Body Image Why is skinny considered ideal?

By Lizzie Coyne

Life now, as a child, teenager, or young adult is much more emotionally challenging than it was 20 years ago. There have been several medical breakthroughs and advancements in science in the past couple decades. Some of the most powerful advancements have been linked to technology, such as the Apple products, instant messaging, and social media. To most, this may all seem like ways to improve lives and make daily tasks easier or more efficient. But to others, this advancement shows how easy and quick it is to comment something hurtful to another online, and how it has caused one of the biggest forms of cyberbullying there is: body shaming.

Years ago, this sort of bullying didn't exist. There was no way to communicate with strangers all around the globe in seconds like there is today. There were also different standards years ago, where being on the heavier side was considered attractive. Take a look at Marilyn Monroe, for example. According to the Encyclopedia Brittanica, she was considered so beautiful and so iconic in America during her time, similar to today's Gigi Hadid and Kendall Jenner. However, Monroe didn't have a thin supermodel body unlike the two icons today, yet she was praised just the same. So why is it that being skinny is what makes girls beautiful? Why do people who aren't skinny have trouble accepting what they look like?

There are several different ways that obesity can be categorized today, including socially, physically, logically, etc. On the physical spectrum, it is very straight forward: if you are overweight, you are unhealthy and you might be putting your life at risk. Clearly, obesity is a negative contributor on one’s body when nothing is done to improve it. While this is a problem, it is no reason for anybody to feel anything less of themselves. Several campaigns have been advertised to make those on the heavier side feel equal to everybody else despite their size. Most people find this to be helpful and empowering. However, some people in this generation see these campaigns attempting to make a positive message for overweight people and failing over and over again throughout the years, having no effect on society. (Radford) People all across the globe now have a role model, such as plus-size supermodel Ashley Graham, to look up to that is similar to his/her size thanks to these campaigns.

However, not all campaigns designed to include plus-size women into the world of fashion were successful. In late 2014, Calvin Klein Underwear hired their first model above size 4 in 46 years named Myla Dalbesio. While this was a great idea, considering all of the body positivity spreading across the media at the time, it was very poorly executed by the company. Instead of hiring a real plus-size model (which are normally size 14+) the company hired Myla, who is considered an "inbetweenie," at size 10. This means that she is not thin enough to be a regular model, and she is too thin to be a plus size model. Although the brand never advertised Myla as a "plus-size" model, a spokeswoman from Calvin Klein mentioned that it was a new line of underwear with extensive sizes, and is more inclusive. It's purpose was to cater to and celebrate the needs of different women. Still, millions of women are not size 10 and under. (Friedman) Once this ad reached the public, the media was shocked and reacted with anger.

Online, there are two very diverse groups of people: those who support body positivity, such as the people who spoke out against the Calvin Klein ad, and those who think obesity is a crime. Social media is the easiest and most efficient platform to discriminate against overweight people. Leaving negative comments on one's page is so easy nowadays that it can happen on a daily basis to some. There is so much hate being spread on the internet that sometimes, it can be difficult to shrug it off and ignore it. A quick comment stating an opinion may not seem like much of a discrimination, but after a while the victim might let the hate get to them, and it can have a very negative impact on him/her. Those who found themselves overweight had a higher level of suicidal thoughts than those who found themselves average-sized. (Alden) Most of the people behind the insensitive comments would be too nervous to say something rude in person, so they find ways online to bring others down. And even the people who put on fake smiles and assure overweight friends or family members by saying "Don't worry, you're not fat" are destroying the body positivity message without even knowing it or trying to do so. The word "fat" has turned into almost a forbidden word, and society has turned it into the worst thing you could call somebody. (Bustle) According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, the definition of fat is "notable for having an unusual amount of fat." Nowhere does it say that being having and excess amount of fat is a bad thing.

People of all ages are being affected by these negative comments online. Although most comments are not directed at these teenagers, unrealistic body standards are being forced upon middle and high school students. The number one thing girls aged 11-17 wish for is to be thinner. (Bustle) Even some who are underweight feel the need to eat less and less to maintain the body they have. A study conducted by the Keep it Real Campaign showed that 80% of girls at the young age of 10 are on a diet. These adolescents have access to an entire nation if people for feedback on their overly-photoshopped and heavily edited pictures of themselves. If the responses are negative, they will do anything to seem effortlessly perfect, whether it's going on a slight diet or starving themselves almost to the point of having a serious eating disorder. (Knorr) A recent survey taken amongst Hommocks Middle School eighth graders asked to choose one out of two who they found was the most beautiful. The first option was plus-size model Ashley Graham, and the other option was a very thin model wearing a white dress:

Option 1
Option 2

Out of 18 students surveyed, only 3 chose option 1. Most of the responses were relating to the fact that the woman in option 1 was not as skinny as the woman in option 2. This reveals a lot about how social media has programmed middle school student's brains at such a young age that thinner is more attractive.

It can be proven that thinner is by default more attractive to the human brain. Most of it has to do with the fact that America and other countries are just getting fatter and fatter over the years, and that the number of thin people is decreasing. While it might not seem this way in all states across the country, is almost considered rare to be at a healthy weight. Eventually, taking into account the growth rate of the fast food industry and the lack of daily exercise, finding a partner at a healthy weight will be similar to striking gold.

The only way we as humans can avoid this is by sending out the right message through social media: Obesity shouldn't be a limit, but a freedom. It will allow you to set more goals and work hard to become the healthiest and happiest version of yourself. But along the weight loss journey, body shaming should not be a factor contributing to your self esteem. Everyone on the internet should encourage these people instead of knocking them down and preventing them from achieving their goals.


Created with images by PublicDomainPictures - "body boy doll"

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