There’s an annoying trend on my Facebook newsfeed lately, and it has nothing to do with Castletown or Café World. I’m talking about body snarking, or picking apart and insulting a person’s physical appearance. The subject of body snarking is almost always female, and lately I’ve seen models as the main targets. It usually starts out the same way: a person on my friends list posts a photo of a thin model and writes something along the lines of, “Gross! Look at how skinny this girl is. Hey guys, what do you think – hot or not?” A thread of comments usually follows, chock full of “Give me a REAL WOMAN any day!” and “Well, I like her arms but her ribs are showing – ew!” and the ever-popular “She needs to eat a cheeseburger.” And a golden opportunity to open up a dialogue about the need for more diversity in modeling floats away. I’d like to propose a simple solution to all of this nitpicking: quit it. It’s not cool to pick apart a woman’s appearance, no matter her body type.
Picture perfect? Far from it
Don’t get me wrong: the fashion industry definitely leaves a lot to be desired in terms of representing diverse body types. Every day, we are bombarded with advertisements focused on a very narrow definition of beauty. The skinny body is held up as ideal, and women are encouraged to try to live up to this image. We’re encouraged to buy certain clothes, eat certain foods (or not to eat), exercise like fiends. Maybe if we just work hard enough we can live up to the photographs we see every day. Many times, the photos are so warped that they don’t portray an actual person at all.
All of these facts are important to discuss, but they get lost amidst the “Hot or not?” posts. The focus is shifted from engaging in a debate about the harmful effects of advertising to an insult free-for-all. The nasty body snarking takes away from the critical issue at hand, which affects all of us. The fashion industry as a whole needs to be more diverse in every way. However, the problem won’t be solved by polling your friends on whether or not they’d sleep with a particular model.
Here’s the skinny
Most of the “discussions” on these posts are extremely problematic. There’s usually a lot of speculation about the health of the model pictured, and accusations of an eating disorder are thrown around. While it’s true that many fashion models suffer from eating disorders, not every thin model is anorexic. And contrary to popular belief, it’s not easy, nor is it okay, to declare a model unhealthy just by looking at her. Like the Health at Every Size (HAES) movement suggests that being healthy depends on one’s well-being and not on his or her pants size.
Body snarking is damaging no matter the body type. Insisting that a thin woman is not “real” is holding her up to an ideal that she may or may not be able to attain (sound familiar?) and suggesting that her small stature makes her inferior. It’s true that the fashion industry presents us with thin body after thin body, but that doesn’t mean we should work to tear them down. Women come in all shapes and sizes, and it’s important to embrace that. We need to start embracing EVERY size. Like I said, it is extremely important to open up a dialogue about the lack of diversity in advertising – but the “Do you think she’s hot?” posts are not the way to do it.