We all know that being overweight or obese has long been stigmatized by our image-obsessed society, particularly for women. Bigger is bad and rolls are our enemy. But is there a “better” way to be fat? Does the way that you carry your fat matter? According to one study, the answer is yes. And it will likely come as no surprise that women who carry fat in their bellies are considered less attractive than those with a bigger backside. What is this absolute bullshit all about?
Insider reports that in a small study by Oklahoma State and Arizona State Universities, 750 participants, split into three groups, were shown graphics of females who were underweight, average weight, overweight, and obese. They rated the characteristics associated with their bodies. The research found that in overweight women, those who carried their fat in the butt, hips, and thighs were less stigmatized than those women with fat bellies.
The research found that the stigma was consistent among all participants who were both white and Black. They were living in the U.S. and India.
This gets a “what the actual fuck,” and a “shocking” (insert eyeroll) from me.
“The findings from this study are probably not surprising to most women, who have long talked about the importance of shape, or to anyone who has read a magazine article on ‘dressing for your shape’ that categorizes body shapes as apples, pears, hourglasses and the like,” Jaimie Arona Krems, first study author assistant professor of psychology at Oklahoma State University, said in a statement.
Let’s get in the way-back machine and head to 1992. You may remember a little tune by Sir Mix-A-Lot called “Baby Got Back.” Who are we kidding? We’ve all got that song memorized word for word. The first lyrics he says are: “I like big butts and I cannot lie.” If you are a woman in your 30s or 40s like me, you have been conditioned for nearly 30 years that a big butt is the way to go. Fast-forward to 1999 and you were probably dancing in a bar in college to “Back That Azz Up.” We all wanted that perfect hourglass shape, because that is what we were told — time and time again — was the body to have.
Think about our celebrity influences. Remember when Kim K. “broke the Internet”? That certainly wasn’t because of the stretch marks on her gut. No, it was her round derriere that the world was ogling. According to many, she is one of the lucky ones. She has the “good” fat, the “attractive” kind. She isn’t carrying around the dumpy stuff in the front.
You have never heard a song about a woman with a big stomach. No one is singing the praises of an apron belly that is the result of multiple C-sections. Why? Because people don’t appreciate, or even like, fat deposited in that part of the body. Instead, women are thought of as ugly or sloppy if they carry weight in the front, while they’re lauded for having “junk in the trunk.” That’s just so fucking wrong.
First, we all should know that we are beautiful no matter what our body looks like. But for fuck’s sake, now we’re supposed to worry about what kind of fat we have and where we carry it, because some is perceived as better than another. How are we supposed to ever be happy with ourselves if we are constantly being bombarded with these kinds of messages?
This is research — real, honest-to-God things that people have said. They don’t want to see our chubby bellies. Well, you know what folks? Fuck you and your thoughts about what bodies should and shouldn’t be. You are bringing us down with your ideology, and enough is enough.
When we believe that we are fat and unattractive, we find ourselves diving headfirst into the toxicity of diet culture. Give us the pills and the shakes and the crash diets. That will fix it. Think about the ads that you see. How many times have you heard things like, “Get rid of stubborn belly fat,” or “Lose that belly weight fast.” These messages come from miracle products and procedures. We all know they don’t work and will just end badly, often with more weight gain and landing us in a vicious cycle.
Insider spoke with Sabrina Strings, associate professor of sociology at the University of California, Irvine about the studies findings. She was not involved in the research.
“As a culture, we are well aware of the fact that hourglass shapes are valorized,” she said. “Our society is telling people that they are not worthy as they are, and this is the thing that we need to work on.”
We need to work on a lot more than just making women feel worthy: we need to squash this narrative completely. That is so much easier said than done. Pinterest recently banned all content promoting weight loss products and schemes, including things like no posts with before and after shots. This is a huge win. An enormous platform like that taking body positivity seriously is amazing. Let’s hope that other social media sites are taking notes.
If you have a big butt and you love it, no one is telling you not to. As a matter of fact, those involved in this research are reaffirming it. But guess what? If you have a little more jelly in your belly, that’s okay too. Don’t let this kind of bullshit bring you down. It’s just not worth it.
Your body is amazing. It is strong. It can carry a human being inside of it for nine months! And it can run marathons. Shit, it can clean a whole house in 30 minutes! Nourish it and take care of it, and it will take care of you. And remember, every body is a bikini body. Don’t hide what you have; show the world how fucking gorgeous you are. Whether your body has some junk in the trunk or a jiggle in the middle, own it. Confidence is beautiful.
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