Vv Magazine’s Azra Hirji investigates the insidious nature of body shaming…

A few weeks ago the entire Vv Magazine office was absolutely obsessing over a few models featured in the recent Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition, and I couldn’t help but think why we were all shocked to see women in their bikinis in a men’s magazine. Oh, it’s because the models featured were all a size 12 and up. Not necessarily a conventional size in the fashion industry, but most definitely closer to the nation’s average size.

“The media has inadvertently taught us to hate ourselves.”

swimsuits for all

In an era where our perception of beauty norms are standardized by the media, Huffington Post writer Amy Longworth states that the media has inadvertently taught us to hate ourselves, it has taught us to hate the way we see ourselves, and that our bodies, the colour of skin, and the texture of our hair will never live up to societal expectations. She posits that the media has taught women especially that the way we naturally look will never be beautiful — and that needs to stop. Shoutout to Kate Winslet for this interview with Harper’s Bazaar for slamming the media on how they view female celebrities and their weight, and for understanding the effect she has on the public’s perception of body shaming and the responsibility she as an actress has to promote a healthy lifestyle.

“If we go against convention and actually do genuinely love ourselves, we’re seen as over-confident.”

Take Mean Girls, for example, which has often been named the movie of the millennial generation. Rachel McAdams’ infamous Regina George compliments Lindsay Lohan’s Cady on how pretty she is. Cady, out of convention, takes the compliment and thanks Regina, who then reacts with, ‘Oh, so you think you’re really pretty?’

If we hate our bodies or find something wrong with them, we’re considered normal; body shaming has become the norm and is embedded in our blood. If we go against convention and actually do genuinely love ourselves, we’re seen as over-confident. As Longworth suggests, this self-hatred and body shaming is only prevalent within millennial generation. I, on the other hand, disagree.

History suggests that both women and men have always felt the need to better themselves in the way they look, and that the features they were born with have never been enough. Our mothers have always passed on tips from generation to generation on how to stay skinny or how to achieve beautiful skin, etc. A prime example is my grandmother, who always told me that if I regularly sat on the floor as opposed to a chair, my rear would get bigger — and not in the idolized Ms. Kardashian-West way — and that I should use a homemade facial made with lemon to keep my skin looking fair. That was her standard of beauty: a small ass and fair skin, because that’s what the Bollywood movies in her day embedded in her.

“The use of social media might be making the millennial generation the first to truly break boundaries within the beauty industry.”

My grandmother’s body was held hostage to the social norms of her day. Chatelaine and Canadian Living, magazines that all cater to an older demographic of women in Canada, constantly publish and promote articles that show their readers how to become a better version of themselves via weight loss or beauty products. Magazine covers often reel in women with headlines like ‘10 Best Weight Loss Tips’ or ‘Weight Loss Tips To Lose 5, 10, 20 Pounds.

The use of social media might be making the millennial generation the first to truly break boundaries within the beauty industry. The Internet has helped the likes of Winnie Harlow (a model with vitiligo), Tess Holliday (the first size-22 model to be signed on to a modelling agency), and Nadia Aboulhosn (one of the most famous plus-sized bloggers) to show the world that while they are not of conventional beauty standards, they are still beautiful.

Nadia Aboulhosn

“I think brands are just starting to understand the plus-size customer and what she’s looking for. Mainstream media historically played such a big part in backing the idea that plus-size women should hide in their clothes, only wear all black, and ‘cover up’, and I think the recent slow shift in acceptance by media has also opened the eyes of designers and retailers,” says Allison Teng of plus-sized blog Curvy Girl Chic

Allison Teng, Curvy Girl Chic
Allison Teng, Curvy Girl Chic

Diana Di Poce, Editor-in-Chief of Canada’s first and only magazine for plus-sized women, Dare Magazine, says, “The push for size diversity in fashion has been going on for quite some time, but the reason we’re seeing it now more than ever is due to the power of social media.”

The power of social media in this day and age is no joke. People of minority finally for the first time have a legitimate platform for their voices to be heard and to raise awareness on issues that need to be heard.

“Social media unfortunately is also a double-edged sword. Remember #fatshamingweek? That was a thing.”

“I love that more and more brands are starting to realize that plus size women want to look and feel just as amazing as straight size women. We don’t want clothes that cover, we want clothes that enhance us physically and emotionally, making us look and feel beautiful. It’s exciting to see this change happening.” says Tanesha Awasthi of Girl with Curves.

Tanesha Awasthi, Girl With Curves
Tanesha Awasthi, Girl With Curves

Social media unfortunately is also a double-edged sword. Remember #fatshamingweek? That was a thing. Fat shaming and skinny shaming are both on the same side of an awful coin. Let’s stop talking about how skinny or how fat someone is in an insulting way and start praising our bodies as well as others. What we as a whole need to do is promote a healthy lifestyle. Banning anorexic models in France is an interesting take that definitely helps educate and raise awareness of the act that not eating to get skinny is unhealthy and should not be idolized. It’s also great to finally see plus-sized women being represented at major fashion weeks. So, the next time you see one of your girlfriends, instead of saying, “Wow, you’ve lost weight” or “Maybe, you should wear something looser”, or even ‘Go eat a burger’; tell them how bloody fantastic they look. Oh, and stop calling people real women. Aboulhosn, when asked what it meant to be a real woman, answered that the term is, “Probably the dumbest shit I ever heard. All women are real women.”

What are your thoughts on body shaming, the plus-sized industry, and the role of the media? Let Vv Magazine know in the comments below or tweet us @ViewTheVibe.