I was in Colombia recently and had the opportunity to go to the Botero museum in Bogota. Colombian artist, Fernando Botero, has a style that is unique in its neo-figurative depiction of forms that are rotund and bulging in both girth and exuberance. Men, women, children, and even fruit, are celebrated for their bulk. This joyful abundance is a provocative antidote to the idealization of thinness – particularly for women – that is the sine qua non for beauty images everywhere we look these days.
Instead of dancing and celebrating the miracle of our bodies, too many girls and women have internalized the message that we need to take up less space in the world. Even kindergarteners report feeling fat, and over 90% of adolescent girls diet before high school graduation. The nearly ubiquitous result is that women feel bad about their bodies, and for some, the psychological storm takes shape in the development of an eating disorder.
When we ask, “what does it mean to grow up female?”, high rates of eating disorders around the world tell us that something is seriously awry. Maybe there is a takeaway from Botero that could help change the answer to this essential question.