Do I hear a groan? The sun is sort-of out and bikini season is suddenly a reality. Unfortunately, we girls can no longer swaddle our insecurities in knitwear while dunking a fifth chocolate digestive in a cuppa. But for the female celebrities out there, they never got off the treadmill. They have the media to think about.
Time and time again, we see women in the public eye – our role models – shunned for being ‘fat’. The media has a dangerous fascination with the female body, a focus on physicality that commodifies women as gift-wrapped subjects of the male gaze. In doing so, the unrealistic ideals of feminine appearance seem to override any of the achievements made by career-driven women –tabloids are far more likely to report what they look like, before drawing attention to what they are accomplishing.
Of course, there is something to be said about the positive examples that manage to break through the walls of criticism and publicly love their bodies regardless of how thick their thighs are. The model Ashley Graham has gained a lot of media attention in recent months for her activism on body confidence and her unwillingness to allow scrutiny about her physique to define her. The beauty of having Ashley Graham as a role model is that she continues to highlight the importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle, while still profiting from her ‘plus-size’ figure. In a generation that is obsessed with achieving the perfect bodily aesthetic, it is so important that we hear women speak of their bodies and health positively in a way that is detached from pleasing men, and, subsequently, the media.
Yet, it can be difficult to sell the line that women should prioritise their mental health and ignore social pressures when celebrities such as Jennifer Lawrence and Amy Schumer brand themselves ‘fat’; in fact, they are closer in size to the average woman than most of the females we see in magazines, with reportedly 45% of British females being a size 16 or over. There aren’t many positives that come with promoting being ‘overweight’, and it’s not to be forgotten that underweight celebrities are under just as much criticism. When our role models comment on the fact they have put on weight before any media source gets the chance to criticise them, it has much bigger repercussions than we think. Fans look up to these women, but whilst doing so, gain a warped idea of what it is to look and feel healthy. In 2017, we saw brands such as Gucci and Dior ban models that are “too thin” for this reason. Though this seems a largely positive move on the surface, it actually reinforces the expectations of what women should ‘ideally’ look like – a double-bind: are we too thin? Are we too fat?
The sadness in all of this is that celebrities feel the need to defend themselves for being ‘imperfect’ women – by societies standards, that is – despite having outstanding careers. Female appearance is constantly being targeted by the media, and measures need to be taken to reshape the nature of tabloid reporting in order to protect the integrity of our role models, and the livelihoods of the people looking up to them.