This is an essay I wrote in school about body shaming. Share you views on the matter.
|Everybody's different right? So why do all our Hollywood stars, music idols and fashion icons look so flawlessly similar? How is it that however hard we try it is almost impossible for us to replicate these unrealistic and unhealthy body standards? Body standards which have been pressed upon us by the mass media, by the most influential characters in today's society.
The first film you saw was probably a Disney classic: stories of romance, heroes, villains, adventure and extremely skinny waists. Tales which were brought to you by the inventor of a rodent with unnecessarily large ears (See? He's been promoting unrealistic body ideals from the start). Disney films have negatively influenced our younger generations for decades. We all grew up surrounded by tales of unnaturally thin Princesses with small waists, big eyes and unblemished skin. Take Belle for example, sure her name means beauty but her features would be more suited to that of an eating disorder campaign. I mean have you ever seen a plus size Princess?
It is not just young girls that are negatively impacted by the Disney franchise and its huge network of consumer products. The youthful males in our society are also susceptible to wanting to conform to the half baked body standards set by none other than royalty! And by that I mean Disney Princes. The epitome of an animated Prince is that of a broad shouldered, muscular sir with a chiselled jaw and perfect smile. Cinderella's Prince Charming is a perfect example of that Alpha Male ideal. Have you ever seen a puny pock marked Prince?
These perfect and unobtainable portrayals of body image ideals have been unconsciously encouraged and forced into the minds of our young audiences around the world by well meaning parents and teachers alike. Are we shaping the future to be one of body shaming and self hate? Are these ideals really necessary?
As we reach adolescence the human body changes immensely, both physically and mentally. We come of the age where our preconceived ideas of beauty can be put into practise. We get spots, hair begins to grow in random places and our bodies develop significantly. Research tells us that teenagers and young adults are more impressionable than say, a fifty year old. Therefore we feel inclined to attempt to achieve the unrealistic and frankly hazardous body image ideals that are set by the media.
Take magazines for example, the ones predominantly marketed towards young females are littered with dieting advice and tips on how to obtain the 'perfect' body; 'the body men deserve'. Once more the written publications for males aren't any better, they flaunt and advertise pictures of strong muscular men with flawlessly tanned skin and defined abdominals. These pictures are used to promote protein shakes and aftershave, and in doing so the readers feel compelled to glean a perfected figure before they can purchase the product.
Printed publications, the internet, social media and television shows all use pictures to engage with viewers. These pictures are typically of people of great influential significance in modern culture, they are famous. However before these images are released, they are edited and doctored to portray the best version of the person, this gives a false perception of how 'beautiful' and 'handsome' the person really is. Naturally occurring spots are removed, as are stray hairs and wrinkles, these are all natural signs of ageing and development and should not be hidden as if they are wrong. They even go as far as to alter the shape of the eyes and the fullness of the lips. 'Excess' fat is cut out and for the final product we have an enhanced, photoshopped, fabricated image that discourages you from accepting and embracing your natural body type.
Studies show that minors who are more heavily involved with the media have a greater chance of developing low self esteem issues, depression and other mental illnesses such as anorexia and bulimia. In the United Kingdom nearly eighty thousand children and young people suffer from severe depression. These illnesses could largely be avoided if the media would not just focus on one single body type but instead give recognition and integrate all physical body descriptions into their work. This will, in turn, assist in the suppression of the barrage of utopian ideals and will allow for a greater focus on more 'normal', natural and healthy body shapes.
In conclusion, an acknowledgement by the media that, while we may all be the same on the inside, this doesn't mean we need to all be the same on the outside. In turn this will help children and young adults learn to be happy with their own body, without feeling the need to greatly modify the way they look. They will not feel as if they must appear a certain way in order to fit in. As a result of this our future will surely be a more inclusive, natural one.