One of the breakout songs of 2015 highlighted the important of our image in society. When the Chainsmokers released “Let’s Take a Selfie,” a seemingly innocent craze suddenly identified just how much of our lives are consumed by what we look like, who we are with, how well we are doing, and how much we are liked.
Sure, it’s fun to snap photos with friends and capture crazy memories, but how much of our duck lips and #selfies are identifying reality. Be honest, why don’t we see more #diaperchange selfies. Perhaps because they aren’t the cool image people want to see or perhaps because they aren’t the ticket to being liked and popular. OMG. Maybe if I pull out the selfie stick we can get better rating on this post. #NOT This isn’t about me; it’s about you and what is dictating your drive for the “perfect body image”.
It’s no secret that our society promotes thinner is better. Blondes have more fun. Skimpy equals sexy. Buff and tan is the way to go. Designer clothes get you places. Even the car you drive- according to Lincoln commercials featuring Matthew McConaughey, will dictate your place in society. Hollywood stars become the poster children of beauty and success. Athletes are idolized for their skills and accomplishments, and they influence diet and career choices. But why do we let them decide those social tiers? Why do their lucky breaks, makeup artists, costume designers, and private chef diets dictate our self-esteem and ideas of beauty? In fact, studies show that only 25% of the women in America actually fit into the clothing sizes worn and marketed by the models in commercials and advertising. It would seem like these women (those size negative zero and below) are actually the minority.
Only those living under a rock were spared from the breaking of the Internet by Ms. Kardashian-West’s obscenely exposing photograph for Paper magazine in 2014. Whether viewers were awe-struck or dumb-founded, round and round the news story went as individuals tried to piece together the reality of the photo. And yet, despite the controversy and criticism she endured for exploiting a woman’s natural (or in her case physician-assisted) assets in order to reach success, Kim Kardashian-West continues to be a driving force of fashion and stardom. What message does this send to struggling young woman looking for acceptance, beauty, and fame? If you don’t have the right body, you need to nip, tuck, replace, and then flaunt in order to receive attention. But it’s not just famous tv personalities. Women’s health and cosmetics magazines are just as guilty of promoting images of perfected, skinny models believing that in advertising, sex sells.
Image affects males too. It’s not just about influencing young woman; males are also susceptible to body image pressure. Fat shaming- the horrifically rude behaviors and comments that publicly humiliate someone’s body size- are now including men. Words like “moobs” and “beer belly” are targeted at men who do not maintain an ideal size for social acceptance. Although no one will ever replicate the Rock, magazine tabloids and newsstands continue to place pressure on men to be ripped in order to be healthy. If some of Hollywood’s finest weren’t immune to the fat shaming (such as Vin Diesel’s “Fat and Furious” photos in 2015 or Sam Smith’s honest admissions in 2015) how are we supposed to believe it’s gonna be okay for the young men of today and tomorrow?
The rise of cyberbullying has shown just how far society has come in demanding the perfect image. If someone is not up to our standards, we cowardly call them out and encourage others to join us. But who are they being compared to? What standard has been set and why should a complete stranger or “so called” friend feel the need to enforce it? Can we blame it all on the media?
Before 2017, much of the negatives associated with failed body image were trolled as memes, jokes, or good fun. But 2017 brought to light the suicides and damages caused by cyberbullying, the rise in male eating disorders, and increased mental health issues concerning depression, isolation, and anxiety. While the media may have been an innocent bystander which simply gave the masses what it wanted, there are various outlets relying on the power of media moguls to spread a new message.
New campaigns that host plus sized models are working to shatter a body type that was highlighted for decades. Hashtags for fat and fabulous campaign,s including #imnomodeleither, #fatkini, #losehatenotwieght, have begun to curb the shame and negativity for those who aren’t feeling socially ideal. And although Victoria Secret has yet to broaden its horizon and expand to include a plus size line, they were willing to change an ad campaign to more broadly define body size as “A Body for Everyone” rather than the limiting “A Perfect Body” snapshot. However, by the end of 2017 plus-sized model Ashley Graham took the cover of Vogue, size 26 model Tess Holliday dominated social media and Nike finally launched a plus-size range. There is hope for change.
It is important to remember that no one can make you feel inferior unless you let them. Sounds easy enough until you actually try it. Individuals are unfairly criticized and scrutinized by a society of has-beens, wanna be’s, and conceited self-appointed style gurus who have no business sticking their nose in yours. The media places a spotlight on the issues of body image, but ultimately is a personal choice to view yourself as beautiful, unique, special, and successful despite the social standards erected around you