In the midst of intense editing, photoshopping and narrowed model choices, the media has created a delusional image for society of what a normal, healthy body is.
At times, it is frustrating for women like me who do not have a model-like, slender, tanned body to walk into a department store and see every fashion mannequin displayed as a size zero, or to pick up a women’s magazine only to find models who look nothing like me, edited to perfection in the advertisements.
Because of this, it was refreshing to log onto H&M’s website and see that the retail clothing company used 23-year-old model Jennie Runk as the face of their new swimwear line. The six-foot tall, curvy model has a 31-inch-waist and a body that American women today can associate with.
What is revolutionary about H&M doing this is that they did not box the model into a plus-size section—a section that at times seems like a forbidden secret tucked into the corner of shopping websites. They instead integrated Runk onto the front page, simply making her the face of the swimwear line without creating a big fuss about it.
“There’s not a mention of the suits being plus-sized—it’s just a woman wearing some bathing suits and she happens to not be super skinny,” said Yahoo! Shine staff writer Elise Sole in a recent article about the new line.
In addition to this, H&M has featured Beyonce (another woman with healthier proportions) in a commercial where she models swimwear and flaunts her curves as she dances freely on the beach.
Body image is how people see and feel about themselves. It is not something that is based off facts and figures, but an idea that is created over time and influenced by things surrounding us, like media and other people’s opinions.
According to the Center on Media and Child Health, body image becomes closely related to self esteem once a child reaches his/her teen years. Having a negative body image can lead to damaging health risks like depression or eating disorders.
“Having positive body image leads to a feeling that inner beauty is more important than how one looks, which is necessary for teens to feel confident about themselves and their abilities,” says the center’s website.
The media has created an unachievable perfection for men and women across the country. Women are made to think that the ideal body has no imperfections—no blemishes, no stretch marks, a thin waist and big breasts (to name a few)—in order to be acceptable in society. This leads them to go to extremes in order to achieve these things. They exercise excessively, create unhealthy eating habits and even begin considering cosmetic surgery.
At times, it feels like I have been working toward this “unattainable perfection” my entire life.
As a young girl, I would look at music videos and posters of my favorite celebrities, wondering how I could possibly be what they are: perfect. I would look in the mirror pointing out my flaws, disappointed by my differences. But growing-up, I have learned that the images portrayed by the media are unrealistic and unhealthy.
Perfection is an intangible word, because ultimately, everyone has a different idea of what it is, making it unattainable. It’s our imperfections that make us unique and special in every way.
If other clothing companies and media outlets could see and care about the negative, unhealthy ideas that they are engraving in the minds of young boys and girls, perhaps they would change their approach to advertising.
H&M’s move toward spotlighting healthier, normal bodies has made me even more willing and excited to shop at its stores. It feels great to know that there are companies out there that are daring enough to take a step away from what has profited the entertainment industry for such a long time, and a step toward making healthy body image the norm.