Frustrated by “dad bod” and the body image issues she encounters in her work, Ashley King discusses what the ideal body should be.
As a photographer, I tend to see the world in a different light. I am inclined to see and observe from a different perspective than others. I look at something some may see as ‘ordinary’, and find the beauty and wonderment with each subject, person, and client. I focus especially on the beauty in people. Whether I am in the middle of a shoot, or am simply observing the world – I think all people are beautiful.
Over the past couple of years I have become increasingly alarmed with how the beauty I once appreciated got redefined and how media continually redefines what is “beautiful.” I came across the recent “dad bod” buzz circling the web (which I initially thought was funny – they used very funny comedic actors) until I realized how unfunny it is. The more I thought about how “dad bod” must be for men, the more I felt we, as a society, have shifted from degrading women to include degrading men about their bodies. This is not progress!
I know many fathers and husbands (and some single guys) who have talked about “dad bod,” either having one or the fact it is being talked about. I know many men who have experienced for the first time something many women have their entire lives: suddenly it became a problem to be happy in their own skin based on what the media is portraying/is trending. Suddenly someone else is pointing out and degrading you for the way you look. I know both perspectives firsthand.
My husband is beautiful and perfect to me, but has told me he hates his body and struggles with what he sees in the mirror. He has shared with me that he knows while genetics play a role in his physical shape, he also knows he can take more initiative to get in shape. He understands he can do push ups, sit ups, work out and lift weights; however, getting older, job and family responsibilities get in the way. I get frustrated that he feels this way. How does he not see what I see?
This strikes a chord for me personally from my own experience with body image. I have always been thin. It does not matter how much I eat or how much I exercise, if you call walking “exercise.” I have had people degrade me my entire life for being thin, telling me to eat a cheeseburger or saying: “oh, you can eat whatever you want. You don’t have to worry about it!” I have even dealt with family members worrying about how thin I am, or sharing negative comments about my body. I have always been happy with my body and I am healthy. I admit that at one point I developed a complex about it. I realized that my happiness was more important than what others thought about me and my body. How can I get my husband to do the same thing?
I have come to the conclusion that both women and men are so disillusioned by what is being excessively presented to them through media, advertisements and social media outlets that they are buying into the discrimination and false illusions that are presented as “ideal.” Is everyone being disrespectful of everyone else and themselves based on their size and an ever changing ‘ideal’? Just because one image “fits in” today, what will tomorrow bring?
I worry as I photograph my clients that people will become so self-conscious and so focused within themselves that I will not be able to capture those “truth” moments: the beautiful moments I capture where they are just being themselves.
I worry about a world where the “ideal” is fake and less than the beautiful bodies everyone truly holds. Yes, men and women can both be beautiful in all shapes and sizes! We are all beautiful in our own way and have more to offer than what our outside shells have to offer to the naked eye and judgmental heart!
Our character speaks more than anything else – and body image should not ever effect that! You can have the most “beautiful” face but have an ugly heart and soul, and that does not make you beautiful. The way you treat others around you and carry yourself is what makes you beautiful.
No one should worry about what the next Cosmo or Men’s Health states you should look like. No one should care about the photo shopped images shoved in our faces on a daily basis say we should look like as women and men! Focus on what makes you comfortable as that will show your true beauty through your happiness and confidence! Whether you’re shorter, taller, thinner, bigger, we are all beautiful people! Tattooed or not tattooed, piercings or no piercings, “dad bod” or fit bod. No matter how it is that you outwardly show you, be happy and confident with you!
I am tired of the stereotyping and the “bigger women are more beautiful than the skinny women” and the same, now, with men, and everything and everyone of all proportions along the spectrum. We are all human. We are not photo shopped and unnatural looking in real life for a reason. True beauty is anything but unnatural.
Photo: Courtesy of the Author/ Three Kings Photography