Words by Taylor Jane Bardsley
Beauty standards have always determined what society deems as “desirable” throughout the ages: from the Flapper Girl of 1920 where a streamlined, up-and-down silhouette was the ideal shape, to the 1950s where screen-queen Marilyn Monroe dominated the beauty world with her enviable curvy, hourglass figure. Beauty ideals are nothing new, however, putting one body shape on a pedestal or fetishising a body part is becoming increasingly more prominent due to social media.
Ah yes, social media. We all know it has its pros and cons and this is especially true when it comes to perpetuating generally unrealistic and often harmful beauty standards. Although the body acceptance movement is growing largely due to social media’s influence, there are still specific beauty ideals running rampant on our newsfeeds.
Big lips and booties with a small nose and tiny waist are all the rage when it comes to Instagram models: often using plastic surgery as a means to gain these newly coveted assets. Whilst there’s nothing wrong with getting plastic surgery — I’m all for doing whatever makes you feel empowered within your own body — this could appear harmful to people who naturally have these assets. This is mainly because natural assets such as big lips and larger derrieres were once used to shame and bully a person.
I felt this growing up, as I was the odd one out having big lips, since back then, thin lips were the beauty standard. I was then also bullied when I hit puberty and gained a curvier figure as this was during the ‘thigh-gap’ movement. This made me, an already insecure teenager, feel so uncomfortable in my body that I tried everything in my power to fight my natural body shape to fit in. This led to a lot of dangerous eating habits and body dysmorphia that followed me into my early twenties.
Now that beauty standards have changed and being “thicc” is seen as desirable, what happens to the people who were once bullied over their body type supposedly not fitting the idealised standard? I’m still trying to figure that out myself. Do I feel more comfortable and accepting of my body now that beauty perceptions are changing? Yes, because the self-love component of body positivity has worked wonders.
It’s also incredible that we’re having more discussions on the toxic standards that have been placed on our bodies. However, I do feel slightly envious when it comes to these shifting standards because they were not the norm for me growing up. Why was my body not good enough then, but it is now? It’s just a strange concept to me.
One of social media’s amazing pros has been the growth of body positivity, with the younger generation seemingly becoming more accepting of others! I do, however, have some worries about this movement, specifically with the still rampant idealism surrounding certain body parts. I worry about these new beauty acceptance standards changing, which they inevitably will, as we’ve already seen this pattern throughout the years. Will body positivity survive or will it become another trend? I hope it’s the former.
One thing I do know is that for full acceptance of everyone’s body shapes we need to stop categorising beauty by someone’s body type or certain assets. Yeah, “they thicc” may be a compliment to some people, but to a lot of others, it’s just another covetable body shape that feels impossible to reach, continuing the never-ending cycle of harmful body ideals.