Meet two body image warriors who are challenging the way ‘beautiful’ is defined
Danah and Stacy Gutierrez are the twin (literally) powers behind Plump Pinay, “the first body acceptance blog in the country.” They’ve been around since 2009, and have been advocating for the acceptance of women’s bodies in whatever size, shape, and color they come.
The twins started off the project as a blog, but have gone on to host and promote events and workshops, and have turned Plump Pinay into a full-fledged body acceptance project.
In a world where juicing, #laboracay, and steps to get a summer body are constantly trending, the Plump Pinay founders are finding ways to push their own message in creative ways.
Part-serious advocacy, part-fun, Plump Pinay offers a diverse set of tips, advice, and opinions on body acceptance. One article features a list of some of the harsh realities of being a plus-size model; sometimes, they even poke fun at themselves.
Despite going against the grain and trying to combat an endless barrage of images and campaigns from brands and companies, Danah and Stacy have made tremendous gains in pushing their message. They’ve been featured in several magazines and TV shows, and have no plans of stopping their advocacy anytime soon. If anything, they’re only really getting started.
Pacifiqa talked to Danah Guitierrez about what it’s like to be a body image advocate.
What inspired you to be advocates for body image acceptance?
We’ve always been big-boned, and growing up, we were always teased about our size. Add to this all the pressure teenage girls face, with the media bombarding us with lies, conditioning us to pursue perfection based on their own unattainable standards of beauty. And because almost every woman we looked up to believed these lies as well—that we are only worthy if we are deemed “attractive” and “thin enough” by our society—we thought the same.
Stacy: Until we went through very detrimental measures to get skinny; I developed anorexia-bulimia at 16, while Danah got obsessed with calorie-counting. After we vowed to do away with all the crazy diets and dangerous slimming pills, we encountered body-positive blogs online based in Europe, US, and Australia, and they definitely changed the way we see our bodies and our uniqueness as women. This inspired us to start our own body acceptance blog here in the Philippines, because we know for a fact that weight-loss and body image issues are something every girl has to deal with, specially in our culture today.
What are the challenges faced by body image warriors like you?
Of course there are people who do not take the time to fully understand what our advocacy is about, hence their assumption that we’re fat enablers and that we’re promoting something unhealthy. But of course, that is not the case. We believe that for years, we have been brainwashed by the media, and even society, to think that fat is the enemy and fat is ugly. People will have a hard time accepting the truth we are preaching because of the things they need to unlearn prior to understanding our message. This is why we have this advocacy in the first place: to educate the people about health, beauty, and our (fat) bodies.
Despite all the positive and encouraging messages you put out, there will always be a sector of society that will disapprove of what you do (especially on the internet). How do you deal with the criticism, and what can you say to others who are advocating for the same things you are, and are also facing similar negativity?
We used to get bothered at first and at some point, defensive. After all,we won’t be lobbying for something that we are not passionate about. We’re not even upset that people disagree with us, but what really makes us feel bad is that the people who criticize us do not even read what our advocacy is truly about, let alone study and do their own research on body acceptance, health at every size, and all the principles we promote that are based on FACTS. As we’ve matured, we realize that we definitely have to choose our own battles because there is no point in trying to convince someone who has already made up their mind about our message.
To all the other body acceptance advocates, welcome criticism, specially if intellectually presented, as to clarify matters and discuss the issue at hand to enlighten and educate. But if the comments are rude just to spite and promote hate, be the better person and ignore them (or if I were you don’t even publish it on your blog). As long as you’re standing your ground with strong convictions, let them “hate.” Just agree to disagree.
Body acceptance is a prominent theme in your writing. How difficult is it for a woman to accept her body? What are the core steps towards body acceptance?
I think it’s quite difficult especially in our culture where physical bashing and name-calling is very much evident. Sometimes, bullying is even masked in TV shows which makes a lot of Filipinos desensitized to body shaming. Also, the “nurture” aspect of an individual’s immediate circle is important here. We’ve had a lot of readers share with us their heartaches from their own parents, telling them they wouldn’t be able to find happiness or success in life because of the way they look, be it because of their skin color, facial feature, or body type.
One of the core steps is to unlearn these programmed mindsets and detox from people, images, shows, or any type of media that make them feel bad about themselves. Second is to acknowledge that they are more than their appearance, and that they are much more capable than looking good. Last step would be to discuss this new body love journey with people who matter so they know where they are in life, and have a support system with the same principles.
Do you think Filipinas are generally unhappy with the way they look?
Yes. I remember being in the Dove Summit this year and we were presented with the statistic that 93% of Filipinas don’t feel beautiful in their own skin.
We can say our society puts a premium on physical appearance. (After all, the Philippines has a fascination with beauty pageants.) How can we change this attitude?
I think by realizing that women—or generally, everybody—have so much more to offer and are much more capable than to be looked at is one step forward. Also, discussing societal issues through the internet to get as many people aware is also a practicality we can participate in. Raising awareness is key, this is why we boldly discuss our ideas and opinions in our blog and other media platforms (radio, TV, podcasts), so as to open the eyes of the masses today.
The media plays a huge role in shaping women’s thoughts about body image. How can a woman, especially girls who are just beginning to be conscious of their bodies, resist the media’s definition of what’s beautiful and what isn’t?
We are quite radical about this, but let us put it bluntly: just don’t buy magazines and don’t watch TV. They’re selling you lies, capitalizing on your insecurities. Just go online, there are thousands of body-positive websites that promote body love and acceptance. This way, you get to filter what you actually look at and not just be fed by images you can’t even relate to.
What is your personal definition of ‘beautiful’?
A woman’s character is what makes her beautiful. Her love for the Lord, her kindness, intelligence, and humor. And of course, the confidence and contentment in herself that she doesn’t need to prove herself to both sexes for validation—this is our definition of beautiful.
You can reach Danah and Stacy Gutierrez at [email protected]