds of outward beauty, let’s not forget the beauty on the inside matters so much more.
Erin Nwachukwu, 16, is a junior at Lindblom Math & Science Academy in Chicago’s South Side and a participant in Youth Narrating Our World (YNOW) at The OpEd Project.
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