“There were people thrice her size on the Trenton platform and she looked admiringly at one of them, a woman in a very short skirt. She thought nothing of slender legs shown off in miniskirts–it was safe and easy, after all, to display legs of which the world approved–but the fat woman’s act was about the quiet conviction that one shared only with oneself, a sense of rightness that others failed to see.”
― Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Americanah
When it comes to beauty media tries to tell us that some people are better than others. The fact that models have to be a certain height and weight, the prevalence of lighter women in ads and on magazines, the allure of the tall dark and “handsome” man. What these images do is present what we are supposed to aspire to and believe is the epitome of human beauty. Those in the industries will sometimes argue that showing the clothes in the best light takes a certain kind of physique and it has nothing to do with some people being prettier than others…you can decide if you believe that or not. Fact is… you would be hard pressed to find someone to assert that we have a universally acknowledged definition of beauty. I find that particularly shocking because according to human rights, everyone is equal – surely that applies to beauty also?
I love what Adichie writes in ‘Americanah’. In the quote above, we see Adichie explore the issue of socially accepted definitions of beauty. You see it is normally acceptable for a model-like woman to wear certain clothes, but if a woman who is more curvaceous wears the same things, you can hear people commenting that the woman should put it away, or is mocked in gossip magazines as not dressing for her size. Adichie challenges the readers of ‘Americanah’ to look past the breaking of ‘only for pretty, skinny girls’ dress code and presses the reader to see that the curvaceous woman has something – ‘a sense of rightness that others failed to see’.
I think we can get caught up in what magazines, blogs, TV, friends and family say, that we forget to form our own opinions. Instead of challenging ideas such as not everyone is beautiful, we dutifully accept them and even relegate ourselves to the ugly zone.
That cannot be right.
We need to step out of the safe, easy, self-destructive ways of viewing ourselves. It is ok to think of yourself as beautiful. More to the point – it is only right you think of yourself as beautiful. Even if others fail to see it, you need to get to a place within yourself where you have nothing to prove; where the right that matters is that you are right within yourself.
…the fat woman’s act was about the quiet conviction that one shared only with oneself, a sense of rightness that others failed to see…..