The Body Image Issue
This week, we are switching things up and publishing a RANT with our 19th Issue. As always, we ask you to share this content and follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
While doing my research for this Issue, I watched a video, put together by Allure, in which an 11 year old girl said, “I just avoid looking in the mirror, because if I do then I’ll think of how I want to be. But if I don’t, I’ll just think ‘hey, this is how I am.’”
None one - no matter the age - should be afraid of looking in the mirror. We are each defined by so much more than what is shared on social media or advertised in beauty magazines. The way we look is not always a reflection of how we feel. And there is no one way to be beautiful.
On this particular topic, Catherine’s words speak for themselves.
But I will conclude with this: Her RANT is a reminder for all of us to be conscious of our words and consider more carefully how we project our own opinions - and even insecurities - upon others. There are ways to compliment someone without making assumptions about their health and minimizing their other tremendous qualities.
You are beautiful.
ADELE: A LESSON ON DISCUSSING WEIGHT LOSS - Catherine Valentine
To anyone who thinks they can give an opinion on singer Adele’s - or anyone’s - weight change:
Stop. Really -- please stop and think about whether your input is necessary.
When Adele’s recent Instagram post showcased her weight loss, thousands of people seemed to think their input was warranted. Despite the wide range of responses, the overall consensus is loud and clear: she looks great. It’s awesome and admirable that she lost weight.
It’s a nice sentiment. I think we can all agree that we’d rather see kindness on the internet than bashing. But this is Adele we are talking about… and people want to celebrate her weight loss as on par with her record-breaking musical achievements?
No matter how you slice and dice and package, society considers thinness attractive and healthy. There’s no denying the state of beauty standards, but at least our collective conscience is starting to recognize the harm those standards cause. The concept of “attractiveness” is diversifying in the media. The body positivity movement is more visible than ever on social media.
But we still have a long way to go. And we move backwards when we celebrate weight loss in the way we are Adele’s. One comment balloons into thousands that all send the same implicit messages. That becoming thin is the greatest achievement one can accomplish. That there’s no way one can be happy at a higher weight. That happiness is attained through being thin.
Not all comments echo these messages. Other responses show mourning for the loss of an overweight woman as a pop icon. I can empathize with that loss. In a world where thinnness is overrepresented in the media industry, it’s always uplifting to see a woman successfully breaking the norm and still earning vast admiration.
It’s okay to mourn that loss. Still, publicly commenting on someone’s weight, regardless of the tone, sends another implicit message: your body is not yours. Strangers have a right to an opinion on how your body looks, how it looked, and how it should look.
You want to know whose opinion matters the most? Adele’s! And what is her opinion, you might ask? Well…we don’t actually know. She hasn’t commented on her appearance. I think that fact alone should give everyone pause when considering whether to share remarks on her weight change.
I can still remember five years ago how deeply uncomfortable I felt when a woman from my church loudly commented in front of a group of people that I had lost weight. I had lost weight from stress. It wasn’t on purpose and it wasn’t something to celebrate. All around, I was the unhealthiest I had ever been, and I was embarrassed that this loose acquaintance was celebrating that.
So here I am, imagining Adele feeling the same discomfort, only it’s astronomically magnified by the number of critics, followers, journalists and fans thoughtlessly sharing their opinions on the internet, on the radio, and on TV.
Next time you think about commenting on someone’s weight change, maybe don’t. Instead, think about the billions of dollars the diet industry profits every year. Think about thin privilege. Think about unequal access to nutrition education. Think about food deserts and the cost barrier of healthy food. Think about the fact that everyone’s bodies process food differently. You can’t gauge someone’s health from looking at them.
And most important, remember that we all deserve to feel comfortable and loved in our own bodies -- exactly the way they are now.
This essay can also be found with our other RANT pieces. To view the rest of our RANTS, click here.
MORE TO THE STORY
“I just avoid looking in the mirror, because if I do then I’ll think of how I want to be. But if I don’t, I just think ‘hey, this is how I am.’” Watch Girls Ages 6-18 Talk About Body Image.
“According to Black feminist theory, the devaluation of US Black women is rooted the institution of American slavery.” Body image is a particular challenge for Black women, who also have to handle pressures inflicted by white stereotypes of hair, skin tone, and body type. Body image studies often fail to examine the differences in experience between white people and people of color. This NIH study takes a deep dive into beauty and body image among Black female college students.
Though the diet pill and meal replacement markets are still going strong, the body positivity movement of the last few years has started to cut into their profits. Read the report here.
Never heard of "thin privilege"? The BBC breaks it down in this brief article.
In this article, Food Empowerment Project describes the challenge of food deserts, how they affect communities, and what we might do about them.