How Language Changes Our Perception
Let’s face it, women love style and fashion, some boldly and some subtly. I say subtly because most of us have some level of body issues that may mar our true view of who we really are. I myself, love watching fashion makeover programs and reading fashion magazines, albeit with my own perceptual prismic view. I observe paying specific attention to the issues women face and the language used to change the public’s perception on image with which many stylists now perform their craft. I love the fact that it has come to the public attention that real women have real bodies as a result of real life. I do not love the fact that many stylists now tend to over-compensate for the inherent and underlying dilemmas that surface within body image issues that many women have.
As someone who is in the personal growth change-work business, I realize how useless mere positive-speak can be with many whose issues are deeply patterned into their beliefs over many years. As a woman who at some time or other has also fallen prey to “evil” thoughts about body image, I may take offense to the propagandizing of industry versus reality. I mean as a woman who has also dealt with weight issues from time to time, I wonder, have our deep-rooted beliefs about body image really changed since “curvy” has become the new fat? Curvy is absolutely an acceptable term as well as a flattering one, but please let’s put into perspective in those situations when curves are the natural part of a woman’s *vital statistics and when the curves are the result of fat accumulation! (*For the readers who are somewhat lost in the hype of this lost reference, that means our measurements of bust-waist-hips) There was a time when today’s version of curvy or plus-size was known as Rubenesque, named after the famous painter Peter Paul Rubens (1577 – 1640) who was infatuated with painting plump women with voluptuous full hips, full thighs and poochy tummies, which incidentally was the fashionable body-type of the times. When one mentioned the term “Rubenesque” we knew exactly what that meant and what it looked like.
At the risk of being indelicate with this sensitive subject, I ask why should this feature be sugar-coated? That’s how it all started in the first place—sugar-coated, butter-coated, cream-coated, crumb-coated…I could go on. I mean hasn’t this aspect of body-fat been sugar-coated enough in the physical sense without it being coated metaphorically too? When I keep hearing the word curvy instead of a more tactful description of the reality, I wonder since when has it become taboo to use words like plump, heavy, large or overweight? I also now understand the standard industry gauge as different levels of curvy, such as “She’s curvier than you are…” when not really referring to actual curves. The fact is when you’re comparing a woman who’s a size 2 with one who’s a 16, I’m sorry—but it is semantically incorrect to use “curvier” as an adjective! Well the news is, all women are curvy—thin, slender, petite, muscular, overweight or fat—it’s how we were anatomically designed. You can be voluptuous at any size, but true diplomacy using appropriate language gets your message across a lot more helpfully that shying away from honest integrity.
In this society’s attempt to make us “feel better” about ourselves as a result of this same society’s representation of the perfect, air-brushed model figure, have they perhaps once again, put us in a box—in this case, the dress box that still doesn’t quite fit? When you really see some stylists fitting a lovely woman into a fashion-trendy outfit that may not be too flattering on her, now telling her to accentuate her curves, without a discriminating eye; when there seems to be a clear difference between good curves and bad curves, they do us a disservice. Using feel-good words and descriptions for inappropriate situations will often result in poorly outfitted “curvy” women who deserve a lot more respect than given.
But words influence us all and I realize that even when someone tells us we look good in something that doesn’t quite feel right kinesthetically, we know the difference. However, the skill involved in getting us to see ourselves less critically and highlighting our true assets is a whole other project. We understand that fashions in clothing are created and cut for different body types, don’t we? When they tell us that a larger sized woman can look just as good in a skimpy dress as a small sized woman, they are telling us that one-size fits all in the fashion sense. But does it? At which point does the hype get to us all and become a universally acceptable truth?
I reiterate, as someone in the change-work business, in promoting healing from the inside-out, stylists—please stop sugar-coating. Dress us attractively as is wont of your talent and craft. We will continue to look to you for guidance as long as you stay honest and keep us honest too.
Some trends aren’t so flattering to all curves. Can you see the difference?
Note: These are just a few perspectives. I have more—as should we all.