I feel fairly certain that a marketing professional was the first person to refer to socially undesirable physical traits as “flaws.” And I’m totally certain that those “flaws” were on a woman’s body. When the concept of generating previously non-existent insecurities about beauty and bodies first arose in the marketing world, it arose as a means of selling stuff to women. But eventually, the idea of flawed bodies seeped out beyond cosmetics and girdles and hair removal systems and into the world of fashion. Now, every style expert spouts off about “hiding figure flaws” and “downplaying your flaws.” Every fashion mag claims it can reveal the secrets of “flawless skin” and “a flawless figure.” The language of body flaws is ubiquitous and unavoidable.
And it makes me livid. Livid, I tell you! Because the assertion that bodies can even have flaws implies that some bodies are flawless. It creates an imaginary and impossible hierarchy of beauty that women strive to ascend. It makes us all feel inadequate on a fundamental level because flaws are damage, errors, mistakes. Flaws are wrong.
But your body is not wrong. Nothing about your body is a flaw. I don’t care how many scars or warts or zits it’s got. I don’t care how much or little you weigh, how tall or short you are, how much or little hair you’ve got or what color it is. I don’t care how you’re proportioned or where you stash your cellulite or how big your boobs are. And I sure as hell don’t care how old or young you are. Your body is NOT WRONG. Your body is NOT FLAWED. Your body is also not perfect, but guess what? Neither is anyone else’s, and that’s just biology. Anyone who wants to talk to you about how to hide or mask or eliminate your flaws wants to sell you some crap that they’ve invented. And whatever crap they’re selling may slowly, subtly strip away your humanity and uniqueness. Because the Beauty Machine believes that we all want to look like identical airbrushed photos of former humans, and it sells us that desire over and over again.
You get to decide what you love about your body and what you want to show off. You also get to decide what you don’t love about your body and what you don’t want to show off. This is not to say that if you haven’t learned to adore and proudly display your keratosis pilaris that you’re a failure. No, indeed. Bodies are complex and our relationships with our bodies are complex. You as an individual get to make choices about how you dress your body and why, what you downplay and what you highlight.
But I implore you: Consider the implications of referring to your body’s features as “flaws.” Because they’re just not. Not a one of them. Even the ones you hate and wish you could change, and the ones you hate and are actively seeking to change right now.
Your body is not wrong, and the less you tell it that it is wrong, the stronger it’ll become.
Image courtesy handels.