VIEW: Body Diversity: It’s There, So Why is Society Ignoring It?

Beauty ideologies of society have become out of control. The idea of perfection is everywhere, and you can’t escape it. The ‘body trends’ cause so much comparison, negativity and damaging thoughts that people will go to extremes to ‘solve the problem’, when in fact there is no problem to solve. Beauty ethics however isn’t new; it is part of our evolution as a culture. What started this obsession? And why do people push their bodies to the limits to become one size, or shape? As there is undeniably more than one size and one shape.

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The image above shows women of all shapes, sizes, race and age. Not only that, but they are happy, they’re un-photoshopped and proudly showing their normal bodies in their swim gear. Photoshop is so often used in campaigns, adverts, magazines, on social media even; that when there is an image like the above, it’s a shock. That in itself is shameful. Its shows that every factor of a woman’s life is open to be critiqued, debated and always observed to highlight the negative; with little indication to the positive. Media and its subjections to women can’t be shut out; in the modern age, it’s impossible. Alice Domar states “You can’t cut it all out, but you can reduce your exposure.”

The messages communicated through the media feed our deepest insecurities and encourage people to believe they must be something different fro who they are. We hold ourselves to an impossible standard: perfection. This is why this image is so powerful, even if its one of the few campaigns on social media which combats the idea of body diversity, and females needing that ‘one type of body’ or on social media; #bodygoals. When you type this in only one type of body shows up; athletic, abs, in athleisure wear, a slim waist, a pert bottom and no cellulite or lumps to be seen.

This isn’t shaming, it is incredibly inspiring for women proud of their strong bodies, but I don’t feel the need any longer to aspire to be that body, to do anything to be that shape. I know there are bodies which aren’t that one type and the image above backs this up. But there is not enough exposure for this, or any other campaigns on the internet and in non-virtual life. The campaign is an ant compared to the power of publications, fashion weeks, tv adverts and programmes, the list is endless.

Thousands of women around the world are still body shaming themselves, they look at themselves in the mirror and cry at the sight.

There’s a beautiful quote from the book, ‘The Vagenda: A Zero Tolerance Guide to the Media’, where the author states; “When we see a baby girl looking at herself in the mirror and smiling, we already know that this is the happiest that she is ever going to feel about the way she looked.” The negativity that women grow up with stays with you, especially as you start comparing yourself to others and question why, as an individual, you’re different to others. The identity of a woman’s body is stated from such a young age; and for young girls in 2016, social media is saturated with so much negativity, there is no room for the positive.

The origins of the image is a campaign led by two models, Charli Howard and Clementine Desseaux. The project is all about empowering women, talking truth about body diversity and speaking their mind on politics on all platforms of social media, the internet with their site: http://www.allwomanproject.com.

On it, the creators state, “We believe all body shapes and ethnicities deserve to be represented in fashion and in the media, helping girls worldwide feel positive and confident about themselves…The All Woman Project illuminates the idea that all women are more similar than we’re made out to think…” (Website, 2016). They focus on 5 areas that make a woman,; it’s about having confidence, feeling invincible, being emotional, tapping into their femininity and being sensual within themselves and their bodies. The image shows the pure nature of what it means to be a woman. The location also proves their determination of showing the world what the reality is of having a female body; they are outside, in broad daylight without makeup and in their swimming gear. They embody confidence as the majority of females would think this unthinkable to do, as they worry about the judgement they’d get from the public. The questions of shock would be endless. However, the comments and questions of positivity and empowerment would trump the negativity instantly.

As you can see below; the statistics of their following is incredible; with 30.3k followers and with only 363 posts about it. Within months, it has gained such an incredible following. (Instagram, 2017) It shows how much power that not only social media has in terms of representing a subject in society or politics; it also shows the response to a body positive campaign, which therefore shows the need for a project such as the All Woman Project.

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However, men are also exposed to the negative body image, its not just women. In the modern day, its all about being bigger, about the superhero muscles; it’s a different perception of what women feel is the perfect body shape, and vice versa. As mentioned briefly earlier, it stems from childhood, when boys and girls play with their dolls, whether its a Barbie or Ken and G.I.Joe, with the classic stereotypes of either a slim, tall hourglass shape for the Barbie or the large muscled/steroid induced G.I.Joe.

The first Disney Princess who didn’t conform to this stereotype was Merida from the film ‘Brave’. Her character is a Scottish tomboy. But changed when coronated as an official Disney Princess. Disney gave her a new look, with higher cheekbones, heavy makeup, better groomed hair, a thinner waistline and an exposed chest, to be similar to the other princesses. “Criticism was vocal, but perhaps we shouldn’t have been so surprised; after all, these were the people who stretched out Minnie Mouse to a super-skinny frame at Barneys in New York because as Barneys creative director put it, ‘the standard Minnie Mouse would not look so good in a Lanvin dress.’’

These physical changes of the princess are similar to that of the superheroes of Wolverine or Captain America. As said by Wells from The Telegraph, “Characteristics which, in the majority of cases, and especially with regard to action figures are unachievable.” He states that societies influences the perception of what is deemed muscly and changes rapidly also. Wells, at the end of the article writes “For years, eating disorders and self-confidence issues in women have been attributed to a sub-conscious desire to emulate their childhood Barbie dolls. So have recent years seen male-aimed toys set an equally unrealistic benchmark?”

It is constantly suggested that for both women and men, self-fulfilment in life lies in perfecting their bodies. But it isn’t, the matter of the fact is, the idea of perfection is pumped into children from a very young age, with the use of marketing and media in terms of children’s films and toys, to growing up with the surrounding influence of both of them along with society body-bashing themselves, to the use of social media, which has a lot of negative and un-necessary impact of people and how they feel about themselves. The evolution of a negative mindset in terms of the body has only increased and become the pandemic in society and ourselves. It was over 20 years ago when Naomi Wolf started this debate to “challenge the trap of perfectionism and have come no closer to solving this issue”

However I feel that it isn’t something which can be easily solved, as the negative opinions and body bashing (either yourself or others) will only increase with social media and solutions being advertised on the market. There is nothing wrong with being confident and happy within yourself, but for it to be a result of someone else’s pain is not right. It is no surprise that people are insecure about their bodies, especially as it has grown in the past few years with the rise of technology, creating this image of ‘the perfect male body’ or ‘the perfect female body’, there is no such thing as every person is individual and unique. However this simple fact doesn’t change anything, as people we need to believe it, shut out all the negativity and in fact loves the body they have if you want to be happy and healthy in yourself.

We make things worse when we soak in the information given, we put the most pressure on ourselves because even though the media can trigger the dislike or negativity, at the end of the day, it is you as a person who has the ultimate control in what you think or say about your body, your beauty and ultimately just you.

Just a few of my thoughts! Thank you, and hope you enjoy your day.

As always,
Hannah Samantha

The views expressed above are my own and no one else’s. 

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