Here is my fourth offering for the College Tribune, published 22th October 2013. I didn’t intend for it to be as polemic as it is; I think I was feeling a little insecure last Friday night, and a glass of wine loosened my tongue a little!
The Irrelevance of Body Image
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, well forever, you must have notice the constant bombardment of media images of ‘ideal’ feminine beauty. With every new issue of Now or Harper’s Bazaar comes the latest notion about what constitutes the ideal body, the essence of femininity. One week we’re being instructed that “thin is in”, the next we’re lamenting our lack of curves because they’re imperative for a ‘real’ woman. Beyoncé has praise heaped on her for her athletic physique while
Coleen Rooney gets red circles drawn around her cellulite. Does this strike you as a little unfair?
For as long as I’ve been poring over fashion magazines, their central tenet has been that lithe, toned limbs and washboard stomachs are the epitome of female success. Undoubtedly, some of their readers were glancing at their tummies and thighs wondering why they didn’t rival Kate Moss, and devising drastic measures to attain the desirable form of the fashion world. And then, all of a sudden, you were nothing if you weren’t endowed with ample cleavage and a shapely derrière. Kelly Brooks and Christina Hendricks became the belles du jours, and the likes of Gwyneth Paltrow were ridiculed for their slender frames.
But glancing back through the decades, it becomes clear that, when it comes to innate style and elegance, body shape goes out the window. Elizabeth Taylor was voluptuous and beautiful with her striking violet eyes, and her enviable couture wardrobe and sparkling jewellery collection were celebrated at the Museum of Style Icons this year. On the other hand, it is impossible to speak of style without mentioning the diminutive Audrey Hepburn. Championing the elfin and the chic, Hepburn oozed sophistication in classic black shift dresses, delicate ball gowns and sharp cigarette pants. But it was her lovely brown eyes that captivated the world, not her dress size.
And even today, despite the ever-brightening glare of the paparazzo’s flash standing ready to capture any glimpse of imperfection, we have our own style icons, for whom the size of their hips matters little when it comes to their brand of style. A personal favourite of mine, Olivia Palermo, is consistently criticised for her slim figure. Yes she is slim, but so what She knows damn well how to pull an edgy outfit together, and who isn’t envious of her hair? Then we have Salma Hayek, whose red carpet looks flatter her curves to perfection and never fail to reflect the glamour of the occasion.
Today, people have enough in their lives to be worrying about without obsessively measuring our thighs and pondering the mysteries of the weighing-scales. For men and women, body image has become such an unnecessarily important fixation that the consequences are sometimes devastating. It would take a strong person not to be affected by what we observe everyday. A woman might not fit the media’s ideal, but she is no more or no less a woman than Jennifer Aniston or Katie Taylor or any other female icon that one might care to mention. If she is happy and healthy, then she is an icon to