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Going natural

April 28, 2009

Phoebe Maltz has had a couple of fantastic posts in the past couple of weeks on the relationship of “naturalness” to beauty and beauty standards or expectations. She takes on the idea of natural beauty, and describes the problems with the term “naturally thin.”

From the latter piece,

If I’m against ‘naturally thin’, it’s not quite for the same reasons as I came down on ‘natural beauty’. Here it’s really about the fact that the myth of ‘naturally thin’ both dangerously ignores the inordinate amount of time and energy women waste on weight-related fussing, something that we really should address, and at the same time valorizes a total lack of concern about what we put into our bodies, as though a ‘natural’ approach is a sign of superiority, the model who eats cheeseburgers winning out over the cheeseburger-eating woman of normal size, as well as the salad-eating model.
What is really pernicious about this orientation toward naturalness is its normative power. We as a society have totally bought the idea that these standards of beauty–however unnatural, as Maltz describes in both posts–are not only attainable, but perfectly reasonable. Some people look that way without trying! Why can’t the rest of us get off our fat asses and give a little effort?

Of course, these beauty standards are almost totally unattainable, to the point where almost every woman who is able to reach them has been paid to do so.

And even as we reify this ridiculous idea of the naturally emaciated, we completely reject the possibility that someone could be “naturally” fat, that fat is not a disorder, that fat is just what some people look like. We reject the idea that all of our bodies are full of worth, no matter what they look like. We demand a normal to judge ourselves and each other against, and in the process, learn to hate ourselves. Let’s stop.

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