In modern-age Western Cultures, weight has always been an obsession. From the days of corsets to the age of Photoshop, the concept that a woman’s body must be slender and fragile has been emphasized by almost every new fashion trend. But is a slender figure really the key to beauty and success?
In the Middle Ages, obesity was considered a sign of wealth. In a time where food was scarce and poorly distributed, a woman with surplus fat was considered attractive and healthy. This image has deteriorated over time, although some cultures, such as those of the South Pacific, still consider plumpness to be a blessing.
Throughout the Twentieth Century, body standards became more and more unobtainable. Although the fashions of the first fifty years didn’t demand a sticklike figure, they often emphasized the waistline, which was expected to be small. At the start of the 1960s, models such as Twiggy (a British teenage model remembered for her waiflike appearance) began to seep into the fashion world. Girls began to worry about their weights and appearances more, and the onslaught of 70s models only worsened this. Magazines and advertisements featured models with almost impossibly thin figures. The 80s brought the Fitness craze, which called for muscles and tones, as well as slenderness. In the nineties, models such as Kate Moss introduced the “heroin-chic” aesthetic, which promoted an emaciated and unhealthy appearance. Although this had faded by the beginning of the Twenty-First Century, the age of Photoshop introduced a whole new level of fashion deception. Anorexia rates have dramatically increased, as have those of Bulimia.
The ideal model is over 5’8” tall, and weights less than 120 lbs, with a 34” bust, 24” waist, and 34” hips. Such measurements are almost unachievable for the average girl, but are projected as practical and normal. This leads girls to believe that their natural measurements are abnormal and ugly, and try to force themselves to fit unrealistic and unhealthy standards.
Unfortunately, this “shaming” isn’t one sided. Society has begun to acknowledge the presence of Photoshop and deception, but is fighting against it in an equally unkind manner. Artists such as Meghan Trainor call attention to the trends, but she also “skinny shames” slender girls in her self-love anthem, All About that Bass. Nicki Minaj refers to “skinny bitches” in her hit song Anaconda.
Society is unable to come to consensus on female beauty. While opinions are always going to clash, Western Youth shouldn’t have to witness the battle. The media publishes Ultrathin models while pop culture advocates a happier image, but both are liable to make a group of people feel inferior and unsatisfied.
Everyone can fall prey to the media’s torture. Girls who, by every standard but their own, would be considered slender and attractive push themselves to be even more so. Plumper girls may put themselves through torturous and entirely fictitious diets in the attempt to lose weight, destroying their individuality and willpower all the while. As standards of beauty change, our youth are forced to scramble to meet them, no matter how unachievable. And until this vicious cycle ends, we can do no more than burn the magazines and hope for the best.