Yesterday, psychologist and bestselling author Jordan Peterson decided to take a break from Twitter after posting a picture of a plus size model on the cover of Sports Illustrated and saying, “Sorry. Not beautiful.” He then proceeded to criticize the choice of model, calling it “authoritarian” as though it were meant to re-wire our brains to see objective ugliness as beautiful.
I have a few problems with this:
1) Just never, ever post a picture of any woman online captioned “Not beautiful.” No one should have to tell you that.
2) While the model is technically “plus sized” by magazine standards, she is not obese, and in fact looks like the normal, realistic size of many beautiful women I know.
3) This is not the kind of “objective truth” that he thinks it is. Different people have different taste, and all Peterson has really told us in this post is that he doesn’t like curvy women. I believe firmly in objective reality, and I, for one, truly don’t believe this model is ugly. This isn’t some issue of people claiming that biological women can actually be men. There is no tenet, whether divinely revealed or logically infallible or even simply obvious, that tells us that this woman is not beautiful. Portraying a realistic woman as beautiful is, if anything, more true to objective reality than only choosing the ridulously skinny and heavily made up models we’ve been seeing for decades.
I have noticed a heavy amount of suspicion of, if not outright opposition to, the body positivity movement among conservatives. One conservative women’s magazine in particular, Evie, has several different articles expressing their major concern about the movement: namely, that it glorifies obesity and doesn’t encourage women to be healthy. I can definitely see why they’re concerned: many icons of late have tried to turn obesity into something to be proud of, and fans have criticized them for losing weight or even just eating healthier food. Still, Evie, alongside these many articles expressing distaste for the movement, only ever has what look like stock photos of perfectly polished women, all the same size and shape, in all their other articles (unless it’s a tribute to Marilyn Monroe). In addition, they insist that there are “ideal measurements” for a woman that men are just more naturally drawn to. Seems a little weird that a magazine that promotes sexual conservatism (there are many articles against casual sex) would also be so concerned about sex appeal. Like, we normally don’t want to flaunt our stuff, but when we do we better make sure our “stuff” precisely matches what men have been seeing in porn for years.
Conservatives, let’s stop immediately taking the stance of opposing the body positivity movement, and instead focus on what it does right. We are the ones having all the babies, and therefore know better than anyone how horrible it feels to have postpartum bodies underrepresented in media when they are so common in the world. We know one of the horrors of porn is that it portrays as beautiful that which is not even real, and we know that this leads to unmet expectations in real sexual relationships and leads to problems in many marriages. We know that women all around us vary in size and shape, and that there isn’t only one healthy shape/size combo. We have been putting up with hyper-glamorized and hyper-sexualized images on everything from billboards to magazines to movies for far too long. Body positivity isn’t forcing an agenda, but rather going against one that’s been indiscriminately harming male and female alike by distorting reality.