This article is about eating disorders and negative body image and may be a trigger for some readers. The Canadian Mental Health Association Crisis Line can be reached at 1-800-875-6213.
A slight panic swept the internet recently, with fashion blogs declaring that low-rise jeans and other Y2K trends were cool again. With this change in trend comes the fear that the toxic beauty standards of the early 2000s will also resurface.
First, nothing says we have to comply; we get to choose whether to wear a trend or not. However, when certain trends are closely associated with certain body types, it perpetuates the harmful idea that bodies should “fit” into clothes instead of clothes fitting bodies.
While a preference for curves may have offered some relief in recent years, in reality, “skinny” has never been “out” — at least not in the same way as “fat.”
Thinness was reinforced as the norm in everything we saw growing up. Disney princess films with tiny protagonists and big villains associate thinness with moral goodness; our childhood idols invariably occupy slim bodies.
Another problem: Men are not keeping up with the body positivity movement.
There are reasons for this problem, including the intersections between female objectification and fatphobia, and the idea that a woman’s value comes primarily from her appearance. Nonetheless, tropes like the comic relief caricature of the fat male are just as harmful to men struggling with body image.
We’ve come a long way since the last time low-rise jeans were in style, but not all body types are represented. We need to take bigger steps toward representation that doesn’t symbolize fat people or define them by their size.
For those of us without the resources of a pet plastic surgeon, body parts are not accessories to be put on and taken off as trends change. In fact, body types really shouldn’t have anything to do with clothing trends, and in no way should “trendy” fashion determine which bodies are desirable.
While much of the harmful messages are delivered to us online, we are also responsible for where we focus our attention and what we demand from our social media. The more we engage with content that idealizes thinness and obliterates other body types, the more of it we see.
The most unattainable body type at any given time often correlates with the standard of beauty to create a false sense of exclusivity and make insecurities profitable. Accepting that “thinness is back” means stepping back and ignoring the reality that thinness never went out of fashion.
Eating disorders are a health problem that we often overlook, even though it affects many of us. Promoting and minimizing an unhealthy relationship with food is unacceptable, or at least it should be.
For some reason, eating disorders were overtly promoted in a recent episode of The Kardashians which followed Kim as she underwent drastic weight loss measures to fit into a dress worn by Marilyn Monroe.
“Skinny” and “healthy” or “fit” are often mistakenly confused. Of course, we should all strive to be healthy, but that doesn’t necessarily mean looking like an Olympic athlete.
Countless people have spoken of the trauma of growing up in a time when extreme thinness was hailed as perfection, and nothing less was not enough. We should do everything in our power to avoid imposing the same toxicity on new generations.
To break the cycle of bodies going in and out of fashion along with clothes, we need to detach clothing trends from body types. It’s hard to do when the fashion and entertainment industries are built on a thin ideal, but we have to try.
—Journal Editorial Board