Oppressive beauty standards come in all shapes and sizes
By now, most of us will be familiar with the term ‘thicc’ and its various spellings (thick/thic/tic). It’s become commonplace for anyone who spends any time whatsoever on the internet.
For those of you who for some reason aren’t familiar with it, Urban Dictionary defines the word as “referring to a usually black female whose curve resembles one of an hour glass plus even more booty than a regular hoe.”
Despite this deeply problematic description, the term has been seen by many as having largely positive connotations, marking a shift towards an acceptance and appreciation of bigger bodies, especially those of black women.
Speaking to Huffington Post, several women described their own experiences with the term and their feelings towards it. It was variously described as denoting a body that is “[p]owerful, capable of amazing things”, “strong, healthy [and] sturdy”, and as referring to “a woman who is sexy and confident.”
These descriptions demonstrate exactly why the term is so appealing. It signifies a move away from the glorification of the emaciated, super skinny ‘heroin chic’ bodies of the 90’s and 00’s and towards an appreciation of women whose bodies are nourished and strong. This is a move away from the fetishisation of starvation and instead towards acknowledging the beauty of healthy and well-fed women.
It is also a move away from the monopoly of white women over body standards; no longer is the slim white frame the default, but black and Latin-American body types are also being recognised and represented in mainstream culture and spaces. Bigger women are also receiving this kind of recognition and representation, demonstrated by the increased exposure of ‘plus-size’ models such as Ashley Graham. For many, ‘thicc’ is a long-awaited celebration of a more diverse array of body types, especially those of ever-excluded bigger and ethnic minority women.
Not everybody sees it this way though. In the same Huffington Post article, one woman described ‘thicc’ as “demeaning”, a “term used to describe plus-sized women’s bodies in a sexual way.” Another woman stated “it’s rude and disrespectful… you’re just sizing me up and undressing me with your eyes.”
Even those who defended it seemed to show that it is objectifying and implicitly sexualising, saying that it describes a woman who is “curvy in all the right places” and has “outstanding proportions…a small tummy, but big hips and breasts”, or put more crudely, “a woman with an attractive ass-to-waist ratio.”
These explanations demonstrate that, although the term may have positive features, there is something inherently problematic about it. Acknowledging it properly, it becomes clear that it is fetishistic and objectifies women’s bodies.
Although it does indeed champion black and larger women’s bodies, it is still geared towards policing the ‘right’ kind of body, idolising women with large busts, hips, and bums while reproaching women with ‘less desirable’ proportions as ‘fat’ or unsexy.
What does this kind of fetishisation lead to? In my opinion, the idealisation of ever more impossible bodies; bodies with huge boobs, bums, and thighs but almost meticulously trim elsewhere.
The evidence of this lies in the figures; statistics from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons show that in 2015, both butt lifts and implants were up 36 per cent from 2014. However, the amount of liposuction and boob jobs performed still exceeded the number of butt enhancing surgeries. If anything, this shows that ‘thicc’ is not evidence of the body revolution we might hope for but, rather, simply another addition to the already unachievable standards imposed on women’s bodies.
Also, women’s bodies should not be subject to change according to trends. In the last two decades, society has gone from worshipping emaciated frames to drooling over almost impossibly large bums. And what was before that? Looking from Marilyn Monroe to Kate Moss to Kim Kardashian, it becomes clear that for every decade there has been a new standard for women to conform to or face being labelled as undesirable. As much as I would like to believe that the appreciation of ‘thicc’ bodies is a move away from policing women’s bodies, the sad truth is that it is just this decade’s body trend.
Women’s bodies are not commodities, nor should they constantly be subjected to being sized up, assessed, and commented on. Although the proliferation of ‘thicc’ bodies and the appreciation of them may be a step in the right direction, we’re still a way away from truly embracing bodies of all shapes and sizes.