Society’s Size Struggle

For years we have been bombarded with the message that to be thin is to be beautiful. The media continuously shows us images of women who conform to society’s ideal of ‘beauty’ and we are led to believe that if we do not look like these women, then we cannot possibly be beautiful. The women that we are confronted with on a daily basis may differ slightly in terms of their skin or hair colour but I guarantee that they all have the same dazzling smile, pretty face and, most importantly, slim frame.
We have been repeatedly shown this image and conditioned to believe that it epitomises beauty. As a result of this, women all over the world have been left hating what they see when they look in the mirror. They continually diet in a bid to achieve the look they have been told is beautiful and are sometimes ‘fat-shamed’ if they are unsuccessful. They are sometimes mocked and bullied because of their size. At times they may have bounced between starving themselves and binging in an attempt to lose weight. They have bought into money making schemes where they live off shakes and juices instead of real food because they are desperate to be thin. They develop unhealthy relationships with food which have then escalated into eating disorders. They have hated themselves for longer than they care to admit because row upon row of smiling women on magazine covers have told them to.
With that in mind, it is no real surprise that there has recently been a backlash against the media’s depiction of the ‘perfect woman.’ We have seen a rise in anti-body-shaming campaigns which have paved the way for women to embrace their bodies and develop a positive body image. We have been encouraged to love our bodies instead of starving and abusing them. Models of all shapes and sizes have taken to the runways and have demonstrated that all women are beautiful, not just those who happen to be slim. This is a huge step for women everywhere as it means we are finally beginning to reclaim our bodies and step away from the patriarchal ideal of what a woman should look like. I applaud all involved for breaking this ideal and proving that, no matter what size you are, you can do anything you want even if society tells you that you can’t.
However, I am beginning to have some reservations about the extent of this backlash. I recently read an article about a size 22 model and it worries me that she is being hailed a ‘role model’ for women because of her size. I can’t help but feel as though the message that we should, quite rightly, stop starving ourselves has been misconstrued and it is now the message that we should stop caring about our health that is being broadcasted. Larger models may well be promoting body confidence and acceptance but they certainly are not promoting healthy lifestyles and bodies. I do not consider women who punish their bodies with a lack of food to be healthy role models, nor do I consider somebody who falls into the medical category of ‘clinically obese’ as such. As far as I am concerned, we have gone from one extreme to the other. Everyone should feel beautiful whether they are a size 4 or a size 26, however, I have concerns over the health implications of those at either end of this size spectrum. As much as I do not want young women to think that starving themselves in order to be thin is normal, I also do not want them to think that eating an excessive amount of calories and not exercising is normal either. We need to remember that we only get one body and we should at least try to look after it. It seems we are simply replacing one way of abusing our bodies with another.

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