cankles: n. Derived from joining the words calf and ankle. The word is used when referring to women’s thick or fat ankles.
I saw a tweet about “Barbie’s cankles” this week. It had a link to a fashion Web site that promotes designer Christian Louboutin’s latest project: to makeover Barbie with his footwear. According to a spokeswoman, the designer found the doll’s ankles “too fat” and insisted on re-designing her body dimensions.
Not only do we have to be a size 4, our ankles can’t be fat either.
I was 12 years old when I started reading fashion magazines and became aware of my appearance. In sixth grade, I knew I had inherited a defect from my mother: thick ankles. My mother constantly compared her ankles to that of her friend’s. She would say, “I wish I had Martha Trudy’s ankles.” I had no idea who this Martha person was, but if my mom had thick ankles, well, as her daughter—I must too.
It makes sense that 90 percent of those who have eating disorders are women between the ages of 12 and 25 (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, The Center for Mental Health Services, offices of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services). While not all women who diet develop eating disorders, it’s easy to see how such pressure about appearance can nudge a diet to become extreme or disordered.
Fortunately, there are organizations, companies, and magazines trying to change this body-hating message. The Dove “Campaign for Real Beauty” is devoted to “widening the definition of beauty.” That is commendable, but I still recall the public outrage when Dove’s ad campaign dared to feature non-models—or what the public and the media called “fat” women—on billboards in many cities.
I’ve also noticed popular fashion magazines, such as Glamour, featuring more images and ads with healthy-looking models.
But we shouldn’t leave the message of loving our bodies just to organizations and corporations.
We can begin by halting the trash talk we use about our own bodies when we’re with our friends, colleagues, and family. We can stop praising women—especially teenage girls—when they appear to be losing weight. It’s important we celebrate the whole person—her mind, her accomplishments, her independence, her creativity, her ability to help other people.
Are you talking about this issue in your church or women’s group? If not, why not?
October 21 is National Love Your Body day. Celebrate it by thinking and speaking nicely about your body and promoting body loving with your friends.
Read “Miraculous and One” in Lutheran Woman Today magazine, too.
Elizabeth McBride is editor of Cafe: Stirring the Spirit Within.