Picture taken: Crossfit Brit
Being thin like chopsticks is “perfect”!
The media does not promote diverse body shapes and natural beauty e.g. models are all one stick-thin size, being photoshopped to hide their aesthetic flaws, wear makeup even when they are supposed to show their natural face for facial products advertisement, or actresses looking as pretty (with their hair and makeup already done up) even when they wake up from bed in a house scene. What we see on TV is not the media is never realistic, but always “made-up”.
I know quite a few people who diet, started to skip meals, count calories, eat healthily but in lower portions (e.g. salads trend), or become entrenched in the cycle of losing weight to attain the ideal body shape. Even one piece of excess body fat can shatter the esteem of our generation of girls and women. An ironic article: McDonald’s New Kale Salad Has More Fat, Calories Than a Big Mac.
And every girl likes to ask the question: “Do I look fat? Do I look thinner now?” Wearing makeup is also seen as a necessary “formality” for women in the workforce.
It’s quite sad to see girls being self-conscious because of societal norms and media biases towards idolising a certain body shape or following a norm e.g. having a thigh gap. An interesting article: The existence of a thigh gaps depends on how one’s bone’s structure is shaped.
Other than the media, it is also people and strangers like ourselves when we make fun of people who are on the heavier side which perpetuate this issue of girls with diverse body shapes becoming overly self-conscious about their body weight. Fat people also get stereotyped as being lazy, greedy, slow etc. But many times, it could be genetic reasons which makes it twice as difficult for them to cut down to a healthier weight.
Picture: Telegraph UK
The word “fat” as a social taboo
We can all learn to be more open with the term “fat”, and not solely use it for labels or mockery purposes. Because in our current society, we are either making fun of fat people and strangers e.g. staring, eyeing, and laughing at them on the streets, or, we are very scared to even mention out the term “fat” to our peers or colleagues, out of fear that it might hurt them.
But this will only lead to a situation where we are covering up the word “fat” with a nicer word, instead of being straightforward about it. As a result – it makes it harder for the person to embrace, or even accept their body size as it is. When everyone is being “politically polite”, the intention is to protect your “fat” friends from getting hurt, but you only end up harming them instead.
Because if saying out of the word “fat” is taboo, they might perceive it as the general population’s lack of acceptance towards people who are “fat” in our society, which implies that they are “abnormal” and “out of place”. Wouldn’t it end up making them feel worse? Knowing that their peers and colleagues have to go to such extent to replace the word “fat” with nicer terms.
A relevant article to read: No, you’re not beautiful. – Lhu Wen Khai
The scrutiny of diving “fat” and “thin”
When I get commented on “you’re so thin, you always eat so much but never become fat”, it doesn’t boost my self esteem. It just conveys to me the message that my body shape happens to align to the current era, and Singapore’s women body norm of having a Ectomorph body shape.
In comparison to other girls who might not align to this body shape, I’m less likely to constantly worry about my body image e.g. feel pressured to lose weight, or have self- esteem issues about it.
Having said that, there are also many girls who to me, do not look “fat” at all, but just happen to be on the curvaceous side, or have a hourglass body. However, they themselves are insistent that they are fat. It’s hard to convince them that they are not fat, when they have already been indoctrinated (by the media and strangers) with what a “ideal body shape” looks like, and anything that deviates from that -even if slightly, is considered part of the”fat” category straightaway.
Picture: Her campus
“Ideal image norms” in different aspects
Example 1: Body shapes
E.g. Chinese girls who were fat were very attractive to guys and mother-in-laws, as it was a sign of “富” wealth) many eras back. Now, it is the opposite. Petite, thin, and small sized girls are the ideal norm.
E.g. Being slim is the ideal norm in western-like societies for many decades. But in the 1990s and currently, having muscular or toned abs, legs, and hands are also equally trendy as compared to just being slim in our modern societies.
Women come in diverse body shapes. However, this is not normalised in our media, or maybe it is only conventional in porn, nudity, or niche magazines. Thus, it’s good that more hourglass body shaped celebrities are gaining prominence e.g. Adele, Meghan Trainor, Beyonce, Mariah Carey, Kate Winslet, Tyra Banks, Reese Witherspoon, Kardashian sisters -because they are the ones that girls would find trendy and look up to, and could possibly take away the indoctrinated mindset that “thin is the most ideal body shape” for young girls, while inculcating into them that having fats and curves e.g. hips and boobs are very relevant, and not atypical body shapes.
Example 2: Different generations
Look at the actor from Stairway To Heaven vs Korean idol actors now. Both are considered handsome in their respective eras, but both types of look differ greatly.
Example 3: Cultural beauty
Africans, Europeans, red indians, Chinese, Indian, Middle eastern, Malays etc. We all look so different in terms of facial features, but there are always beautiful people in your ethnic group. This is so as beauty ideals might differ from places to cultures, but it might follow a similar guideline.
Example 4: Thick Lips
Their lips are unique (regardless if they were real or plastic), and it became hot” or “trendy” for girls to have similar lips. I remember during the Angeline Jolie lip era many years back, bee stung lip was considered very attractive. And to use a more relevant example, the Kylie Jenner lips was the “in” thing last year, but the hype has slowly gone down. She looks like a Bratz doll.
Example 5: Beauty customs and norms
E.g. Western women used to wear corsets in the European times, and Chinese women from well-off families had to bind their feet, as small feet was a beauty norm then. If you do all these now, it is deemed as weird and illogical. But the funny thing is – body modifications differ from cultures to cultures, eras to eras, with various traditional custom found in tribes all around the world. Piercing of our ear might be normal to us, but it might be illogical, or be perceived as “extreme” if we came from a society which does not have such a practice.
Most women were bound at the age of seven. “The first year is particularly excruciating because the girls were made to walk until their toes would break under their weight,”
– The last women in China with bound feet: ‘They thought it would give them a better life’ (The Guardian, 15 June 2015)
Example 6: Clothes trends
Clothing textures and cuttings that looks trendy and attractive now will most likely look outdated one decade down the road. Because trends come and go, with some coming back many decades later e.g. overalls. What is considered a “in fashion” for clothes evolves and changes rapidly.
Like ideology and social norms (* a relevant theme in my older posts), what is normal and ideal differs from era to era, country to country etc. What is ideal to us now, may be considered weird shit to people in the future. What we find very normal now, my be labelled as offbeat in the future. And all these are shaped by what we are exposed to in the media, and the norms of our environment etc. Body shape ideals also works the same way.
To give a last relevant example – Indian lead actresses have lost their earlier generation’s cute chubby navel as a result of the “flat stomach” trend being globalised around the world.
To check out our other posts on alternative issues, click HERE
Check out an interview Offbeat Perspective’s had with this handsome dude: Unique Passions (Paris Chia): Indie Boy versus Mainstream Ideals – Part II
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Written by: Cass