Negative body image is an issue that has a huge effect on our society. Whether you want to admit it or not, everyone has had negative thoughts about their body (or someone else’s) at least once in their lives. And how could you not, when every single day our idea of what a ‘perfect body’ should be is moulded by the bombardment of media that tells us that perfection looks like a sculpted model from the glossy pages of a magazine.
The other day I watched a YouTube video from Nicole Arbour called ‘Dear Fat People 2: The Second Helping’. Before you judge me for my viewing choices; no, I do not like Nicole Arbour and her hateful style of humour, but when one of her more controversial videos is released I feel compelled to watch it just to hear the nonsense she spouts.
In this particular video, Arbour’s main argument was in regards to the ‘plus sized’ model, Ashley Graham, who was recently included in an edition of Sports Illustrated. Arbour makes a point that ‘all the other models have to be in top shape, but she [Graham] doesn’t’. This right here is part of the reason why negative body image and ‘fat shaming’ are so rife in our community. Just because someone is carrying weight does not mean that they are not fit. I’m certain that Graham doesn’t sit around eating cookies all day like Arbour implies, she’s a model and as Arbour so rightly points out being a model means that you must be ‘the mecca of physical perfection’. Is it wrong, in this world where everyone is so vastly different, to think that one person’s peaks may look completely different to someone else’s? Why is it that we are all forced to conform to the same ideals when it comes to body shape?
My biggest problem here isn’t even really Arbour and the disgusting way she talks about plus-sized women, it’s with the fact that Ashley Graham is even considered ‘plus-sized’ in the first place. Graham weighs around 91kg and is a US size 16 (an Australian 20), a little above the Australian average. If we are going to start labelling the average as ‘plus-size’ then surely anyone who is below the average should be labelled ‘minus-size’. Why is there a plus size, why isn’t there just what is? In an interview with on the Ellen Show Graham said this: “Plus size starts at a size 8 and it goes up to a size 16/18. So the majority of this room is considered plus size, hope you feel better about yourself,” she joked. “That’s the problem. We’re telling women that they’re plus size. For me, I just like to call it curva-sexalicious.”
Arbour also argues that if our society is so determined to be body positive and ‘equal’ then we should have ‘a guy with a dad-bod on the cover of men’s health’. Finally, an opinion that I agree with (although probably not in the way Arbour was intending…). The stigma around body image for men is just as prevalent as it is for women, although it is certainly talked about far less. There’s an enormous pressure for men to have the ‘perfect body’. This again forces me to ask myself, how is it possible to have a standard for the ‘perfect body’? If we proliferate images of diverse bodies and stopped shaming people for their difference then we would all be a lot happier. By only allowing the public to see one idea of ‘perfection’ and acting as if everything else is wrong we are basically teaching the members of our society to hate themselves, and to strive for something that doesn’t exist. The people we see on the cover of magazines don’t really look that way. It takes 24/7 dedication and a lifelong Photoshop subscription to be able to look the way these people do.
I think one of the biggest obstacles our society has to becoming body positive is the opinions of people like Nicole Arbour who believe that there should be a ‘standard for physical perfection’, and that standard begins and ends with people who look like her. People are not perfect. Perfection is not a realistic goal, so why do we pretend it is? Why not allow people to live the way they want and be happy about it without fear of persecution from their society. At the end of the day the only person you need to answer to is yourself.