Growing up in a family of three girls, you tend to accumulate a lot of dolls. There is still an entire closet in my house dedicated to our collection of American Girl dolls and their respective accessories. Polly Pockets, with their little silicone dresses and heels, lay in one basket. Barbie dolls still live in their Dream House, plastic heels and every outfit imaginable still littering the floor.
Playing with dolls as a little girl, I never thought about their bodies. These companies were capitalizing on my imagination, not on my insecurity. I wanted the dream house, the closet full of pretty dresses, and the hot pink convertible. Dolls were just beings, plastic or fabric, through which I could live out my wildest dreams. I could do splits and backflips, have the perfect boyfriend, succeed in any career with a simple change of outfits. As I got older, though, I learned to internalize everything.
As I got older, I started to see how the size changes but the shape stays the same. Feet perpetually ready to step into high heels, blonde hair, pale skin, hourglass figure, a painted bikini meant to perfectly preserve modesty.
Tall. Skinny. Beautiful. Perfect. Unrealistic.
I don’t have the body of a Barbie. No one does. Being made of skin rather than plastic means that we have imperfections, but this is what makes us human. It means that we were molded to be ourselves, not to be the same as everyone else.
Your body is an amalgamation of your experiences. I have stretch marks on my hips from a growth spurt in eighth grade, five matching incisions from a surgery to remove a cyst from my ovary, a scar on my left thumb from slicing it open when trying to cut some stale bagels, two parallel scars on my right arm from falling in the bathtub. I have freckles, each one a little kiss from the sun. I have curves in the right and “wrong” places, too much in some places and not enough in others.
I am imperfect, but I am privileged. I am white, thin, young, tall, and wealthy. I am no Barbie doll, but I am still in the societally acceptable realm of beautiful. Society is getting better at representing more bodies in every industry, but there is still so much work to be done. I am allowed to feel beautiful. But what if I had darker skin, more scars, a higher body fat percentage? There are plenty of plus size women without hourglass figures, people who don’t fit into any binary at all, men who despite their best effort can’t build bulky muscular figures. Everyone deserves to see themselves held on a pedestal because everyone deserves to feel beautiful.
What dictates who is allowed to believe that they are beautiful anyway? Every aspect of society has their ideal body type, whether it be waifish runway models or impossibly curvaceous celebrities. There is no universal “perfect,” but that doesn’t stop corporations from selling perfection as an ideal.
If you just buy this product, get this haircut, use these lighting tricks, dress this way. The list goes on: perfection is just after the next shopping cart. So close, but always so far away.
In a society where billions of dollars in profits result from self-hatred, confidence is the greatest act of rebellion. I love my body. Love yours for all that it is and is not. Make sure that violence against any bodies is unacceptable. Start by loving yourself.
Leana Reich is a junior at the University of Pennsylvania studying Cultural and Linguistic Anthropology. She loves to explore cities, particularly by way of coffee shops and museums, and doesn’t properly understand how lucky she is to have lived at the beach her entire life. She does understand how lucky she is to have such an amazing mom as a role model and appreciates her every day.