Generation Z has been a relentless force in the rise of conversations about issues such as eating disorders and how we can reform those issues into body positivity. As years have passed, we have become more and more conscious about traditional standards that tend to perpetuate the idea of a “perfect” body shape. Even though many people and organizations have been trying to dismantle these agendas by providing resources to patients and families on how to create a comfortable environment to promote body positivity at home, the ideals of that so-called “perfection” are still very much present in society.
The first steps against body positivity tend to start at home. Women are told from young ages that being pretty will help them thrive, they are to act feminine, and that how much they weigh will be a constant presence in their life. Diets are prevalent in our society, and boys are exposed to the idea that they must constantly be active, through the gym or sports, for girls to like them no matter their sexual orientation. Teenage girls and boys are constantly bombarded with images of celebrities who are skinny and have Eurocentric features. The message is clear: this is what success is supposed to look like. It is skinny, but not too skinny, girls, who have perfect hair and makeup, or extremely masculine boys without any hint of low self-esteem. Despite this, the past years have shown body positivity movements and campaigns that have grown, as well as efforts for more diverse model spectrums that have made strides in society. Brands have opened their catalogues to include all sizes and more diverse people as the picture of success. For example, Rihanna’s Savage X Fenty has set the bar in the lingerie and modeling industries as one of the first brands to include designs for all sizes and a wide group of diverse models and ambassadors.
Nevertheless, not all brands have taken this transition to a more body-friendly industry seriously. Some brands, like Victoria’s Secret, didn’t fully embrace this movement and even presented some models as plus size when they clearly were not, which resulted in them having to cancel a fashion show in 2019 because of low ratings. When people began complaining about how the Me Too Movement had taken things “too far” and presented “overly sensitive” ideals, they received a rational response: there was not a problem with the models themselves, since the goal is to have all body types and races represented, but with the lack of diverse sizes among them. On the other hand, some brands have jumped ship and have offered new inclusive catalogues, but it held the same weight as a company changing their logo for pride month to capitalize off of the LGBTQ+ community. It presented a market strategy more than genuine concern about the image they were promoting before and willingness to change it. An example of this can be seen in the case from some weeks ago, when a tweet trended in Spain. It called out a certain brand because the pictures in their web’s underwear section caught the person’s eye. Of course, they had plus size designs, but what was striking were the poses of the models. The “regular size” ones had “normal” poses, but the plus size ones were always covering their bodies, one way or another. Whether their arms were crossed or anything similar, their entire body was never fully visible.
Joining a movement because it is a trend and it feels “politically correct” is a recurring problem in our society. Adding only one plus size model is not diversifying a group. Adding more sizes to only certain products is not diversifying clothes. Only showing a certain type of body is not going to help teenagers feel more represented, because when they try on clothes and they don’t fit like the mannequin, they will think there is something wrong with them, and they will choose to hide their bodies. This can lead to very severe consequences and to extreme cases of body dysmorphia and eating disorders. According to ANAD, the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, at least 30 million people of all ages and genders suffer from an eating disorder in the U.S. alone. The world is bigger than this one country alone, proving that this is a large-scale but overlooked issue. Everyone has their own story. But what we see everyday on TV or social media determines the way people build their body image.
A very important note to take into account is that all representation is important because this is an intersectional matter. Declaring one type of body as the normal one creates the idea that people need to change their bodies not because they want, but because they will never be socially accepted if they don’t. If teenagers see themselves represented, if they see plus size, short, tall, disabled, Black, Asian, indigenous, etc. people as role models, they will learn that they are valid, that they don’t need to change anything because that standard of perfection that some seek is not real. Feeling comfortable with oneself, seeing a positive image when one looks in the mirror, is the definition of perfection. If no person is like the other, why would we try to reach the same point?
Bea is a rising Junior in the Autonomous University of Madrid, studying to be a teacher. Her dream job would be working for education institutions and promoting change in order to achieve a feminist education. She is specially focused on amplifying the historical women whose time silenced. She would also like to work on interculturality and inclusion in education, as she believes an educative system with those values will lead to social change. In her free time she enjoys watching TV Shows, movies, listening to music and dancing.