Thinspiration – A Cultural Thing


This is not sexy. This is gross.

This past year, I did a thesis project on how Western culture has spread serial murder. I figured that if Western culture could spread capitalism, it could also spread serial murder. But a newly named way of thinking called “thinspriation” appears to have also been spread by current Western thinking and every woman has thought and still thinks about being thin.

The women of Western culture like to portray themselves as independent women who do not have to fear their governments, the male population, or their security in their society; yet, the women of Western culture are often battling a way of thinking that is shoved down their throats. It’s similar to anorexia—once it’s there, it never goes away entirely.

Those who are dealing with anorexia will struggle for the disease for the rest of their lives. It’s a psychological way of thinking that is so ingrained in their minds, that it can never be fully eradicated. That’s exactly what’s happened with thinspriation and women in Western culture. The desire to be thin and skinny and the power that comes with a certain body shape and size has so pervaded our lives and our minds, that it would be impossible to fully and forever never wish to be skinny again.

The thoughts catch us off guard. Even those of us who love our bodies and have worked hard on them and think them beautiful—even us—can never fully escape the thinspo mentality. It may appear on a billboard, in a magazine, or the person next to us at the gym. But it’s a mental trigger that is so automatic and unconscious that we don’t realize it’s going on until we think to ourselves, “I want to look like that.” The thought may not even be as fully formed as a whole sentence, but the desire is still there.

This mentality is not entirely the media’s fault, though. So many of us have become accustomed to the body shapes and sizes used in advertising and marketing that we don’t realize that it has become accepted. Even if you say you don’t accept it, you do. You don’t write the media outlets and boycott or protest certain images or body shapes. If you and enough of you did, those outlets would find another approach to avoid losing money.

Thinspo mentality wasn’t always so pervasive in our Western culture. A size 14 was considered normal among the nobility, and women with curves and love handles were goddesses, Venuses, angels, and revered as the most beautiful women. Pudge was considered quite attractive. So, what gives?

Women in Western culture are beaten over the head from birth with images of skinny women. We’re taught that skinny=happy and fat=sad. We’re expected to find a fault with this body part or that one. It’s not the cultural norm to be happy with your body. Why is this? Because although we may counteract media bombardments of skinny women with media bombardments of confident, athletic, “plus-sized” women, we’re doing the damage in our dialogue.

That’s right. It’s not the billboards but our bocas. When we speak to each other in front of each other, that’s when we do the most damage to the cultural perception of women’s beauty. Waiting in line for a fitness class to begin, waiting in line for food, talking over dinner, talking over the phone, chatting—skinny women, athletic women, and pudgy women all do this. Every single damn one of you have something you don’t like about yourselves and you vocalize it. What you don’t realize is that the two girls next to you think you have killer arms, or would love to have your color eyes, or think your skin is just the perfect shade of bronze. I know this because I see it happen all the time.

By going to the gym more, I’ve noticed how much women are expected to hate their bodies by their peers. And we hate our bodies because we don’t look exactly like the billboard model does. And the billboard model hates her body because she doesn’t look like the cover model. And the cover model hates her body because she doesn’t look like the actress. And the actress hates her body because she doesn’t look like her costar. Enough already!

healthy skinny

This is healthy thinspiration.

Yes, there are things I want to change about my body. Yes, I’m skinny. And I’m not afraid to say it! Yes, there are women skinnier than me. Yes, there are women larger than me. Yes, there are women who are more toned than I am. No, I’m not perfectly happy with my body because I want to be more muscular. Yes, sometimes I see skinny people and think I want to look like them. No, anorexia is not cute. It’s really gross. There IS a thing as TOO THIN. There IS a thing as TOO FAT.

We need to get real about the conversations we’re having with ourselves and with each other. No, we don’t have to find something about ourselves we don’t like or to pinch our “fat” to make the other girls in the conversation feel better.

Let her pinch her fat. I’m going to pinch my muscle.

Originally published March 5, 2012