BODY SHAMING AND YOUNG WOMEN

It’s astonishing how rare it is for an individual to be completely confident in their body. If you were to ask anyone, I guarantee there is something about their image that they wish they could change; writes Maureen Nawer.

 

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We all claim that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes. Yet, it’s pretty ironic that many of the people who claim to be promoting positive body image among women and girls are doing just the opposite. Yes, the idea that you don’t have to be super skinny or look like a Victoria’s Secret model in order to be considered beautiful is a great notion to be promoting.

They say “You are what you eat”. But the question is, is it always true?

I have two groups of readers reading this article right now – one who says “yes” to the above statement and one who says “no”. However, science says we do not always have control over it. Fatness or thinness is also genetic. A lot of times the shape of the body is the result of some disease or a reaction of a drug that has to be taken to cure some other problems. Yes, of course we can carry continue exercises along with certain food habits to change the state we are in, but often we just do not want to. Our body belongs to us, and only we get to choose how we want it. We would put some effort to change the shape of our body only if we want to. Unfortunately, the statement I just made does not have a strong ground. Body shaming is a part of our judgmental minds.

Body shaming, by the dictionary it is “The action or practice of humiliating someone by making mocking or critical comments about their body shape or size;” in other words, criticizing yourself or others because of some aspect of physical appearance.

636000063905175673176494917Did you ever stop and think about how often we are told to change our appearance?  Magazines constantly offer tips about how to lose weight “in days,” appear slimmer “instantly,” and hide our “imperfections”… without actually knowing anything about us, much less our appearance.  This is one example of body-shaming, and it is everywhere.  Sitcoms so frequently use overweight characters’ bodies as the basis of many of the show’s jokes.  It has become the norm to criticize aspects of our bodies as some type of bonding experience with friends – if we all hate our bodies; it somehow makes us feel connected and united.  Body-shaming can lead to a vicious cycle of judgment and criticism.  Messages from the media and from each other often imply that we should want to change, that we should care about looking slimmer and hence, by the media’s standards, sexier.  And if we don’t, we worry that we are at risk of being the target of someone else’s body-shaming comments. No matter how this manifests, it often leads to comparison and shame, and perpetuates the idea that people should be judged mainly for their physical features. And this is inflicted by the models we see who look good in everything they were solely because of the fact that they are “slim”.

Companies and campaigns are promoting the thought that every size is beautiful, unless you’re a tiny model. In that case, you’re just fake and unrealistic. Lane Bryant, a company whose mission is to celebrate women of all shapes and sizes, had a campaign called “I Am No Angel,” which included plus size models ripping off angel wings, a direct dig at the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show. I love that we’re promoting models of all shapes and sizes, and I think it’s so important to show different sized models other than just those who are skinny on the runways. However, in order for us to be a society that truly encourages the idea that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes, we have to be accepting to those different shapes and sizes, including the smaller ones.

BodyShaming_BlogFeature-1024x585However, the times have changed. Thin is out and thick is in. We now have something called “Plus size models”. Fashion designers are starting to look more closely at the earning potential from plus-size clothing, and have used plus-size models for their advertising campaigns and catwalks. And this indeed has made women more confident in their body. The mission for this was also to show women all over the world that the size of their clothes has nothing to do with the size of their hearts, personalities & futures as believed by most of us.

But women are women. Apparently, the theory of plus-size models is working in the opposite direction right now! Using plus-size or “realistic” models in advertising may make women even more concerned with their weight, and may be partly to blame for rising obesity rates, according to new research from Simon Fraser University in Canada.

While companies are often celebrated for using models that more closely reflect the body type of an average American woman, researchers found that the ads get so much attention that they actually make people more self-conscious about how they look. It is turning women towards obesity. Lin and McFerran theorize that when consumers see more advertisements featuring plus-size models, they have less motivation to eat well and exercise, and turn instead to unhealthy foods. Which means, basically we are back to square one i.e. food habit which is not healthy at all. Before it was too less and now it is too much. Either way, seems like it does not work for us.

Also, there is something called skinny shaming which we often fail to notice. Something that people don’t seem to recognize is that skinny shaming is still body shaming. Telling someone skinny to go eat a hamburger is the exact same thing as telling someone bigger to go to the gym, posting on social media that “real men don’t want to cuddle a bag of bones” isn’t making you more admirable or wanted, and mocking people who are a size zero or an extra-small doesn’t make you more confident in your body image. You’re rudely pointing something out that they already know and are probably embarrassing them over something that they’re already self-conscious about.

It’s astonishing how rare it is for an individual to be completely confident in their body. If you were to ask anyone, I guarantee there is something about their image that they wish they could change. I’m a curvy girl, I’m often insecure about my body, and at times, I’m envious of girls who are naturally skinny. However, making fun of models won’t make me thinner, joking that a skinny girl is “anorexic” won’t make me happier, and telling a girl, who can’t help being a size zero, that she has no right to complain about her body won’t make me feel more confident in mine. We can’t model shame or skinny shame or fat shame and at the same time, consider ourselves to be a society that’s for a positive and healthy body image. In order to set the standard that “all sizes are beautiful,” we have to first believe in it.

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