The past few years have brought with them so much more awareness to a whole host of things; feminism, non-binary gender and sexuality. The secret is also out on the entertainment and media industries supporting and promoting the impossible ‘ideal body type’.
Body-shaming, though, is still a relatively unexplored problem but one that is becoming more known as people are coming together to fight it — which is amazing. However, it does still happen and we still have a long way to go in this fight. An example of the long journey still ahead comes from just last year, involving an incident with Transport For London and their famous quotes of the day. The quote of the day that shocked the nation read:
‘During this heatwave dress for the body you have, not the body you want’.
It was unsurprisingly met with an uproar of disgust and complaint from the public, which resulted in the too late apology from TFL. On top of this, there are the copious numbers of celebrities who have to deal with body- shaming on a daily basis, including model Gigi Hadid who was told she was too skinny, actor/singer Selena Gomez who got attacked for her kidney scars, and Kim Kardashian who was body shamed for being too skinny during one pregnancy, too fat during another, and shamed after her pregnancy for not having the ‘perfect’ body straight away. These are just three out of the hundreds and thousands of girls, famous and not, who are shamed for the way they do and don’t look.
When talking of body-shaming, we do tend to think more of body shaming ‘fat’ girls. However, body-shaming can happen to ‘skinny’ girls as well. But as with any snap judgement made, there is usually a side to the story you’re unaware of. For example, the ‘skinny’ girl just shamed for ‘not eating enough’ could have an underlying health issue like thyroid problems, or a mental health issue such as Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD). BDD means you see your body in a completely different way to how it actually looks. Whether you see yourself as bigger than you are or smaller than you are, it distorts the image to a point where damage is done to both your physical and mental health. The last few years have seen an increase of BDD and as of 2017, 2 per cent of the general population were suffering or had suffered from BDD. It also seems that body shaming does have an impact on developing this illness.
The main causes are bullying; specifically, that which is triggered by the way your body looks, which can cause low self-esteem and encourage the illness. It has also been suggested that jobs centred around looking good, such as modelling or body building, where you are expected to look a certain way, can cause you to develop BDD. Such job industries are competitive and even if you look the part, you are still told to fix this and that and if you can’t then you’ll probably get the soul-crushing reject email.
This is only a small part though of what could cause BDD. The biggest problem is that we are culturally conditioned from a young age to be self-conscious and critical of ourselves. Advertising, beauty and clothes companies — the industries models try to break into — are all culprits of this, but we don’t get mad at them — we get mad at the models in the pictures for their ‘perfect’ looks. But that’s just wrong. Many of these people are victims too; they are edited, blended and morphed into something very far from what they actually look like in real life; mainly because even they don’t meet the unrealistic standards of ‘beauty’ either.
What we should be doing instead, is getting mad at the companies who put an enormous amount of pressure on these girls to look a certain way, which could easily trigger BDD in certain individuals. Even though only about 2 per cent of the general population suffer from it, a lot more awareness is needed to prevent this number from growing and also to give more support to those who are already living with it.
It’s certainly not the case that every ‘skinny’ girl is going to be dealing with such serious underlying issues — some are just naturally built that way, but that’s not the point. The point is that we just can’t know what’s going on behind closed doors. You may see a thin girl and think ‘how can she have any insecurities’, but no matter what your size you can still suffer from low self-confidence and body hangups in our beauty-driven society. No one should be told that it’s unacceptable to have those insecurities. They are issues of the mind that as a society we are still trying to understand, and more awareness for conditions like BDD needs raising. Only then can we begin to understand our differences better and put a stop to low self-esteem and negative body image amongst women.
Body-shaming in general is an awful and useless waste of anyone’s time, whether it’s ‘skinny’ shaming or ‘fat’ shaming: both are unacceptable. If we could all just accept each other a little more and celebrate beauty as something that is fluid and free moving, we as a society would be in a much more positive place! No more pointing the finger of shame at anyone. Instead, let’s celebrate the amazing variety of beautiful and different body types out there.
After all, this world is only special as long as there is diversity and nuance from those who inhabit it. If everyone were the same, how ordinary that would be!