''To curfivy'' (v.)

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Posted by HSG on March 25, 2005 at 16:34:42:

(Yes, the word "curvify" is in the OED, and it means just what you think.)

* * *

We recently had a discussion with an individual who is part of the creative team of an online resource for plus-size women.

In the course of our conversation, this individual told us that her online venture has proven to be quite popular with the general public, and has received only one troubling criticism:

"Some of the feedback we have gotten actually accused our site of encouraging full-figured women to become more so."

Initially, we were astonished by this accusation, and suggested that it undoubtedly came either from a "troll" (an Internet-based mischief-maker), or from someone affiliated with the diet industry, and that our colleague should dismiss it accordingly.

Later, we realized that this criticism, along with the defensive reaction that it prompted, reveals just how pervasive the slimmer-is-better mindset has become. The notion of the desirability of thinness is so prevalent that it has morphed into a truism, a fact of life, making any opposing viewpoint unthinkable--rather in the way that theories such as "The world is flat," or "The sun revolves around the earth," were once regarded as self-evident truths, and never seriously questioned or examined.

And once we came to this realization, we concluded that the proper response to the original accusation should have been something along the lines of,

"So? What's your point?"

After all, when one really stops to think about it, why would such a statement be regarded as a criticism in the first place? Even if the observation were true, what would qualify it as a negative assessment?

Let's consider a hypothetical situation:

What if there actually was a magazine, or other media resource, that operated on the accuser's premise (i.e., "encouraging full-figured women to become moreso")? What if there actually was a publication that celebrated the beauty of womanly curves? What if such an enterprise were telling its readers that they needn't starve themselves, or incarcerate themselves in gym prisons? What if such a magazine were exposing the myths, lies, and general abuses of the diet industry? What if it were revealing that the voluptuous female figure has represented the ideal of beauty throughout human history, and that the media fetish for emaciation is a relatively recent phenomenon? What if it were helping readers discover that, in augmenting their curves, they would be enhancing their beauty in equal measure?

Whatever could be bad about such a publication?

And if you find the very notion of such an enterprise quite radical, ask yourself this: How would its premise be materially different from the premise that governs every single women's magazine that is currently in print--except turned inside-out?

After all, doesn't every magazine, newspaper article, or TV segment relating to women's appearance currently "encourage underweight women to become more so" (and not just underweight women, but every other class of women as well)?

Doesn't every fashion/cosmetics/fitness magazine currently brainwash full-figured women into resenting their natural curves? Don't these magazines relentlessly flog the idea that thinness is the standard to which all women should aspire? In fact, don't they operate on the premise that thinness already is the dream-state of every woman, and offer countless suggestions about how to alter one's appearance accordingly?

So why is this "thinner-is-better" doctrine acceptable, and a "curvier-is-better" message unfathomable?

For one reason, and one reason alone:

Aesthetic brainwashing.

There is no intrinsic reason why androgynous thinness should be preferred over curvaceous womanliness. Indeed, in light of the legacy of Western culture prior to the rise of the mass media, it is the opposite preference, the preference for the plus-size figure over the bone-thin figure, that is the natural state. The fetishization of thinness is the true aberration.

Far from being an accusation, the observation that a magazine is encouraging women to cultivate a curvaceous look is actually the highest compliment that any plus-size resource could receive. It would identify such a publication as a true expression of size celebration, and a vehicle for cultural renewal.

And the only individuals who could criticize such a message would be those who are unable or unwilling to slough off their media conditioning, and who have a problem with the curvaceous look in the first place.

And that, as the saying goes, is their problem . . .

Plus-size beauty incarnate: Dangerous. Decadent. Lush. Luxurious. Exotic. Enticing. The very spice of life.

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