Because Body Diversity Is Something To Be Celebrated, Not Standardised!

Posted on June 1, 2015 in Body Image, Media, Taboos

By Shambhavi Saxena

Not all activities are tailored keeping different body types or bodies in mind – to illustrate, a certain activist outfit I have known did not think to create activities that were inclusive for the elderly, the differently abled, women, or particular body types. Not enough visual productions think to write bodies of certain races or orientations, leave alone bodies of different abilities, sizes and appearances. Forget about luxury brands, even clothes manufacturers and popular stores seem to think humans do not come in sizes below or above those that they make and stock. Why else would Myntra choose a slim fair-skinned actor for their “Appreciate Yourself Sale“?

Afsaneh Najmabadi notes the cultural impact Eurocentric beauty standards had on Iran, replacing the focus on male love and male beauty with “heteronormalization of love and the feminization of beauty” (Women with Mustaches, Men with Beards, 2005). These same standards have driven women in Asian and African cultures to eating disorders, and plastic surgeries. Referring to Asian women undergoing eyelid surgery to look ‘more Western’, Martin Wong said: “Ultimately it’s … a form of cultural imperialism.

Acculturation is a major factor influencing the homogenization of bodies, more so in visual media, and may be seen as “an incredibly unconscious form of structural violence“. The sexualisation of some bodies and de-sexualisation of others is simply corollary. Does anyone stand to benefit from this? To answer that, we must recognize that the human body is not as private as we like to imagine, but a site of struggle, politics, and empowerment.

Thankfully, there are individuals and groups across the world challenging the standards and representations of body-conformity our minds are so saturated with. African American, mixed race and biracial users of Tumblr, Twitter and Instagram organized and participated in #BlackOutDay on 6th March this year, calling on all non-celebrity black individuals to share photos, gifs and videos of themselves, and requesting white users to further share them, in an effort to improve visibility. Even in the highly competitive and exclusive world of fashion, figures like Tess Holliday, Madeline Stuart, Shaun Ross, Andreja Pejić, Hari Nef and Tara Lynn are pushing for body diversity, self-confidence and self-love. The more we see of what the human race has to offer, and the more we accept these individual differences, the better for us, our ideas and even our health.