“Having all the required or desirable elements, qualities, or characteristics; as good as it is possible to be.” A rather ambiguous description of what seems to be the goal of every woman in the modern world – perfection. Unfortunately, the definition doesn't provide us with the characteristics required to achieve such flawlessness. No particular skin tone is stated, no clothing type mentioned and perhaps most surprisingly in our generation, the ideal dress size isn’t described.
Ever since fashion has been a part of human life, the idealist female figure of each era has run parallel to it. Clothes are either made for, or to create the image of, the “perfect shape”. It’s undeniable the perception of perfection is every changing though. From the bustles of the 1700s to the boyish look of the 20s, women through the ages have squashed, sucked and pushed out their assets in order to become what is seen as at the time as the ideal shape.
Looking back through the changing shape of women it's clear that the idea of "perfect" is constantly shifting, but now that we lay in the 21st century with body dysmorphia at a high and the world at our fingertips, it's all to easy for women and girls to fall into a trap of body hatred. Unfortunately for my generation we've been born into a society in which publicity around what the perfect woman should and should not be is constant. In magazines, adverts and, perhaps most poignantly, online.
The Tumblr generation:
There's no denying that to many teens and young people, online social networking sites act as a second home. People are able to find solace from everyday hardships and it's easier than ever to find people with similar interests to you, even if that interest is staying thin.
The past 10 years have seen the unstoppable rise of "pro ana" (pro anorexia) blogs on tumblr and websites online. They act as meeting places for people with eating disorders in which "inspiration" is posted to keep girls on the track towards skinny. Unhealthy eating and drinking habits are promoted and girls are encouraged to exercise as much as possible in essence, without fuel. The result is millions of girls being told that it's okay to starve yourself as long as you reach the ultimate goal - to be skinny.
On less extreme scales girls often turn to thinspo. These blogs post pictures of thin women for girls to aspire towards looking like.
Unfortunately, the promotion of unhealthy habits lives beyond pro ana and thinspo. In recent years girls have been going crazy for the "thigh gap" and seem to view it as the pinnacle of perfection. Simply scrolling through twitter acts as an obstacle course of "thigh gap like this please" tweets, as well as girls lusting over the bodies of celebrities whom they wish they look like. Not only does this affect the person posting such pictures, but everybody that sees it. Even if subconsciously, it becomes forced upon the viewer that beauty comes in only one form.
There's two sides to this story:
It's all too easy to only see one side of the body loathing story, we're almost constantly told about the prejudices faced by curvy women in society today and it's undeniable that in many cases it's true. Somehow though, people seem to entirely miss the other side of things.
Some girls are naturally thin. They have smaller frames, smaller breast and smaller bums. But for some reason after years of being told that skinny people are constantly favoured, it's become apparent that sometimes it's quite the opposite. Purely due to body shape, people are branded as not being real women. Apparently, you can only be considered female if you are above a size 10 and are of a bra size C or above.
Flying through the twittersphere every day are pictures of curvy women, often captioned "bones are for dogs, meat is for men". It leads me to question the effect on the naturally slim. Despite the fact that many may envy your slight shape, others completely strip you of femininity due to it, implying that it's impossible to be thought of as sexy if you were born with a smaller frame.
High fashion is often critised for being tightly linked to the rise of eating disorders over the past decade. The frequent use of painfully skinny models on the runway, clearly unwell due to eating habits, caused outrage throughout the 2000s. It seemed as though the world was getting thinner and thinner as a result.
After such scrutiny aimed at designers and their models, it seems times may be changing. As much as high fashion is still kept within the realms of being thin, it's apparent that those acting as the faces (and bodies) of brands are getting healthier. Schemes have been put in place to abolish the use of models with eating disorders, due to the negative body image they provide.
Whether or not the images that today's most famous models post on Instagram ring true and they do in fact chow down on big macs, is entirely debatable. It's clear to see though that what the clothes industry views as perfection is changing for the better, albeit slowly.
There's no denying that the likes of Nicki Minaj and Iggy Azalea have made waves in the music industry due to their frank lyrics and catchy melodies, however both are perhaps more famous for something else - their bums! In contrast to the previously negative connotations connected to large behinds ("does my bum look big in this?") these two ladies have truly embraced their shapely butts.
The two are idolised for their bodies and, as beautiful as they both are, it's questionable whether aiming for what is clearly unattainable naturally is harming women. To have such sizable assets there are two options, either opt for expensive and rather risky surgery, or invest in some padded underwear from Primark! Neither of which seem to promote being happy in ones own skin.
On top of the blatantly unreachable standards that celebrities set, gossip magazines further amplify these ideas surrounding perfection. Every one of them seems to be speckled with new diet crazes and celeb exercise routine; of course none are healthy.
Where are we now?
With a combination of all of these factors constantly being thrown at the modern day woman, and man in fact (who often seem to be forgotten), it's a wonder that any women feel confident with their bodies. When asking people how they felt with their figures the responses were overwhelmingly similar. A few nice comments among a sea of body hatred.
Here's what was said:
“Apart from those few days each month where every girl hates their body, I'm quite happy with my figure. The thing that is constantly top on my insecurity list is my lack of female features up top. I feel that no clothes look good on a small chest and because of this, I am conscious of the fact that my shoulders and arms look bigger against my chest.” - Emily
“I love all of me except my boobs. Pregnancy taunted me with beautiful D cups but then took it all away afterwards. I love my big bum as jeans fit me well, love my collar bones and shoulders, and love my ankles. A lot of clothes just don't look right on me though because my bum is big but my front isn't!” - Katie
“I'm very comfortable [with my body] but I do have parts that I'm quite self-conscious about” - Georgia G-A
“I'm pretty okay with it, I think I love myself enough now not to want to change anything about myself physically” – Alice
“I made up a scale and on the scale I am a whale :) so not very comfortable” - Hollie
“I feel very insecure when I'm out like i don't fit in with the slim society.” – Lakeisha
“When I look at myself I think that I'm a good size and shape, but then I look at girls on Facebook and it makes me want to lose weight and wear baggy clothes. I feel like keeping up with trends and trying to dress for my shape is impossible” –Katherine
“Some days I feel relatively confident with my shape, but most days not. It depends what type of clothing you're wearing I guess, if it highlights my best features then naturally I'd feel a bit more comfortable with how I looked, but if it doesn't really work, or suit me, or I haven’t made much of an effort (eg jeans and t shirt) I feel much less comfortable within myself!” -Emma
The truth is, every single woman or girl that I spoke to is absolutely beautiful. They all posses enviable assets, but due to the nature of our current society, most have been bought up to only see the bad. There's nothing nicer than witnessing someone who's confident in their own body and it's unfortunate that so many aren't. Our bodies can do spectacular things, so why do we continue to scrutinize every inch of them for negative traits?
It's unlikely that this post will make much of a difference in the world of body image, but I hope that I can at least covey my message to some people: Beauty is more than a dress size and perfection is what you make it. Comment bellow what your favourite aspect of yourself is.
Bethany Paige X