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Unicorns are Unicorns, Rhinos are not.

August 14, 2012

While cruising my Facebook wall today, I saw this image:

Not in this lifetime

I’ve seen things like this in the past.  The image of the Rhinoceros on a treadmill, looking at the “thinspiration” poster of a sleek unicorn is one example of this.

However, I can easily deconstruct this image.

First of all, a unicorn is a myth.  There is no such thing as a unicorn.  Although there are one-horned animals that are either naturally one-horned; mutations; one-horned from accidents or the shedding cycle; or manipulated by humans to be such, there are no unicorns.  Especially not the image of a sleek Arabian horse with a horn on it’s forehead that we are inundated with when we look for unicorns.

Rhinoceroses, on the other hand, are real creatures. Real creatures with a natural weight and body type, that no amount of exercise is going to change into a mythical creature. Real animals that have evolved into the shape and size they are due to what was the best thing for them in the environment in which they evolved.

Even assuming that a unicorn was real, there is no way to transform a rhinoceros into a unicorn (or taking the images we see of unicorns, there is no way to transform a rhinoceros into a sleek, petite, Arabian horse). It’s impossible. We aren’t talking about mechanical aliens that  just happen to transform into this planet’s vehicles. We are talking about real bodies in real life.

I find that the more I think about fat/size activism, the more I hate images like these. They push the idea that anybody can change into what they want. While the idea has some merit (how many people have had a disadvantaged childhood and grow up to be successful business people, for one example), it is just physically not possible to alter one’s body like that without massive amounts of surgery.

Yes, I have read the articles of the woman who surgically altered herself because she wanted to resemble a Barbie doll®.  Her story is beside the point. Or, rather, maybe it is the point.

In order to make such a drastic change, she had to have plastic surgery, of which estimates range from $250,000 to over $1,000,000 — plastic surgery which took over 20 years.

Is it possible for a rhinoceros to become a unicorn? No. Not in a million years. Not with all the exercise and diets and plastic surgery in the world.

Neither is it possible for a person who has a certain shape to successfully alter that shape. Not with all the exercise and diets and surgery in the world.

We are not Transformers, and we don’t live in a world where unicorns exist.  The best thing we can do, instead of trying to become something  that is impossible, is to learn to accept ourselves and to see the beauty that we already have. And if other people want you to be a unicorn, well, they can go pound sand because your rhino/platypus/zebra/whale/whatever body you have is unique, and deserves to be loved by you.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. August 14, 2012 10:06 am

    Great post. And way to turn this ridiculous metaphor into an even better metaphor for the futility of weight loss transformations! While proofing your post, I stumbled across this image, which fits your message:


    • Bronwen permalink
      August 16, 2012 12:45 am

      Shannon, I LOVE that image!

      I would wear that shirt. 🙂

  2. fatology101 permalink
    August 14, 2012 10:47 am

    I know what you mean and why you dont like this. I agree. I also agree it is a good analogy that you cannot take one and change it into another. Great post. Thanks Marla

  3. August 14, 2012 1:31 pm

    Also, don’t rhinos normally have two horns? Do they have to amputate one to become a unicorn? This image fails on so many levels…

    • Bronwen permalink
      August 16, 2012 12:47 am

      Well, when people are being told by doctors to have themselves mutilated (ie, WLS), I’d say the analogy still works. :\

  4. August 16, 2012 12:08 am

    this writing was graceful.

  5. rphb permalink
    November 20, 2013 11:42 am

    I think you misunderstood what the slogan meant. The earliest recorded use of the word unicorns, by one of the ancient Greek historian Ctesias described a unicorn as a while ferocious beast living in India, with one large central horn on its forehead. A description that match very well to that of the “Rhinoceros Unicornis” The Indian Rhinoceros. That beast is the origin of the myth of the unicorn. It is the real life physical unicorn. Our beliefs about the beast have just changed from that of what was originally a factual natural animal. And it is a wild ferocious and untameable beast.
    So you have it upside down, it’s not that rhinos are fat unicorns, its that the modern myth of a unicorn is a ridiculously slimmed down version of a rhino, just like Barbie is for girls.

    Unicorns are real, as they are just what fantasy have done to a rhino over 2000 years. The original unicorns are still out there, and are as fear inducing as they were in Ctesias time. But you are right, rhinos aren’t just fat, they are exactly as they should be, it’s just our understanding of beauty that is out of whack.

    • November 20, 2013 1:20 pm

      I’m so glad you wrote this. I was actually pondering a post talking about this after I stumbled across some fascinating explanations of why the King James Version talks about unicorns, and how the rhinoceros really is what they meant, as you said. And your final point is dead-on, “rhinos aren’t just fat, they are exactly as they should be, it’s just our understanding of beauty that is out of whack.” Thanks for commenting!


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