Survival of the….thinnest?

“Does my bum look big in this?” an age-old question from women (and men) since the beginning of time. But our obsession with weight has only increased with social media, and like nuns praising God, we praise those ever perfect “insta-models” who we aim to be. On the other end of the spectrum, fat-shamming is no longer accepted with people with ‘curvy’ figures starting to be embraced by not only social media but also the fashion industry.

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Won’t somebody think of the children?!

Throughout history, the fashion industry has been famous for selling women a “super skinny ideal that most of us will never achieve” as explored by the popular English tv show Plus Size Wars. Society is constantly faced with how to achieve this perfect figure with extreme measures not only being taken but encouraged across all media platforms. This obviously has a huge impact on particularly young impressionable girls with anorexia and other eating disorders being the 3rd most common chronic illness in young women. Young girls are the real victims of this skinny phenomenon with many studies indicating that girls as young as 8 years old give accounts of body dissatisfaction that are similar to those of adult women with the ‘slim’ adult being ideal.

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This really hits home for me, having been tormented during swim class by the ‘cool girls’ at age 8 for looking ‘pregnant’ kicking off the start of my body insecurities. This was re-lived again with my little sister who is 10 years old. She stopped eating for 2 weeks due to a different posse of ‘cool girls’ declaring in front of the entire class she is “the size of an elephant” Not only is this bullying happening face to face but the torment continues online and via social media in more subtle methods such as constant exposure.

The Perfect Body

This constant exposure to these perfect bodies actually started when we were in nappies and has been a constant part of our lives whether we realise it or not. Disney princesses and the stories they’re apart of are what most little girls aspire to be but do we really think Prince Charming would go for a 200kg woman who loves cheeseburgers? I somehow don’t think so.

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The more modern version of this is the highly anticipated Victoria Secret fashion show. The show is a story or fairy-tale itself having a narrative and unrealistic expectations of what it means to be happy and perfect.  Becoming an ‘angel’ is the pinnacle of stardom within the modeling world and women across the world tune into for a big dose of body loathing for a whole hour each year. By viewing idealised images in the media, such as these models, women feel worse about themselves after seeing images that illustrate the “beauty ideal.”

Before the show itself occurs, marketing campaigns and the social media accounts of these starlets torment us with painfully thin, often digitally altered photographs of themselves looking perfect in every way. The show is extremely sexualised and has often been criticised as pornographic , but how can it be pornographic when these girls are the ‘angels’ of the fashion world?

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This isn’t the only backlash Victoria Secret have received with one of their campaigns showing a line of borderline anorexic models with the words “The Perfect Body” plastered over their image. The advertisement had a petition signed by thousands of people requesting the advertisement either be re-branded with real women or taken down. This style of marketing and branding that Victoria Secret embraces leads women to base their self-worth more strongly on appearance, which in turn leads them to feel more concerned with others’ perceptions and less satisfied with their bodies.

victoriasecret

People are starting to stand up these big corporations who chose to shove ‘skinny’ down our throats rather than a milkshake. This has got the attention of governments around the world with France leading the way having just passed a law banning models with a body mass index below 18. The curvy figure is now embraced with many thanks going to celebrities such as the Kardashians who have made bums, boobs and hips “sexy” again. But what have the fellas out there got to say about this?

Woman vs Woman?

Well obviously, a woman’s primary goal and purpose is to not impress men but there has definitely been a large shift of woman versus woman competing for the thinnest and best body. It has been found though that when trying to find a hunky fella on a Friday night, women have been known to overestimate men’s preference for thinness (so we are overthinkers – who would’ve thought!).

Ultimately the fashion industry is not entirely to blame for our obsession with thin and rather reflects, rather than causes, intense competition between females for thinness. This is the core problem the fashion industry faces with women believing that thin is attractive, meaning that plus-size models won’t be able to sell clothes resulting in brands not willing to use them.

Plus-size models and the voluptuous figures they promote have also been scrutinised with many people weighing in (see what I did there!) on why promoting being overweight is negative and the fashion industry shouldn’t be providing high-end clothes for these women. Simply put, fat shaming does not work and obviously promoting unhealthy eating and exercise habits is not ideal for young impressionable girls.

So, what is the solution? You don’t want these role models to be too skinny but also not too fat but also want girls to love themselves for who they are. Well, in this case, you can have your cake and eat it too through having role models who effectively reflect the diversity of human beauty and not an extreme shape (ie super thin or super overweight). In discouraging the quest for the ultimate thin figure, society needs to careful to not encourage obesity with an overwhelming obesity epidemic being currently battled. So to put it simply, don’t eat too much KFC but do eat something and exercise regularly. Also important to remember is that models in general usually have an entire team to ensure they are looking good all the time and just like you get a degree to get a good job, they maintain insane figures and beauty as their job – it is all they do. So next time you’re getting into your double quarter pounder meal don’t feel too bad!

katy

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