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.
Related on HuffPost:
After the media focused on her <a href="http://www.usmagazine.com/celebrity-body/news/lady-gaga-shows-off-25-pound-weight-gain-in-tight-outfit-2012229">alleged weight gain</a> in September 2012, Gaga hit back at critics by baring her body in photographs, sharing her struggles with an eating disorder, and inviting her fans to join her in a <a href="http://www.forbes.com/sites/melaniehaiken/2012/09/26/lady-gaga-puts-bulimia-and-body-image-on-the-table-in-a-big-way/">"body revolution."</a>
Adele says she <a href="http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-504803_162-57376080-10391709/adele-talks-about-her-body-image-and-weight/">tries not to worry</a> about her body image and doesn't want to be a "skinny minnie." "The first thing to do is be happy with yourself and appreciate your body -- only then should you try to change things about yourself."
The actress <a href="https://twitter.com/RebelWilson/status/253324823005118465">took to Twitter</a> to say, "I'm not trying to be hot. I'm just trying to be a good actress and entertain people."
After the March 2012 frenzy around Judd's "puffy face," the actress fought back in <a href="http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/04/09/ashley-judd-slaps-media-in-the-face-for-speculation-over-her-puffy-appearance.html">The Daily Beast</a>, calling the media out for making women's bodies "a source of speculation, ridicule, and invalidation, as if they belong to others."
Tate's <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/allison-tate/mom-pictures-with-kids_b_1926073.html">essay</a> about body image and motherhood not only broke the Internet; it has sparked a movement of "moms who stay in the picture."
Autumn Whitefield Madrano
On her informed, thoughtful blog <a href="http://www.the-beheld.com/">"The Beheld,"</a> Autumn writes about beauty, body image, appearance and her two -- that's right, <em>two </em>-- mirror fasts.
Gruys went on a year-long<a href="http://www.ayearwithoutmirrors.com/"> mirror fast</a> during which she did not study her reflection in mirrors or other reflective surfaces, or look at photographs of herself.
"I am always in support of someone who is willing and comfortable in their own skin enough to embrace it," the singer said in a<a href="http://www.ianslive.in/index.php?param=news/Aguilera_wants_to_empower_women-389922/ENTERTAINMENT/15"> recent interview</a>.
At the 2012 New Yorker Festival, the magazine's TV critic, Emily Nussbaum, asked Lena Dunham, producer, creator and star of the hit HBO show "Girls," why <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/08/lena-dunham-new-yorker-festival-emily-nussbaum_n_1948596.html?utm_hp_ref=women&ir=Women">Dunham is naked in so many scenes</a>. Dunham responded, "I realized that what was missing in movies for me was the presence of bodies I understood." She said she plans to live until she is 105 and show her thighs every day.
Chung <a href="http://fashionista.com/2012/10/alexa-chung-on-her-upcoming-line-and-struggling-with-body-image/2/">responded to critics</a> who suggested that her slight frame made her a bad role model for young women, saying: "Just because I exist in this shape doesn't mean that I'm, like, advocating it."
The NYU student started the amazing <a href="http://thebodyloveblog.tumblr.com/">Body Love Blog</a>, where she posted this picture of herself and wrote an <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/stella-boonshoft/self-portrait-ask-me-why-_b_1987406.html" target="_hplink">open letter to those who feel entitled to shame others</a> for the size or look of their bodies.
This 5-foot-tall, 200-pound singer spoke openly about her weight to <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/01/beth-ditto-talks-skinny-privilege-fiancee-body-image_n_2057290.html?utm_hp_ref=women&ir=Women">The Advocate</a>, saying, "I feel sorry ... for people who've had skinny privilege and then have it taken away from them. I have had a lifetime to adjust to seeing how people treat women who aren't their idea of beautiful and therefore aren't their idea of useful, and I had to find ways to become useful to myself."