How Is the Fashion Industry Affecting Your Body?

Fashion, Opinion

https://i-d.vice.com/en_gb/article/how-the-fashion-industry-affects-the-bodies-of-young-women

As I was reading this fantastic article, taken from the 1993 Beauty Issue of I-D magazine, I couldn’t help, not only completely agreeing with everything Avril Mair says, but also finding that many of the issues are still of extreme prominence today. I find myself asking the question, has anything actually changed?

I mean, apart form the obvious differences, the increase in statistics of Eating Disorder sufferers, and the celebrities who we are choosing to idolise, the basic principles remain the same.

“A woman’s experience of her own body arises from how she believes it compares with the magnified images of women that surround her on billboards, on television, in films, magazines and newspapers.”

“A consumer society in which women’s bodies are used to sell products while being presented as the ultimate commodity creates all sorts of body image problems.”

These quotes, taken from the original article, seem obvious, common knowledge to us today, but yet that doesn’t make them any less accurate. Even though the issue of the negative body image caused by the media has been recognised and addressed in recent years, making us aware of what we are being sucked into when we open up a magazine or switch on the TV, this realistically hasn’t changed a thing. Consumerism is all around us, in the digital world we live in, it is impossible to avoid and impossible to live without. Just because as a society we are aware that the media can have a negative effect on body image does not stop it from happening, or even help us recognise when it is.

“No matter how many ‘feminist’ features magazines may run, body fascism is reinforced by the advertisements, the fashion stories and the beauty pages”

The truth is, women’s magazines are still full of diet tips and the latest fat-busting work-outs, they are still full of photographs of celebrities looking their “flabbiest” at a size 10. The models filling the fashion pages are still painfully thin, they might not be size zero anymore but they are certainly not the same size as you or me. Yet even though we are now more informed, more aware, and we know it’s all an unrealistic expectation, we can’t help ourselves but be sucked in. Because it’s consumerism, and at the end of the day we are consumers.

Today, the diet industry is still without doubt, one of the fastest growing industries in the world and we still face the problem that almost half of British females are on a diet at any one time, yet most of these are not obese or even over-weight. The UK diet industry is worth £2 Billion, yet as a nation we are still only growing fatter.

As for the men, it goes without saying that the affect the media has on male body image has certainly not improved. Men suffering with eating disorders is still something which is rarely discussed, viewed as shameful and not masculine, but the same time it is a problem which is only expanding. The worrying thing is, we can have no real idea of the scale due to the only small numbers of men who feel comfortable enough to speak out and seek help.

21 years on from when this article was written, I am struggling to recognise any major developments in the effect the media has on our body image, in fact, this piece could of been written today were it not for the few differences.

If anything, I fear the media has only become more obsessed with our bodies and how we should look, whether it be “too fat” “too thin” “plus-size” or “anorexic” the media is constantly comparing, judging and sending out subliminal messages to its audience, and now with the power of digital and social media, it is almost unstoppable.

Avril Mair was right, enough was enough a long time ago.

 

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“If Not You, Who? If Not Now, When?” #HeForShe

Features, News, Opinion

I didn’t know what to expect when I clicked play on the video of Emma Watson’s U.N speech, which is now rapidly overtaking social media. Until coming across this video, I doubt many of us even knew that she was a U.N Women Goodwill Ambassador, and now her “game-changing” speech has sparked global passion, causing a remarkable stir across the internet and getting people rooting for feminism.

Watson’s speech signifies the launch of the #HeForShe campaign, which aims to get one billion men on board, as advocates, for equal rights for women globally. The campaign is taking a refreshingly different approach to other women’s rights campaigns, by directing itself at men, rather than just focusing on women. The speech highlights how equal rights effect males too, for instance, not having to suffer mental health problems in silence, being able to talk openly and being able to show vulnerability.

Watson goes on to say what we are all thinking, making light of herself, the “Harry Potter girl” who might not have been taken seriously to begin with, but within a few minutes of speaking, has captivated her audience. She is no longer the school girl with the magic wand, she i a strong, influential woman standing up and speaking about something that she truly believes in.

Perhaps what I find most significant in Watson’s speech is how she talks about the actual word “feminism,” recognising and clarifying today’s common misconceptions.

“I decided that I was a feminist. This seemed uncomplicated to me. But my recent research has shown me that feminism has become an unpopular word. Women are choosing not to identify as feminists.”

Unfortunately, I also find this to be true. Women can often be ashamed to be thought of as feminists because it would mean they were too aggressive, too strong and of course, too man-hating. Why is it that feminism has become something to shy away from? How can an idea that men and women should be equal be seen as something negative?

The truth is many people can’t shift the idea that feminism simply means “anti-men.” Even though most people are informed enough to know that this couldn’t be further from the truth, it is a stigma which seems to be sticking around. I know young women who would never admit to being a feminist, particularly in front of men, for fear of being mocked or causing outrage, but what is so outrageous about an idea, a movement, where everyone in the world has equal rights?

If the young women of today cannot call themselves feminists and do not believe in this idea then what hope do campaigns such as #HeForShe actually have? This is but one of the reasons why Watson’s speech holds such importance and has made such a far-reaching impact.

If everyone – male and female – who watches the speech, while scrolling through Twitter, thinks for a second about what feminism actually means, not just for women, but for everyone, and not just for today, but for the long-term, then Watson’s speech has made a difference.

Too often we think to ourselves,”Who am I to talk about that?” “Who am I to make any difference?” Well, who was Emma Watson? She’s the girl who asked herself and us,

“If not you, who? If not now, when?”

“Are you really going to eat that?”

Food, News, Opinion

“Are you really going to eat that?”

“A moment on the lips, a lifetime on the hips”

“Haven’t you got a dress to fit into?”

These are just a few comments which, if aimed at me just as I was about to tuck into my sandwich at lunch, would make me feel sick to my stomach. As someone who hates eating in front of strangers at the best of times, I struggle with any comments made towards my food, even the most seemingly harmless. “Are you really going to eat that?” My most abhorred question, fills me with shame and beckons the answer, “No, I won’t be eating it now, because you’ve made me feel incredibly self-conscious and insecure.”

When a woman sent a tweet last week to the Everyday Sexism Twitter page outlining her experience where a stranger told her not to buy chips in the supermarket because she was “too beautiful to eat them,” it commenced a cascade of replies from other women with similar experiences. It seems that total strangers (usually men in this instance) making negative comments on what women eat is an every day occurrence.

These are a few of my personal favourites:

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Of course this is everyday sexism at its finest, women’s bodies being viewed as public property, fair game for any man to comment on as he pleases. Obviously, before any morsel crosses a women’s lips she must first think about how this will effect her figure and therefore how attractive she is to the male population, because the only reason she would want to look good is for men, right?

Helena Christensen was recently photographed by the Daily Mail for eating a sandwich at lunch, the headline “Not a Model Meal.” The paper then went on to make comments such as “…better be careful with her eating habits in the future…she could end up losing those 35-24-35 that have made her the toast of men everywhere.” Are these people for real? She ate a sandwich.

As well as the obvious issues of sexism displayed in these women’s encounters, there’s the factors of self-esteem and body image, judgements like these can hurt more than a woman’s pride. I know from personal experience – and I’m sure even the most self-assured woman would agree – just how unsettling it can be to hear the words “Should you really be eating that?” or the alike, uttered just as you pick up your fork. It can instantly damage a woman’s confidence, fill her with shame and in some cases, can trigger eating disorders. It may seem extreme, but to someone who is recovering or even recovered from an eating disorder, one negative comment can spark up those overwhelming voices which she has battled so hard to keep at bay.

The message here is quite simple – mind your own business. Women do eat meals. Eating a sandwich for lunch is not “gorging” or “feasting,” it is normal. Men who wish to comment on what women eat really ought to keep their opinions to themselves.