Health

Body Wars

Body Wars Laura Vandervoort
Laura Vandervoort
Laura Vandervoort
Laura Dianne Vandervoort is a Canadian actress known for her roles as Kara Zor-El in the American television series Smallville, Sadie Harrison in the Canadian television series Instant Star and Lisa in the American television series V. | Photo: Esquire Magazine | Laura Vandervoort, Actress, Smallville, Esquire Magazine,

The Fight for Body Diversity in the Media

In a find that should shock no one, but that could rock the marketing foundations of the fashion industry, a new study details that women increase their purchases between 200-300% when clothing advertisers use models with their similar body shapes. The findings, published in Elle Canada, also show that women responded to models of similar ethic backgrounds and ages, or as one participant in the study explained, "[The model] does more than make me feel beautiful; she inspires me to go out and get this dress and celebrate my beauty."

And on the other end of the equation, articles in the New York Times and Jezebel suggest that what men are attracted to has often been socially conditioned by what they feel other men will approve of. Here what men are taught to find attractive informs their desire for a mate as much as what they might be innately attracted to. So not all men innately want a skinny blonde with a generous bosom, but on some level, many are conditioned to want it.

But here's the real question: will any of these studies, particularly the former, change the way women are portrayed in the fashion industry in specific, and in the media at large? Or, to put it a different way, the average American woman can hardly afford a $5,000 dollar bag, but that has yet to get high fashion brands like Chanel to scale their prices down accordingly.

Some former models, activists, and even producers of media are taking matters into their own hands. Katie Halchishick founded Natural Model Management in order to find a place for women who want to model at their healthiest size, whether that be a 2, a 6 or a 14. Sites like Me In My Place provide a space for women with more body diversity, along with slightly more ethnic diversity, to model in a men's magazine motif. And I'll admit, that's a start.

But this is a multifaceted problem, from advertisement, to newspapers and magazines, to movies, children's toys, comic books, video games and even items we don't think about like book covers. While changing individual media mediums and outlets will help, we also need to address the larger cultural problem at hand.

What would be truly refreshing to see is a world where a woman's body isn't a space for public scrutiny. When I was younger, I was, in the polite term, an early bloomer. I was often teased for filling out a bra size many of my peers would not be able to for a few years to come. But girls on the other side of the spectrum, those who are flat chested, were also teased. Despite what the teasing aimed to teach us, there was nothing wrong with our bodies, ample chested or not.

The real problem is this pervasive notion that outsiders have the right to tell a woman what her body should or shouldn't look like. We see this all the time, from when a celebrity is too skinny to when she has put on too much weight during her pregnancy. It's the virgin and the whore complex, mapped out across our female bodies. And this has to stop.

Kim Kardashian
Kim Kardashian

Kimberly Noel "Kim" Kardashian (born October 21, 1980) is an American socialite, celebutante, television personality, model, actress and businesswoman. She is known for starring in Keeping Up with the Kardashians, the E! reality series that she shares with her family. |
We have to acknowledge that against these punishing standards, no woman is ever enough: she's too short, or her hair's too thin, or her breasts are too small or her feet are too large. And the best way to deal with a problem so large and pervasive is actually to start small: we have to start within ourselves. We, and I mean men and women, need to stop constantly performing comparative analysis on women's bodies. And ladies, I also mean your own body in this. We need to start praising women's bodies not only for their diversified beauty, but also for what they're capable of: completing a marathon, lifting a kettlebell, swinging their niece in the air, smelling butter cook, drawing a sketch, planting a garden, drinking wine or enjoying the sun.

Our bodies are these fantastic, complex machines that we keep for our whole lives. We all need to do our part to make sure the women in our lives know this, whether they're black or white, skinny or fat, able bodied or not, cis or trans, covered in the scars of their rough and tumble youth or blemish-free. A body will shape a woman's experiences, but it is not the only determining factor in who she is and what she might accomplish. Because a lifetime is too long for any woman to spend hating herself and chasing a dream she never thought up for herself in the first place.

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Updated Aug 12, 2017 1:49 PM EDT | More details

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