Have you heard the one about the mermaid and the whale?
A photo of a “plus-size” French model with an accompanying anecdote has been making the Facebook rounds recently. The gist is that somewhere out there a gym recently posted a picture of a thin and beautiful woman with the caption, “This summer, do you want to be a mermaid or a whale?” which prompted one woman to respond that basically she wanted to be a whale because whales are fun and friendly and real and mermaids are sexless and unhappy and not real creatures anyway.
As a big, beautiful lady, naturally I’m a fan of body-positive messages circulating among my ladyfriends, but I have to say—my fierce inner mermaid bristles at how, once again, two images of feminine beauty are being pitted against one another to duke it out for Most Empowering. Can we be over that already?
Some women (myself included) feel an affinity for mermaids. Sure, for many of us it may have sprung from a Disney-based notion of singing our hearts out under the sea and collecting old junk in a secret underwater cavern (or was that just me?), but mermaids can also be seen as an image of fierce feminine strength and freedom.
The notion that mermaids have to be super thin to be beautiful is just as fucked as the notion that women have to be. It’s the 21st century, bitches, and fat mermaids are beautiful too! “But, mermaids aren’t real,” you say? All the more reason to create them in our own image. If mermaids aren’t real, who’s to say they can’t be fat or non-Caucasian or sport short hair or tattoos?
The alleged mermaid vs whale response letter states:
“But if [mermaids] existed, they would line up to see a psychologist because of a problem of split personality: woman or fish?
They would have no sex life and could not bear children.
Yes, they would be lovely, but lonely and sad.
And, who wants a girl that smells like fish by his side?”
I’m sorry, but can we just entertain for a second the crazy notion that a mermaid (like a woman) could be perfectly happy without sex, children or the approval of men? Maybe mermaids could be into frottage or nipple-play or hardcore making out or superlezzie mer-style scissoring with the apex of their fins. Maybe mermaids could be content to forgo sexual activities altogether and devote their lives instead to spiritual study and the protection of the sea from industrial human society. They’re mother fucking mermaids, they can do what they want.
As for whales—yeah, they’re pretty amazing creatures with intelligence and community. Certainly they’re undeserving of the bum rap they’ve gotten as a symbol of negative body image. I’d like to think that if mermaids were real, they’d certainly be friends with whales—frolicking around and doing carefree sea shit together. So, why we gotta pit these two equally worthy creatures against one another over our petty notions of beauty? Why does one image of feminine strength and beauty have to be vilified in order for another to be uplifted?
The answer is that it doesn’t. Loving our bodies isn’t about whether fat is better than thin or vice versa. It’s about embracing the crazy notion that beauty is more than our bodies. That both thin, sexless women and curvy, sexed-up women can be beautiful, and that it’s not the state of our bodies that makes us beautiful but our comfort in our own skin and our willingness to accept ourselves and others—flaws and all.