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Why are women’s body types a trend? Breaking the stigma

In her Netflix documentary, Miss Americana, Taylor Swift says, “If you’re thin enough, then you don’t have that ass that everybody wants. But if you have enough weight on you to have an ass, your stomach isn’t flat enough. It’s all just f*cking impossible”. She’s describing the unrealistic and frankly unattainable body standards that women are held to in the media. There are countless reasons why body standards are extremely harmful to our mental health, mainly since they are extremely unrealistic. Every woman does not have a tiny waist- and that is okay. Hell, that’s perfectly normal and should be celebrated as so. Instead, social media and societal pressures/norms look down on many body types if they do not fit the “standard”. In addition, having a body “standard” or “ideal” in the first place is detrimental to the

Taylor Swift's Film, Miss Americana

the mental health of women and young girls since it praises one type of body over another, directly implying that to not have that body type is ugly, bad, or unhealthy. Our bodies are wonderful parts of us that allow us to do so much- they allow us to dance, to breathe, to taste amazing food, to feel sensations of nature, and so much more. However, women increasingly view their bodies in a negative way due to the prevalence of having the “ideal” body type. In order to deeply dissect this issue, first, we have to understand the history of the body standard for women, and how those ideas continue to negatively affect women today in different forms.

Women’s body types have always been a trend in the media, though they are ever-changing, contributing to unrealistic standards. For example, in the 1990s, the “heroin chic” body type was perpetuated by models and magazines; this body type included having an extremely skinny figure along with very pale and “waifish” skin. 10 years later, the “ideal” body type has changed; curves are celebrated but only if they are accommodated with a flat, toned stomach and thigh gaps. Even though the standard of women’s body types is constantly changing, there is always one continuous factor- the “standard” never includes fat bodies. Even writing the word fat, I almost want to rephrase it, however, I have learned that assuming the word “fat” in negative connotations is an example of internalized fatphobia. Fatphobia has long been a part of American culture and media. For example, the “fat, funny friend trope” is commonly seen in many TV show and movie tropes, from beloved Disney, shows like Trish from Austin and Ally and Gibby from iCarly. Another example is the “makeover” trope where the main character, usually a woman, undergoes a makeover of her looks to try and win the heart of her high school heartthrob. This trope is commonly seen in many movies and TV shows, including the main premise of Netflix’s controversial Insatiable and Monica from Friends. Even more recently, we’ve seen a ton of toxic trends on social media that perpetuate harmful body standards. On TikTok, the viral trend “What I Eat in a Day” where people would show what meals and portions of food they eat per day, toxically making other users self-conscious of their food choices, whether that was the intent of the TikTok or not. Another toxic trend was one where you would wear an oversized t-shirt, then cinch it around your body to exhibit your waist. Of course, this induced body dysmorphia in people who saw these TikTok and participated in this trend. Another way social media contributes to harmful body standards is the common use and easy access to photoshop. Many influencers and regular users on social media edit their photos before posting them. With free photo-shopping apps such as FaceTune, it takes minutes to completely alter your features on any photo. This is why social media further perpetuates unrealistic body types of women because it's extremely easy to contort the way your body looks, while still making the edits look extremely realistic.

It is important to remember that everyone’s body shape, size, and color are different, and not only is that okay, but it’s also amazing. It’s time we celebrate our bodies, regardless of whether or not they fit the “standard”. Abolishing the very notion of a “body standard” for women will take a very long time and involve some serious societal shifts. However, many women in the body positivity movement are paving the way. The Body Positivity Movement was founded in the 1960s by NAAFA (the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance) by black and brown women, though the movement was soon clouded by white activists who excluded women of color from the movement. Today, the Body Positivity movement includes a wide variety of body acceptance from skin positivity to inclusivity of all body types. Through this growing movement and our own awareness, we can de-stigmatize the trend of women’s body types.


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