Recently the discussion about body image, and particularly its representation in celebrity and pop culture, has one again become a prominent topic of discussion. This time the discussion is about perpetuating images of larger women, those who are curvaceous or have big, and more importantly ‘attractive’, bums. We can hold Nicki Minaj, Jennifer Lopez, Iggy Azalea and Meghan Trainor all responsible for this. Some have heralded Nicki Minaj’s controversial Instagram posts as celebrating larger women, and fighting against a cultural notion that sexualised images are negative. We may applaud Minaj’s confidence over her body and sexuality, however it should also be considered that this comes much easier when you are considered as attractive as she is.
On a similar note, but with perhaps a more accessible message, Meghan Trainor’s ‘All That Bass’ has been hailed as an anthem of body positivity. The hugely popular song is a feel good celebration of women who may be a bit larger than society would normally deem as beautiful. While this is the message many women have been waiting for, the message is not entirely positive. The line ‘all the right curves in all the right places’ could infer a natural body shape rather than the having a model-like figure; however, it may also suggest some women have curves in the ‘wrong places’, wherever those may be. Moreover maligning thinner women as ‘skinny bitches’, as Minaj also does in ‘Anaconda’, is just as detrimental as attacking larger women. It also may serve to start fetishizing a trend of being curvy, even if this is unnatural, as previous trends of being skinny have done. This may be evident in recent celebrations of women like Christina Hendricks and Nigella Lawson.
The most worrying thing is that this ‘age of the big booty’ as it has been termed is not celebrating natural body shapes, but instead promoting skinny waists with large hips and big behinds. Many have criticised Minaj for appearing to have had implants to create her ‘big booty’. This body image trend is something unattainable for most women, and it may be dangerous to make it desirable.
Fetishizing any body type is dangerous, we have seen rises in plastic surgery and eating disorders with past trends, and though a trend may be moving in the opposite direction, we cannot necessarily deem this as a good thing. There are some women who are naturally skinny, and can’t put the weight on, so judging them against an unattainable standard is not fair.
We may say judging body shapes and sizes at all is unfair. This is a very valid argument and far more beneficial to women’s wellbeing than to suggest there is a standard we need to aspire to. However, in the real world, removed from celebrity culture, we also need to be careful that this is not also dangerous. While being all accepting is a far more pleasant approach, we also need to be careful that we don’t legitimise unhealthy habits. The number of people who are overweight or obese is still a huge issue in today’s society, as is those at the other end of the spectrum who may be underweight or suffering from eating disorders, even completely unrelated to their body image.
While it is unacceptable to be hostile or discriminative to any individual on the basis of their weight, we should be encouraging acceptance of natural, healthy and wholesome body shapes, rather than aspiring to unattainable beauty standards, or falling into a trap of legitimising unhealthy ones. So if you eat fairly healthily, do some exercise and you still don’t have a flat stomach, or you feel like you have no curves, then that is fine. Embrace what your figure does give you, whether you are curvy, athletic, tall or petit and learn to be comfortable in your own skin.
Illustration: Charlotte Gurr