When I was little, my favorite movie was Aladdin. I’m not entirely sure why. Maybe because it had more action than most Disney films and had more of an ensemble feel to it. (The Genie had his own separate storyline and the carpet was sort of like the Mad Murdock of the group. I dunno. I liked it.) And every Halloween, when I was choosing a costume, my first thought went to Jasmine.
I don’t know exactly what it was about her that made me want to be her. Maybe her temper. (“I am not a prize to be won! *stomps off*) Maybe her pet tiger. Either way, little elementary school me knew that she was everything I wasn’t. Her skin was this beautiful cappuccino color. Mine was so pale you could see the veins. Her hair was this mysterious jet black. Mine was this mousey sometimes vaguely red but not really brown. Her hands were dainty and delicate. Mine were peasant’s hands: thick, short fingers, dirty nails. Oh, and her waist. Oh, Jasmine’s impossibly tiny waist. My waist was…well, not tiny. Ever.
Before we get into the weight issues swirling through this lovely childhood memory, let’s acknowledge the fact that the little suburban white girl wanted to be one of the brown princesses. In fact, I wanted to be all of them. I think I contemplated being Belle for Halloween once, but opted for Esmerelda and Pocahontas. I have no idea where this strange bias came from. I certainly understood that Belle and Ariel looked a lot more like me. I’d like to believe that it wasn’t some kind of disgusting “Mighty Whitey” complex. I’d like to believe that frankly, they just had better stories. Pocahontas especially. But whatever the reason, the plots or a hegemonic fetishization of women of color, I knew I didn’t look the way I wanted to look.
And that got even worse when I began to actually look at my body. Despite my mother’s obsession with healthy food, my genes condemned me to hobbitdom.
In general, looking like you could fit in the Shire is not really a bad thing. You can make quite a good living as an extra in every rural Irish movie ever. You might even bag a former hobbit.
But the truth is, if you’re a hobbit, you don’t look like this. Not even close.
And there’s a whole industry (multiple industries in fact) built around convincing women (and now men too) that they can and should look like that. If you get the right tanner, the right exercise machine, the right surgery. It’s all a matter of willpower. You have to want it. You have to hate yourself enough to want to change it.
And somehow that seems wrong. Why does “self improvement” have to involve self hate?
Frankly there’s no self hate more terrifying than the body issues this system of pressure has created. Eating disorders, surgery, and just plain terrible self esteem are the result of looking at your body and finding it wanting. I will admit I don’t know much about body politics in history, but I do know a bit about the history of fashion. It makes me wonder when prettiness became about the ways that our bodies are built, because for a long time, it was a real privilege to see a woman’s body, and undergarments were built to distort the female form so everyone’s body looked close(r) to the same.
It’s more than a little obnoxious that in an era when we as a species have more leisure time, desk jobs, and food on the whole, it is suddenly in vogue to wear less clothes and look more athletic or skinny. Remember all those talking points about fat once being a sign of status and sexiness? Well the truth is we find what’s hard to attain sexy. Always have. So in the time of plenty, thin is in, and when everyone’s praying they don’t get caught hunting in the king’s forest, stout is sexy.
It’s easier to put on sculpting undergarments (whether they be Spanx or 15th century corsets) than to run for a half an hour everyday. Seriously. I tried both. And honestly, I hate exercise unless it involves running into people. (As I mentioned before, I love soccer.) So yeah, sometimes I go running. And I walk a lot. And I eat right and I do push ups and all those “super easy little things” that are supposed to help. But that’s really not enough to combat my hobbitdom. It just isn’t.
And I’ve decided it’s time to stop saying “Me Be Pretty One Day.” It’s time to stop running after something that I’m never going to be. I’m not Jasmine. I’m me. And maybe I’m pretty right now.
…Although someday I do want to look like Wonder Woman in this trailer. Because she’s awesome.
I mean if a girl can’t dream of finding out she’s the last of the Amazons and being written by Gail Simone, what can she dream of?