Bodies too, are subject to trends

There isn’t a universal standard of what is considered “beautiful” but facial-features and body-types are much like fashion and follow trends. One Instagram account will flaunt girls with curves and big bums, while another being slimmer with fewer muscles is what’s spread on their feed. 

The issue with our physical appearance being subject to ‘trends’ is that trends change. Growing up we all heard “does my bum look big in this?”, in Mean Girls Regina George was ridiculed when she put on weight on her backside, but now, because of the Kardashians, big bums are all the rage, and for many women, this is not an attainable look.

It is no doubt that social media, in particular, Instagram, has created many of these trends. In a poll on Instagram stories, out of 73 Irish men and women, 79% said that current body ‘trends’ make them feel bad about their body and 47% said that they actively try to change their body to match current trends. 77% said if they weren’t on social media they would be less self-conscious about their body and only 17% said that social media gives them more confidence in relation to their self-image.

Niamh Dunne, a third-year-student in DCU, is one of the 17% that said social media gives her more confidence, due to the type of accounts that she follows.

“I follow a lot of body positive influencers who normalize all different body types so that gives me more confidence than just looking at a magazine, which primarily has one particular body type. People like Ashley Graham or Jameela Jamils ‘iweigh’ account is all about body positivity and diversity” she said.

Jameela Jamil is a British actress and model who is also a huge activist for promoting diversity.  Her father is Indian and her mother is Pakistani. She has openly spoken out about how she grew up in a world where, the way she looked was not portrayed in the media, so, she didn’t believe she is what society considered “beautiful”. She has also spoken a lot about her eating disorder she had as a teenager, where she ate very little in order to look like the girls she saw in magazines.

Her Instagram account called ‘iweigh’ is what she describes as “a movement for us to feel valuable and see how amazing we are beyond the flesh on our bones”. On this account, she shares the stories of people from all different walks of life. She also has a YouTube channel under the same name. It was in an interview with Jameela on this channel where singer Sam Smith first publically spoke about being non-binary.

In an opinion piece for the Guardian, Charlie Brinkhurst-Cuff said that she has become more accepting of her own body shape because it has become societally desirable.

“In the past eight years, between the ages of 15 and 23, I’ve gone from painstakingly attempting to hide my large bum in oversized skater skirts to proudly celebrating a good big booty twerk” she added.

Many women feel empowered with the new trend that big bums and curves are in, however, women come in all shapes and sizes. So, advertising one body type as what is ‘in’ and beautiful will no doubt leave out a large portion of women.

“I can’t help wondering how skinny, flat-chested women, all the rage during the “heroin chic” era of the 90s, are feeling now. Are they more dissatisfied with their bodies since they moved away from being ‘ideal’” said Brinkhurst-Cuff.

“You want a body type that other people think is nice too, I was bigger as a teenager when the skinny look was in and was always trying to lose weight. Now that I have a smaller frame, muscles and bums are what people think to look good, so I put effort into trying to get that kind of body now” said 23-year-old student Emer McGettrick, when asked if current trends define her ideal body.

Social media has brought with it the power to showcase a mountain of diversity, and it has. There are some wonderful accounts on Instagram, like Jameela Jamils, which promotes diversity and body-confidence. However, perhaps it is human nature to follow the accounts of the rich and beautiful and lust after what they have. Perhaps, it is human nature to compare ourselves to unrealistic standards set by society. Perhaps, it is human nature to strive for something that is so unattainable, so that the journey never ends.

However, it is so important to remember that beauty can be so many different things, and shouldn’t be put under an umbrella of a small number of things.

Ciara O’Loughlin

Image credit: Duesoon.com