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Advertising and the Problem of Body Shaming

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Body shaming is defined by bodyshaming.org as being “inappropriate, negative statements and attitudes toward another person’s weight or size.” It is a form of bullying and, as well as being humiliating, it can lead to short and long term psychological and health related issues. Body shaming occurs in three main ways, criticising yourself, criticising someone else in front of them, and criticising someone else behind their back.

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When seeing celebrities and models who are thought to have “perfect bodies”, individuals start to become critical of their own bodies and succumb to the pressure of living up to somewhat unrealistic standards.

Today’s generation does not see anything wrong in “expressing their opinions,” regardless of the fact that these very opinions can actually hurt someone. More than one-third of the young girls today are scared of becoming ‘fat,’ and therefore engage in crash dieting, or binge eating. It has also been seen that girls as young as 10 years old are worried about the way they look and their ‘size’! Those who clearly intend to hurt, will never stop targeting the body image with unsavory comments, but what we need to understand here is that nobody chooses the body they have, especially an unfit body.

Advertisements and action movies, where the primary target audience is assumed to be male, tend to combine hyper masculine attributes with sexual conquest, sending a message to even very young boys that this is what their body’s worth is built on. To put it more bluntly, body image promulgates the idea that female sexuality is passive and male sexuality is active. Moreover, it is only heterosexual body images being served up to the general public, which already has a skewed understanding of desire (need I say anything about various sexualities, consent, non-procreative or pre-marital sex?) Proper sex and sexuality education has the potential to establish the link between body image and sexuality and also pave the way for respectful and inclusive body politics.

Now, the trouble is not with hemlines and cleavage-show, or low-rise jeans that bracket six-packs. It isn’t even about morality or shame, because everyone has a right to wear what they please. The trouble is that when you Google search “bikini models”, or “men’s suit”, or “plus size bras”, you get the same body type right down to the last scroll. The problem here is the invisibility.

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