Skip to main content

14th May 2015

Creatures of all shapes and sizes

Sadie Hill combats the media’s representation of size and promotes the importance of body positivity

Over the past few months, ‘plus-size’ models, women whose dress size is over a UK size twelve, have received widespread media attention. The debate surrounding the acceptance of fat women has produced features everywhere from Hello, Grazia and Vogue to Channel Four, which recently aired a documentary following ‘plus-size’ bloggers and models and heard about their experiences surrounding the topic.

This body positivity movement is aiming to push forward the message that women of all shapes and sizes should be represented in the media, with the hope that this will lead to more women accepting their appearance and eventually widen societies perspective on what is stereotypically ‘beautiful’. In particular, it aims to erode the negativity that surrounds the word ‘fat’ and to lead women to see that beauty comes in many different shapes and sizes, proving that it is possible to be both ‘gorgeous’ and ‘fat’.

However, adjacent to the increasing representation of larger women in the media, there has also been the argument that these women are somehow endorsing obesity and bad health. Loose Women asked on Facebook: ‘TRENDY CLOTHES FOR OBESE GIRLS…A GOOD IDEA OR A WORRYING NEW TREND?’ This argument, or ‘worry’ as they phrase it, is unhelpful for an array of reasons.

We are all bombarded on a daily basis with photos, videos and adverts in which the vast majority of women featured have qualities that are unobtainable to a great amount of us: super skinny girls with big boobs, big bums, long legs, perfect skin, shiny hair, big lips and perfect cheekbones. By now, most of us are aware of the problems that have arisen within society from the use of models who have these qualities, problems ranging from anorexia and body dysmorphia to anxiety and even suicide. The 2014 British Social Attitudes survey revealed that only 63% of women aged 18-34 and 57% of women aged 35-49 are satisfied with their appearance. The media’s representation of women has a lot to do with these figures.

However, it is not the use of slim women to advertise products that is the problem. The problems have arisen because the only women we see within the media are slim models or models who only look a certain way. We must realise that in order for more women to be happy with their bodies, a wider variety of body types need to be shown more positively in the public eye and, furthermore, skinny women should not be blamed for the problem. They are not the cause, many women are naturally very slim and ‘skinny shamming’ will only do as much good as fat shamming, that is to say, no good at all.

The use of a wider array of models is something to be grateful for! Women are seeing the likes of Tess Holliday, a woman who has simultaneously taken both the modelling and social media worlds by storm. People have begun to realise that if someone of her shape and size (UK 22) can be so happy, confident and full of life, there is no reason as to why they can’t either. Seeing your body positively, regardless of size or health, is a good thing. Through learning to admire your body and appreciate it for what it is, the organism that allows you to live and enjoy life, you will be able to look after and care for it. This movement is asking women to accept their size, regardless of all the information they face on a daily basis telling them to be ashamed or embarrassed if they don’t look a particular way, and then asses whether they feel good that way or not. Acceptance of your body image is key to a positive outlook, once you have accepted the way you look then you can build on health and happiness.

The recent advert produced by Protein World that depicted a slim and toned model and the phrase ‘Are You Beach Body Ready?’ next to a product designed to make the user slim down and tone up caused uproar across London last week. The advert, which appeared to tell women that you aren’t fit for the beach unless you look this particular way was attacked and vandalised, and rightly so. The irritation at the constant policing of our bodies by the media and advertisers alike shows the need and want for women like Tess and other bloggers to keep pushing the boundaries of what we are told is acceptable.

These beautiful women are putting themselves out there… out into the intimidating, fat-phobic, judgmental world that we live in and regardless of the backlash, they are happy. If these women are happy and trying their hardest to push this positivity onto the women of the world then why try and stop them? Ten million women across our country feel depressed due to the way they feel about their bodies. Women all around you, your mothers, sisters, daughters and even granddaughters are constantly worried about this issue, one that at it’s core does not affect anything or anyone bigger than that persons own mind. Supporting the body positivity trend means endorsing an outcome that will hopefully lead to better mental health across a wide spectrum of women’s lives. The inclusion of a wider array of women’s body shapes across the media is only doing good things for the women of the world. Lets keep expanding societies outlook and continue to push the boundaries of what society deems it acceptable for women to look like. In the words of Tess Holliday, to the media and society as a whole, eff your beauty standards, women of all shapes and sizes are beautiful and they’re going to make sure that you know it.

Tess Holliday, founder of the #effyourbeautystandards Instagram trend. Photo: Tabitha Kidd @Pinterest

More Coverage

Three years at university: What have I learnt?

As the academic year draws to a close, here are some of the more unexpected lessons I have learnt from three years at Manchester University

How do we tackle the student loneliness crisis?

At a university where 45,000 students cross paths every day, it should be impossible to feel lonely

Keeping on top of the news cycle: How to stay up to date as a student

Being a student can mean an incredibly busy schedule, so how can you make time to find out what’s happening in the world?

Houseplant heaven: The best plants to brighten up your student home

With the RHS Urban Show coming to Manchester, we’ve found some of the best houseplants to enhance your student accommodation