Opinion | Body acceptance is a means of anti-capitalist resistance

By Paige Wasserman, For The Pitt News

Kim Kardashian has recently been spotted with a smaller backside, and internet theorists believe she’s dissolved her Brazilian Butt Lift, or BBL for short. I typically abhor our culture’s obsession with women’s bodies, but today I’m discussing Kim Kardashian’s butt in full.

In fact, I’m talking about every woman’s body. I don’t know a single woman who doesn’t hate some part of her body, myself included. Studies show that around 50% of 13 year-old girls are unhappy with their bodies, and this number skyrockets to 80% by age 17. As many as 60% of middle-aged women believe they are too heavy. Americans spend more than $16 billion on cosmetic surgeries annually, and in 2020, there was a 66% increase in eating disorder hospital admissions. Our body shame is a public health crisis.

The body shame epidemic thrives thanks to late-stage capitalism. With that, I propose an antidote to our misery — if you wish to seize society’s tools of oppression, your most radical means of resistance is self-love.

What was our world before the Kardashians? The ‘90s were all about bony Kate Moss, who famously said, “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.” Britney Spears’s VMAs performance in 2001 woke the nation to tight abs and low-rise jeans. Then, Michelle Obama inspired an era of toned arms. That takes us to the 2010s, the age of “Anaconda,” “All About That Bass,” and Kim K breaking the internet.

Now, the world’s most influential style icon is changing her body. Again, why is this important? Note the timing of this alleged BBL reversal. We are experiencing the onset of Y2K nostalgia. Brands are selling Britney’s famous “Dump Him” shirt. Low-rise jeans are back. We’re leaning into bright pink and butterfly clips. Britney is free, but attaining her aesthetic is not.

The environmentally and ethically poisonous fast fashion trend cycle markets hoards of cheap, mass-produced clothing, bringing in massive profits for corporations such as Shein, Forever 21 and H&M. Your wardrobe can change, but the body you grew yourself is a permanent fixture. And still, permanent fixtures are expected to go in and out of vogue like skinny jeans.

What happens when your body is no longer the ideal? Of course, you’re not an uber-rich full-time hot person. You buy the resistance bands and the booty pads and the waist trainer and those ab activators that don’t work. If you’re not an expert in fitness, which most people aren’t, you’ll probably hire a personal trainer, join a gym or employ a dietician. To afford these products and services, you work for hours, leaving no time to exercise like a celebrity. 

So you don’t have the butt, but thinness is timeless, right? So you buy the Kourtney Kardashian appetite suppressant lollipops and the Keto snacks and the $300 juice cleanse. Maybe you starve yourself. Perhaps you binge and purge. You spend thousands and torture yourself for the perfect body. But is it YOUR perfect body or someone else’s ideal?

Society’s beauty standards did not appear out of thin air. Corporations have been igniting women’s insecurities for centuries. Sleeveless dresses became all the rage in 1915. Gillette, who previously sold only men’s razors, released an ad declaring that “the underarm must be as smooth as the face” to complement sleeveless dresses, expanding their clientele to women. Did women think, “Hmmm, are my hairy armpits disgusting, or is this company selling me a new insecurity?Of course not. It was 1915, and the phrase “read theory” didn’t exist.

Those millions of dollars line the pockets of, no surprise, rich white people — usually men. As of 2020, white men make up 85.8% of Fortune 500 CEOs, and white women are 6.8%, making white people 92.6% of all Fortune 500 CEOs. And Kim Kardashian, a white woman worth an estimated $1 billion, profits off an aesthetic that has been a source of shame and oppression for Black women for years. Capitalism, the patriarchy and white supremacy thrive hand-in-hand when they conceive new ways to police and demean marginalized bodies. And that should piss you off.

Let that anger fuel an audacious love of self. Society’s oppressors want you to look in the mirror and hate every ounce of fat. But why should you hate what sustains you? Your body can sing, dance, hug and jump for joy, so treat it with grace and dignity. Eat what energizes you. Work out, not for aesthetics but for endorphins. And above all else, recognize your joy as a sociopolitical superpower.

Paige Wasserman (she/her) writes about the arts, pop culture, campus culture and things that make her want to scream. You can reach her at [email protected].