The musings of a fourth year English medical student

Friday, 26 December 2014

Can we embrace real bodies?

Positive body image is not something that I've been very good at throughout my life.

Very recently, I've been looking at two major art sources: The National Gallery, London, and Tumblr.
Whether you personally consider Tumblr art is up to you, but it is to me. 

Tumblr does get a bit of a bad rap for triggering eating disorders, as it is flooded with images of skinny models. I have a private Tumblr account where I follow a mixture of architecture and 'fitspo' blogs. Fitspo is designed with the intention to encourage a healthy lifestyle through images of nutritious food, exercise equipment and examples of very athletic men and women. But needless to say, fitspo is airbrushed. I feel that Tumblr fitspo promotes, perhaps unnecessarily, unrealistic ideals of the human body. Yes, the models are leading healthy and active lifestyles, but to me, the required fitness regimes and restrictive diets sound too exhausting to be fun and worthwhile. I don't care about 5% body fat percentages; what's wrong with a bit to hold on to if you're exercising regularly and eating right? What I'm getting at is although these bodies are mega-healthy, they don't look real to me. Promoting these ├╝ber healthy ideals with very little scope and variation makes me feel like we're still missing the point.

However, when I was in the National Gallery the other day, I was absolutely in awe of the naked female bodies painted. The particular paintings I was awing at were paintings of goddesses, the very ideals of women - and bloody hell, they were so different to what you would see on Tumblr. Granted, they were painted by white artists, so naturally all the women were absolutely pasty in complexion. These women didn't have chiselled cheekbones or felt the need to pout to accentuate their beautiful mouths. They weren't sat there poised with a sucked in stomach and brilliant posture; they had proper bulging tummies, and they didn't give a damn that they were on show. Their breasts weren't ginormous, symmetrical and perky - they were real. They looked like real English women. No fake tan, no hair dye. And most importantly, they just looked as if they were entirely comfortable and unashamed in their bodies, even if a Tumblr model today would scoff at their 'flaws'. I found that so incredibly sexy. To have total confidence and ownership of your body for precisely how it is, seemed so much more provocative, than a woman who's probably been at a make-up artist's chair for hours, spent years training in the gym.

I wish there were more bodies like that, publicly celebrated in our media. It's not about one ideal, but loving you for you. 

Which one is more attractive to you?

Kate 

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