Furman University's Student Newspaper

The Paladin

Furman University's Student Newspaper

The Paladin

Furman University's Student Newspaper

The Paladin

Unrealistic Body Image: Who’s to Blame?

Unrealistic+Body+Image%3A+Who%26%238217%3Bs+to+Blame%3F
Courtesy of Furman Athletics

The media must be held accountable for their false standards of beauty. Everything from shallow dating apps and unrealistic movie stars to clothing advertisements and beauty magazines are the sole antagonists in the highly prevalent issue of A bad body image in this country.

We have all heard this conversation before, and we have all been taught who the “bad guys” are. Media, celebrity culture, and even certain social institutions such as gym culture and Greek life have all been highly scrutinized for their role in distorting the standard of both male and female bodies. While some of this scrutiny is justified, it is important to recognize that the problem of unrealistic body image cannot be traced back to one media outlet or one social institution, and is perhaps more insidious than people care to believe.

Before I explain what I mean by this, it is important for me to share some of my own experiences with body image. As an individual who has previously been labeled everything from “chubby” and “fat” to “curvy” and “healthy,” I have felt the whole spectrum between complete confidence and crippling insecurity. I have vied to have the perfect body of the beautiful cover models in fashion magazines, and been terrified to go to lift weights at many gyms in fear of being judged. However, I have also felt a wonderful sense of acceptance from the Furman community, which has allowed me to foster my own self-acceptance and gain confidence in who I truly am. This self-acceptance is often lost when I go back home and am forced to face parents, relatives, and old friends, who are quick to judge how my body has changed over the semester or year.

While my story is not a particularly unique one, there are certainly others who have had vastly different experiences with body image, both on and off Furman’s campus. By sharing my own experience, I do not mean to say that everyone shares the same perspective that I do, but rather quite the opposite: each person finds sources of body insecurity and body confidence from a diverse range of people and things. These sources could come from parents, friends, media outlets, social groups, and even strangers. It is even possible that one source could instill unrealistic body expectations in one person, while simultaneously empowering another. An example of this could be the gym, which may leave one person empowered by their body’s capabilities, and leave another individual insecure in the fact that their body does not look like the ripped men and women that populate the rooms.

These comments are not meant to legitimize the ever-present culture of body shaming that exists in our society, however, and must be put in the perspective of the high rates of health disorders related to body insecurities (such as depression, anxiety, and eating disorders) that exist in our country. As human beings, we have an obligation to call out body shaming when we see it. However, this is different than making broad umbrella statements about media and our society, which do not account for the diversity and complexity of the institutions in question.

When beginning conversations on body image, it is tempting to oversimplify the problem by creating cut-and-dry antagonists out of massive institutions with many diverse parts. I argue, however, that this method does more harm than good. It refuses to recognize the complexities that exist—the positive as well as the negative aspects of media; the health benefits and the fear of being judged at the gym; the tremendous sense of body-acceptance at some Greek organizations in the United States, and the strict rules of beauty in others. It is important to see these complexities for what they truly are, and to evaluate beauty standards on a case-by-case basis.

Leave a Comment
Donate to The Paladin

Your donation will support the student journalists of Furman University. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to The Paladin

Comments (0)

All The Paladin Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *