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Body

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Body Shaming In the Media
Recent research on discrepancies related to distorting body image demonstrates how the media is a key variable in the recent increase of eating disorders. Up to 24 million people suffer from an eating disorder in the U.S. The constant exposure to these ideals in the media is closely related to increased body dissatisfaction and self-objectification, according to Kimberly Bissell of the Journal of Mass Media Ethics. Numerous research studies concur there is a lack of body-type diversity in most media forms.
“Real Women Have Curves” and “Real Beauty” campaigns have been overwhelming the media, pushing for women to embrace their curvy figure. Does this send the message that women who are not curvy are not real women or do not have true beauty?
In our culture, certain appearances are predisposed to certain stereotypes and health assumptions. Fat is automatically lazy, unhealthy, bad and out of control, while skinny is automatically productive, confident and healthy. Being thin comes with the positive connotation and association of success. Society often links success to being thin, further enforcing its social desirability, according to Kristen E. Van Vonderen and William Kinnally of the Journal of Mass Media Ethics. “It might be surprising to know that weight stigma hurts both thin and fat people,” stated Deb Burgard on the National Eating Disorder Association Website. “In my work with people of all sizes who are struggling with disordered eating, it is clear that a huge factor in their misery is almost always the worry that they will be humiliated and rejected because of their weight – no matter what their weight is.”
The term “healthy” is subjective to each individual person. By definition, “healthy” means “in good health.” Furthermore, by definition, health means “the state of being free from illness or injury.” It is unfair to falsely claim anyone as unhealthy or healthy without the facts.
In the past, women were classified as sexy with the aesthetics of Marilyn Monroe, the ultimate sex icon – a larger size, curvy hips and big breasts. Society reminisces on this time period for embracing curves as beautiful, but in reality, body shaming was just as real then as it is now.
Advertisements from the 1950s-1970s that have been recovered and published by Huffington Post actually promoted women adding pounds, featuring quotes such as “Skinny girls aren’t glamour girls!”
Yes, this does depict how society’s beauty standards have shifted in the past years, but it certainly does not depict promotion of a healthy body image absent of body shaming.
Body shaming is real – whether it is thin shaming, fat shaming or fit shaming. When fat shaming is such a central controversy in the media, those who suffer from thin shaming often bite their tongues and do not speak up about the problem.
“Let’s face it, having legs for days, the perfect tan, just enough curves and the infamous ‘thigh gap’ is kind of like winning the genetic lottery,” says Bree Morse, Miss Orange County 2014. “Just as NFL players are NFL players because of their gifts, models are models because they too have something that not everyone has. It may not be the ability to run or tackle, but it is the God given gift of a body made for modeling! Yet, the media gives us the idea that this is what every woman should aim for.”
Universalism is one of the most highly valued concepts to be represented in a code of ethics, according to Chris Roberts and the Journal of Mass Media Ethics. Universalism in its true definition is “Understanding, appreciation, tolerance and protection for the welfare of all people and for nature.” Therefore, it is critical in a media code of ethics addressing the issue of body shaming to present an appreciation of all people and body types.
A code of ethics regarding this issue should present five things. First, it should recognize objectivity. The term “healthy” does not encompass one set of criteria for every lifestyle. Every individual has their own definition of what is “healthy” to them and their unique body. Second, beauty should not be valued as a paramount to success. In our society, beauty is immensely valued to the extent that it has become synonymous with success. It is important to remember this is not the case. Third, we must consider we are each unique and cannot be clustered into one cookie-cutter mold. In reference to Kant’s Categorical Imperative, we must act on the will we wish to become a universal law. Society cannot allow universal judgment in a country of 316 million people based on select criteria. Fourth, it is important to have a representation of all different types of bodies in the media, presenting a universalism ideal. Last, genetics play a large role in all body types, and it is inaccurate to blame anyone’s figure solely on self-control, excluding factors left up to discretion. As Islam’s Divine Commands state, “Justice, human dignity and truth are unconditional duties.” It is crucial to present truthful facts in regards to health.

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