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Our Bodies

  Bright neon light with the text You Are Enough written.
Photo by Felicia Buitenwerf on Unsplash

From the moment we’re born we’re thrust into a world of expectations and influences. Ideas about an unattainable self are pushed onto us. Family, friends and society point out issues with our bodies and praise what we don’t have, making us desire the so-called “perfect body”.

We know that girls are bombarded by the negative effects of the ideal body, constantly having a new standard to meet but we shouldn’t forget boys also face the same turmoil — expected to be big, tall and muscular, facing the fear of being skinny or fat-shamed if not. Men are often forgotten when it comes to the topic of body image and self-esteem. They are just as likely as women to develop body dysphoria and other mental disorders.

The media has created and continues to maintain the expectation that everyone must adhere to one body, one size, one look, setting the precedent for the ideal body. This is further exacerbated by social media through the illusion of filters and face-tune, particularly used by influencers and celebrities. The human body has become an item, a trend, putting one on a pedestal whilst abandoning all others. Once you attain the perfect body a new one will come along and you’ll have to change again to fit that.

The Negative Influence of Celebrities

Celebrities such as the Kardashians further fuel the harm as they are the blueprint for new trends, encouraging it through plastic surgery and promoting themselves to be natural until held accountable. Kylie Jenner had claimed the size of her lips through the act of lip-lining and lipstick as a means to promote her make-up brand when she had surgery done, paving the way for the trend of big lips. In an attempt by those who idealised her, teenage girls would participate in what is known as the Kylie Jenner lip challenge by inserting their lips into a glass bottle and sucking out the air to attain pouty lips. This challenge was dangerous as:

The suction causes blood and other chemicals to rush to your lips, engorging the tiny blood vessels. If the suction is done for too long, it can burst these blood vessels, causing permanent damage, or even clots.

Even though celebrities like Kylie Jenner should and must be held accountable for their negative influence over young girls, Kylie Jenner, like these girls, was a victim of the media and body shaming from a young age. This prompted her to get work done, reinforcing this harmful cycle of the perfect body. A cycle we as a collective must break.

Whilst Kylie helped fuel the trend of big, pouty lips, she wasn’t the one who started it. Angelina Jolie and Julia Roberts are two who leaned into the trend before her, mind you all white women. Black women who tend to have them naturally were shamed for the size of their lips with links to centuries of racism and horrible caricatures. This shows how beauty trends aren’t friendly to those outside of the European realms until a white person endorses them.

Similar to this is the fox eye trend which culturally appropriates Asian features through the use of make-up or surgery to make one's eyes appear slanted. Where white celebrities such as Kendall Jenner and Meghan Fox are idolised for these features, Asians are subjected to racism, their ‘slanted’ eyes being the subject of most insults.

The wave of sinophobia during the pandemic (due to the false belief that Chinese people are responsible for the coronavirus) shows that this racist view is still at large as the Asian community were being targeted, lives sadly lost, as all those with ‘slanted’ eyes were indicated to be Chinese, another racist notion that refuses to see the Asian community as a collection of different cultures and countries.

What is even more ironic is whilst over in the west ethnic features are being commercialised, over in more Eastern countries, western features are idolised, lightening their skin and undergoing surgery for their eyes to be more western looking, a part of this due to the large lasting effects of colonialism.

Turning Insecurities Into Trends

Ethnic features aren’t the only thing to be turned into beauty trends but what were once insecurities have been making a rise as the new trends. People with perfect eyesight are wearing fake glasses, some even going as far as to lie to their optician about their sight whereas those who naturally need glasses were subjected to bullying and called ‘four eyes’ as an insult.

Freckles are also another example of a feature that those who naturally have were bullied relentlessly for but are the new craze with people creating fake freckles through make-up or semi-permanent tattoos.

You might think that this is a good thing, however, that isn’t the case. While yes we should normalise all features and bodies we shouldn’t commodify the human body as a fashion accessory. This only adds to the issue as everyone feels they need to match the trends instead of embracing who they are, becoming obsessive over what's currently in. Whilst there’s nothing wrong with make-up or getting cosmetic surgery done if that’s what truly makes you happy and you're not harming yourself. We need to learn to appreciate all body types for what they are without needing to morph ourselves and conform to a standard that will just change all over again.

We must acknowledge the constant shift in trends. We’re made to be different, unique, to stand out. You shouldn’t feel the need to lose weight or put on weight. You shouldn’t feel the need to change the shape of your eyes or the tone of your skin. You shouldn’t feel that your self-worth is determined by the way you look. You’re enough just the way you are. You don’t need to change a single thing about yourself. You’re enough.


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