I was recently on twitter when I saw a question that got me thinking:
How is someone who looks like Beyoncé talking about body acceptance helpful to anyone?
The 36-year-old artist and mother of three opened up about her struggles with body image, mental health and her pregnancy in her vogue essay published on August 6th.
In the section, ‘pregnancy and body acceptance’, she noted that she had previously struggled with her appearance.
“After the birth of my first child (in 2011), I believed in the things society said about how my body should look. I put pressure on myself to lose all the baby weight in three months and scheduled a small tour to assure I would do it.”
This is nothing new. Researchers such as Sarah Grogan, PHD, a professor of Psychology, Health and Wellbeing at Manchester Metropolitan University, who have been involved in body image research since 1990 consistently, report the same findings about women.
She argues that “for many women and girls, contemporary Western culture’s idealisation of the thin, lean and ‘fit’ body coincides with accentuating the intolerance and devaluation of fat embodiment.”
This suggests that a large amount of women in our society have an engrained sense of a particular body type that is associated with being healthy, which doesn’t consider how people look in reality.
Such information is even more concerning when studies have shown that body image is strongly linked to overall life satisfaction.
In a study of over 12,000 American adults conducted by Chapman University in 2016 on satisfaction with appearance and weight, only 20% of women felt very or extremely satisfied with their weight.
This was consistent with the emphasis placed on the importance of being slender for women.
Despite that, on the flip side, it was also discovered that people who were more satisfied with their appearance reported greater self-esteem and greater satisfaction with life, friends, romantic partners, family and their financial situation.
It’s not a stretch to think that Beyoncé has benefitted from that. She noted that during her preparations for her Coachella performances “I was patient with myself and enjoyed my fuller curves. My kids and husband did, too.”
Even today she proudly proclaims: “I have a little mommy pouch and I’m in no rush to get rid of it. Whenever I’m ready to get a six pack, I will go into beast mode and work my ass off until I have it.”
So what all this means is that Beyoncé, a widely celebrated artist who is considered to be a beauty icon and rarely shares her personal opinions is openly rejecting Western standards of beauty.
Perhaps as a result of this, in time, normative standards of the ‘healthiest body’ will change and the level of happiness in people’s lives will too.