This is a wonderful guest post written by my niece, Jenny Rose, who is also the designer of my beautiful website. I am fortunate to have family members who “get” the damaging and body-shaming messages the media dole out on a daily basis.
I came across this sign outside Nutrishop, a vitamins and supplements retailer next door to Chipotle (where I’d just unapologetically eaten 3 tacos).
The sign spoke to me:
“ARE YOU TIRED OF BEING FAT AND UGLY?” it shouted, ringing caps lock in my head.
“Who, me?” I answered.
“JUST BE UGLY!” it concluded, its underline signifying that this was the final word: Conversation over, now buy our products.
The words were as tasteless, vulgar and unsolicited as the cat-calls I collect nearly every time I walk on public sidewalks, as if doing so is a symbolic, physical invitation begging the question, “well what do you think?”
I approached the manager who proudly smiled and replied that yes, he wrote the sign. When I told him it was offensive and rude, he was genuinely surprised, at least to hear it from me.
“I don’t see why you’d be offended—you’re not fat and ugly.” In this, the manager touched on the greater problem.
I weigh 112 pounds, and I’m 5 feet tall—I’ve never been fat a day in my life. Yet I’ve told myself I am at least once a day since puberty. And why shouldn’t I think I’m fat?
Everywhere I look in the media I see this same Nutrishop sign in different scales of blatancy. I see an impossible standard, and the subliminal (or not so subliminal in this case) message that shouts, “you’ll never be this flawless, but you should pay us as you die trying.”
“We actually got a spike in Instagram likes when we posted it,” the manager informed me, when I told him I thought the sign would hurt his business.
Signs like these are fear mongers. They scare you, telling you you’re either in or out. The Instagram spike the manager described follows the misguided middle- and high-school tradition of putting down others with the false hope that it will fulfill the self. Instagrammers double tap the photo thinking if they like the message, they’re not the recipients—They’re not the ugly ones. Are we not old enough to be past that faded notion? No. Because to retailers, it spells dollar signs.
The sign doesn’t need eyes to say, “Tired of being fat and ugly? Just be ugly!” It universally weakens and debases its reader, whether that person is an Olympic athlete or the average Joe. It says, “You’re all insecure. You’re never going to get out of this hole, and this gives me power over you. Buy my products, but know that you will never stop needing them, because you will never be complete.”
Clothing brands, fitness centers, fashion and lifestyle magazines generate revenue from fears: Fears of missing out, fears of not being the beautiful, rich, careless, yet poised ideal, which at the end of the day is merely a figment. It’s a hollow fabrication they’ve constructed with beautiful and expensive clothes, glorious photography, 20 year old models that already look half of half of one percent of the population, further reduced in size to a literally non-existent figure with the clever use of Photoshop, and snappy, crafted statements. These are not real people and they’re not real lifestyles. They’re beautiful fantasies created with the agenda of making you spend money.
I saw a quote on Pinterest the other day: “Want a bikini body? Put on a bikini.” With that sentiment in mind: Want to be rich, beautiful and happy? Close your magazines. Turn off the TV. Forget any bases of comparison. Take stock of what you have.
When I left Nutrishop, the last thing I said to the manager was, “It’s the message that’s ugly—not me.”