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Female Body Positivity

We need to talk about body image.

In a world obsessed with women’s bodies, we are bombarded with images of them, usually undressed, often in dehumanised pieces, at every turn. But though we see women’s bodies everywhere, it’s only really one body that we’re seeing, over and over again. Usually a young, thin, white, toned, large-breasted, long-legged, non-disabled body.

Funnily enough, that’s not what most women’s bodies look like. But the airbrushed media ideal is so powerful and so omnipresent that women find themselves comparing their own bodies to it anyway, and finding themselves wanting. The results are devastating. A preoccupation with body image affects women throughout their lives, not just in their youth. It holds women back by eroding their confidence both at work and socially.

Unrealistic media ideals of female beauty have spawned a multitude of ‘body confidence’ campaigns, but many, like the Sun’s recently launched No More Skinny, only seem to want to shift us from coveting one ideal to another. Such as Marilyn Monroe, famously a sex symbol, and foregrounding the issue in women’s attractiveness, the message once again seems to be about women adjusting their body shape to appeal to men’s desire. Not to mention the fact that a curvaceous shape like Monroe’s is just as unattainable for many women as a very thin physique. It misses the point entirely.

The media claims No more Skinny but then has links to the ‘Lose 7lbs in 7 days’, Bianca Gascoigne: “I lost a stone in six weeks on the No-Diet Diet”.

Confused? I am. It’s hardly ‘empowering’ to encourage women to eschew thinness in a media outlet presenting reams of methods offering to help them lose weight. But the deeper point here is that trying to shift the ideal body shape shouldn’t be the ultimate aim anyway – we need to stop judging people by their looks in the first place.

Worries about body image impact on both men and women – the BSA survey found that only three quarters of men are satisfied with their appearance. But while it is true that we are all bombarded with idealistic images of bodies to aspire to, there is a marked difference in the scale and context of the problem. The multitude of front pages showing women who are generally not models partially or fully nude – in articles not related to underwear – while their male colleagues remain fully clothed. The coverage of female politician’s legs and fashion choices compared to men’s voting records and credentials.

This insistence on valuing and judging women’s bodies first and their careers or personalities second is insidious and powerful. In a world that holds up ridiculous and unrealistic standards as ideal, it means they are always doomed to fall short.

Telling us curvy is better, or patronising us by suggesting we are our own worst body critics and should magically ‘snap out of it’, isn’t going to help. Women will stop worrying about their looks when society stops telling us that they’re all we’re worth. Let’s focus on that first.

Here at The Journey we value the person not their body. At The Journey there is no ideal or perfect body shape, just regular people learning to appreciate their own body and all the amazing things it can do.