It's not often that you hear a woman admit that she is perfectly happy with her body, and it's increasingly rare among young girls. But surely there was a time when female people, especially young female people, felt that way, right? Back before yogurt ads taught them food equals guilt and ice cream ads taught them dessert equals solace, someone had to feel that her body was okay as delivered, didn't she?
According to plus-size model Jennie Runk, there was such an era, in her life, at least, and since she's only 24, it was relatively recent.
Runk made headlines in May as the star of an online H&M swimwear campaign that made waves for not calling attention to the fact that the model pictured is plus-sized. The message was that a size 12 woman is fit and sexy enough to entice consumers to buy the swimsuits she's wearing, which is not something that usually gets communicated in swimwear ads. Amid the publicity that followed, Runk published an essay on the BBC emphasizing that plus-size doesn't equal fat and encouraging girls to see that "it's acceptable to be different."
This week 14-year-old blogger Georgia Luckhurst at SPARK, "a girl-fueled activist movement to demand an end to the sexualization of women and girls in media," asked Runk in an interview, "Was there ever a point in your life when you felt unhappy with your appearance? How did you overcome that feeling?" Runk's response is a refreshing reminder that girls aren't born hating the way they look -- they're socialized into it, and we don't have to participate in that socialization:
I remember often feeling like I should be unhappy with my body, but it was confusing, because I never thought there was anything wrong with it until people started talking about it. My sister and I would have conversations about how many girls’ thighs seemed to be the size of our arms, or their waists were the size of one of our thighs. I had friends in school who were a foot shorter than myself, and a size 2, pinching their tiny bellies at lunch talking about how much weight they absolutely have to loose, because they’re really letting themselves go. At the time, I was wearing a size 8. When someone who is less than half your size calls herself fat, you end up questioning what you should be calling yourself. These kinds of conversations need to change.
If ever a sentence needed to be crocheted on pillows distributed to every teen girl's bedroom, plus locker rooms, sorority houses, random ladies rooms and tanning, hair and nail salons, it's, "I never thought there was anything wrong with my body."
Click over to SPARK to read Runk's thoughts on competitive thigh gaps, the modeling world and haters. Oh, and definitely, definitely don't miss the paragraph where she says this:
Be intelligent and kind. Be a person you would want to be friends with or fall in love with, and you’ll realize how silly it was to worry about your thighs in the first place. They are such a miniscule part of who you are.