Body shaming in the fashion and entertainment industry

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Feature Articles, Health & Welfare, Psychology, Social & Youth development,

The criticism of one’s physical shape, known as “body shaming,” is prominent among those in the fashion and entertainment world. In a world where almost everything is posted online, body shaming becomes a norm as time goes on. This form of bullying can result in emotional and psychological effects as well as the possibility of disastrous results. The following information focuses on body shaming and how its aspects can be toxic for oneself and society.

Body shaming in fashion and entertainment: What is body shaming and how does it work?

Body shaming fashion entertainment: Example of body shaming through cyberbullying on social media. Photo Credit: Facebook.
Example of body shaming through cyberbullying on social media. Photo Credit: Facebook.

Body shaming is “the act or practice of subjecting someone to criticism or mockery for supposed bodily faults or imperfections,” defined by Merriam-Webster. Such remarks are made to someone’s face, behind their backs, or through social media comments and posts. While it mainly pertains to obesity, those considered too skinny are also victims of such an act of bullying. Besides criticizing others, body shaming can also pertain to criticizing the body image of oneself.

Statistically, approximately 94 percent of teen girls have been body shamed, in comparison to 65 percent of teen boys. Body shaming could negatively affect mental health towards teens during a time where they are growing up and figuring themselves out. This is equally bad in situations where bullying is prevalent for various reasons.

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Maintaining physical appearance to avoid body shaming for those in fashion and entertainment

Body shaming in the fashion and entertainment industry: A runway model is shown on a catwalk. Photo Credit: Stock.
A runway model is shown on a catwalk. Photo Credit: Stock.

In a world where “glitz and glamour” is preached, keeping up with appearance is key. While the term “looks don’t matter” may make some sense in some cases for most people, it doesn’t apply to the rich and famous. In Hollywood, looks are important. Models and celebrities are told to constantly maintain a good figure to succeed and find work within the industry. In addition, the definitions of “fat” and “obese” differ in the fame capital of the world, compared to the real world. Once a celebrity gains five to ten pounds, people are quick to criticize and tell them to drop some.

In the modelling world, the goal of becoming a size zero is not an uncommon or new tale. It is the lowest of women’s sizing, though some fashion brands find it appealing even though it may be considered underweight. In recent years, however, many such as Versace and Prada have refused to hire size zero models to avoid the fashion world’s negative consumptions. Body types in the media have been shown to portray a stick thin image as perfection while frowning upon the opposite figure. The average person doesn’t look like what you see in advertisements and magazines.

In the 1990s, the “heroin chic” trend became a fad for a short period of time. Models often looked thin and almost sick in photoshoots. The fad eventually came to an end possibly due to fashion photographer Davide Sorrenti’s 1997 death from an overdose. Some famous people believed to be “too thin” are sometimes accused of using drugs to lose weight.

News reports of body shaming of those in fashion and entertainment

Body shaming in the fashion and entertainment industry: Tabloid magazines pointing out the weight of celebrities. Photo Credits: Star Magazine and Who Magazine.
Tabloid magazines pointing out the weight of celebrities. Photo Credits: Star Magazine and Who Magazine.

\It’s nothing new of tabloid magazines to have covers pointing out the weights of celebrities and other public figures. In the photos above, one magazine showcases celebrities considered to be “getting fat,” while the other displays celebrities considered “too skinny,” apparently taking extreme weight loss practices. Even in their personal lives away from the movie and photography studios, celebrities are always on camera, often followed by paparazzi while in public. They can instantly make headlines simply for a small aspect of their physical appearance. While it may have been easy to ignore and forget back then, the rise of social media creates the opportunity for body shaming and cyberbullying.

Many celebrities, such as Gigi Hadid and Jennifer Aniston, have called out tabloids and critics for their body shaming. Singers Adele and Lizzo have encouraged fans to be comfortable in their own skin, teaching self-love. Some celebrities have even called out media outlets to accuse them of editing photos to adjust their figures as bigger or smaller.

“They distort my body and mess with the image and it’s embarrassing,” singer Britney Spears said in a since-deleted Instagram post. “I know my body is not perfect but I definitely do not look like how they portray me.”

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Psychological impacts: low self-esteem and body dysmorphia

Animated example of body dysmorphic disorder, where a thin male sees himself as obese. Photo Credit: Scientific Animations.
Animated example of body dysmorphic disorder, where a thin male sees himself as obese. Photo Credit: Scientific Animations.

Body shaming can take an emotional and psychological toll on a person in various ways. Low self-esteem is one of the several factors, as it can make people feel negatively about their physical appearance overall. This leads to their insecurities develop or worsen, as well as symptoms of depression and anxiety.

The low feelings of one’s body image can lead to a specific mental health disorder: body dysmorphic disorder (also known as “body dysmorphia”). Mayo Clinic classifies the disorder’s behaviour as one who “can’t stop thinking about one or more perceived defects or flaws in your appearance — a flaw that appears minor or can’t be seen by others.” It is common for those suffering from body dysmorphia to develop an obsession with weight loss, aside from the belief of being “too fat,” even though neither may be the actual case. The disorder affects approximately 1.7 to 2.4 percent of the U.S. general population, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA).

Psychological impacts: Eating disorders

Singers Nicole Scherzinger and Demi Lovato have opened up about their eating disorder struggles. Photo Credit: Getty Images.
Singers Nicole Scherzinger and Demi Lovato have opened up about their eating disorder struggles. Photo Credit: Getty Images.

Eating disorders are not an uncommon result of body shaming. The two common eating disorders are anorexia nervosa (going to lengths of extreme dieting and weight loss) and bulimia (extreme exercise and gagging to force vomiting post-binge eating), according to Healthline. Based on data from the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD), approximately 9 percent of Americans (equating to almost 28.8 million) suffer from an eating disorder in their lifetime. The organization, dedicated to helping those with eating disorders and other issues relating to body image, also estimates over 10,000 U.S. deaths per year are from eating disorders.

Various celebrities have opened up about their battles with eating disorders. These include various names such as Paula Abdul, Jane Fonda, Kesha, Elton John, Demi Lovato and Lady Gaga. Nicole Scherzinger (pictured) has spoken of her struggle with bulimia in an episode of VH1’s ‘Behind the Music,’ stating it lasted years, though worsened during the height of her fame as the lead singer of the Pussycat Dolls. Celebrities revealing these kinds of struggles can encourage those suffering to not feel alone and seek help. It goes to show even the rich and famous deal with their own hardships, and that everything in their lives isn’t as lavish as they look.

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The issue of colorism

As time has gone on, discussions surrounding racial discrimination are increasingly prevalent. Throughout the years, the definition of “American Beauty” is typically based on women with a specific skin tone. Within the African-American community itself, studies show many African American women are less likely to have insecurities with their body image compared to Anglo-American women. However, this can change once in a white-majority environment, or even in an environment with other races. While skin color itself may not have an actual meaning, society has given it meaning as a way to be oppressive towards those of darker skin tones.

There are definitely double standards when it comes to race in a variety of circumstances. This refers to not taking an issue with the actions of someone in the majority (white people) while taking an issue with a minority who partakes in the same action. The prevalence of this issue becomes problematic as it creates negative perceptions or stereotypes of other races. Nevertheless, with the help of younger generations, hopefully, the issue of colorism will no longer be an issue.

Body shaming fashion entertainment: Where do we go from here?

Self-love is key to getting through the criticism and ridicule many people face. Make the goal of choosing to embrace oneself and love the skin you’re in. It may not be easy, but it is possible. In the digital age where everyone is on social media, it may be best to unfollow accounts that may influence body image triggers. Follow accounts that encourage the acts of self-love, positivity, and embracement. Become aware that a lot of people do not have the so-called perfect bodies seen in advertisements and other media. The average person is not stick thin, therefore you don’t have to be that way.

As cliché as it may sound, “ignore the haters” would be another way to deal with body-shaming comments. If a negative opinion directed at you comes from someone who doesn’t matter, their comments shouldn’t matter either. Again, the practice of avoiding others’ opinions is challenging, but it is possible. Find people to inspire you rather than make you believe something isn’t right with you. Surround yourself with those who also wish to practice and preach the idea of self-love and self-acceptance.

Open discussions of the topics surrounding body image are beneficial for youth, in contrast to avoidance. Education surrounding negative effects can create learning opportunities to avoid judging others by appearance. Discussing these matters can be efficient in changing and avoiding shaming behaviours.

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How you can find help and guidance through body struggles

Never be afraid to ask for help and seek counselling. You are not alone in your situation, as there are many who also deal with similar battles. When related to body image issues, it can be beneficial for improving physical and mental health. If you or someone you know is struggling with body image-related disorders, here are a few organizations in which you can seek help:

Headline photo courtesy of Stock.

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Tags: body shame, body shaming, colorism, cyber bullying, eating disorders, Entertainment, Fashion, Mental Health, modeling, Psychology,


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