Body shaming is not pretty and in 2016 we still have obstacles that prevent us from promoting body positivity. As the average man and woman try to promote and accept the diversity in beauty standards, those that hold power such as media outlets have their heads stuck in the ground. The latest fiasco started with Facebook apologizing to feminist group, Cherchez le Femme, for not approving the group’s advertisement.
Uproar over Facebook
Cherchez le Femme, based in Melbourne, was scheduled to host an event that promotes body positivity. With Facebook’s weird algorithms, sometimes posts can get lost in the site, which results in lesser views. Thus in order to gain more traction in Facebook, the group decided to boost its event through an advertisement. However Facebook denied the group’s request citing that the image (above) promoted an “idealised physical image”. After an appeal, Facebook responded stating that the image did not follow the site’s “health and fitness policy” and that the group should instead consider replacing this image with one of a “relevant activity, such as running or riding a bike”.
Of course this issue sparked a major uproar on Facebook and it gained media attention when the site had to apologise for the rejection of the ad. A Facebook rep said, “Our team processes millions of advertising images each week, and in some instances we incorrectly prohibit ads…” “This image does not violate our ad policies. We apologise for the error and have let the advertiser know we are approving their ad.”
Even though the site has apologised, producer of Cherchez le Femme Jessamy Gleeson told Mashable that she was not satisfied with Facebook’s apology. Gleeson stated that it should not take international media coverage for Facebook to realise that there is a problem with its policy with regards to women’s bodies. She hopes that the social networking site would reconsider its policy and engage with female activists to rewrite and readdress its policies.
While the reason given by Facebook may or may not be justified, the action of Facebook might have sent the message that such images are not tolerated and violate their policy. There are many cases where body positive images or images that does not measure up to certain beauty standards, are being touted as undesirable, thus lead to these images or ads pulled from sites and television networks. A recent foray into this issue was with American television networks, ABC and NBC reject a commercial from clothing line Lane Byrant. The 30-second commercial, entitled “This Body,” features plus-sized models, barely clothed, talking about the pride they take in their bodies, and in one case, involved breast-feeding a baby. The commercial was deemed to risqué to be aired on television. Or Victoria Secret campaign The Perfect ‘Body’, featuring a row beautiful, slim models with svelte figure posing for the camera that led to a change.org petition but the clothing store only changing its slogan to “A Body For Every Body”.
Closer to home, Cosmopolitan Singapore came under fire last year when writer, Elizabeth Lee, wrote about the ideal Singapore beauty. She cited, “The ‘perfect’ Singapore girl has big eyes and a small face with a defined jawline and feminine long hair. She’s slim and petite with shapely legs.” The post struck a chord with many Facebook users and Cosmo Singapore’s editor-in-chief, Jo Upcroft, had to step in to clarify the matter. She said, Lee was “expressing an opinion based on Cosmo’s beauty surveys, reader feedback and after a discussion with our very multi-racial team.” Further stating that this view does not represent the stand of the team.
The Power Of The Media
Mainstream media, both new and traditional, have the power to set the community, users, the whole country thinking. Magazines, television, social media sites are able to dictate what is trending today and also what’s acceptable in society and what is not. Media outlets, must realise that they have this power and ability because what they put out there will have a direct impact to how society perceive certain issues, like beauty standards and body image in this case.
When media outlets continuously portray certain beauty standards or looks, it sends the message that only this look is acceptable and other variations are not. This is true for the media industry of Singapore.
Popspoken quoted Facebook user Jes Sica, sums up the portrayal of beauty in Singapore magazine industry succinctly:
“…the Singapore magazine industry that has been featuring ‘only Chinese or pan-Asian models’, surmising that such specific portrayals of beauty attract readers who ‘make up a certain demographic in the first place’.”
This comment suggests that Singapore media industry is blind to the diverse culture and beauty that is woven to the tapestry of the Singaporean beauty.
There is hope for change
Aside from being inclusive of different beauty and body types, celebrities have also taken a stand against photoshop images of themselves on magazine covers and even music videos. Pop singer Meghan Trainor is a strong advocate of saying no to re-touched images of her. Other celebrities that are strongly against retouching include Beyoncé during her 2013 H&M summer campaign, Lena Dunham’s Vogue February issue and Jennifer Lawrence’s Dior campaign.
On flip side, sometimes the power of many can help shed light on body shaming issues. When body-shaming issues are thrust into the spotlight, such as the aforementioned cases, it creates a conversation and debate between relevant parties. With the power of technology and of course with the power of the influential celebrities, change can slowly take place. It may not be immediate but it sends a clear message to the media and fashion industry that body shamming will not be tolerated because that is the future, inclusive society that is accepting of diversity.
*Featured image from source