‘Thinspiration’ craze lowers women’s self-esteem

This illustration is meant to depict the idea of going to absurd lengths in order to alter your body shape such as the CoolSculpting surgery. A.J. Stewart/Printz

This illustration is meant to depict the idea of going to absurd lengths in order to alter your body shape such as the CoolSculpting surgery.
A.J. Stewart/Printz

With summer vacation coming up, it’s almost impossible not to hear the nearly universal cries of, “I want my bikini body.”  While there is nothing wrong with wanting to get fit for the summer, there is something wrong with the “perfect body” image that society is feeding us.

As I’m writing this article, I’m scouring the web for articles and blog posts and images about body image, and the results are, to put it nicely, horrifying.

For example, a popular movement on social media and media sharing sites such as Pinterest and Facebook is “thinspiration,” otherwise known as “thinspo.”  This movement is dedicated to the circulation of motivational images and posts in order
to aid those struggling with losing weight.

This sounds innocent enough, until one looks at the posts.  Many of them are pro-eating-disorder, giving tips on how to successfully starve yourself or how to purge after eating meals larger than half a grapefruit.  Some resort to fat-shaming, which is the promotion of thinness through the antagonizing and de-humanizing of those who are more than a size two.

Another popular revolution is the “thigh gap” that social media has recently become obsessed with.  In fact, this movement to have an empty space between a girl’s thighs has become so popular that medical outlets are capitalizing on it.  That’s right, there is now a medical procedure to give girls the much-sought-after “thigh gap.”  This procedure is called CoolSculpting, and according to its primary website, coolsculpting.com, it is a noninvasive procedure that quite literally freezes the fat off of stubborn areas, like the thighs.  This sounds wonderful, but the attitude it promotes – that the only way to be pretty is to be skinny – is wrong.

Allow me to clarify a point here: there is nothing wrong with wanting to be more secure in your body image.  There is nothing wrong with wanting to lose a few pounds to be healthier, or the desire to be thinner to boost self-esteem.  There are, however, proper methods to do so, and resorting to medical procedures is never a good idea unless it is absolutely medically necessary.  In addition to being costly, there is always an inherent risk in medical procedures.  There are also proper reasons to desire to lose weight, and wishing to do so simply because society tells us it is the right thing to do is not one of them.

Sophomore political science and Spanish double major Taylor Provencher provides some insight into the matter of body image and satisfaction.  “There’s a lot to say on the subject, and as much as I would like to say I am not self-conscious about my body, I am,” Provencher said.  “The focus on what exactly the ‘right’ body for a female is has shaped a lot about how I feel about myself. That’s not how it should be.”

“There is no ‘right’ type.  We may be the same species, but it doesn’t mean we were built to look the same,” Provencher said. “We are supposed to be different, and I feel that is what makes us beautiful.  That being said, I feel this applies to males and females.  Men are just as subjected to these insecurities as women, and it’s a pity that our culture has turned into this, but I can’t see it changing without some sort of drastic change in entertainment and other cultural sources.”

In addition, Joseph Jelinski, a sophomore molecular biology major, provides a male opinion on the matter.  When asked whether or not he thought a girl has to have a thigh gap to be considered pretty, he said, “Of course not. Regardless of whether or not she does, physical beauty will still be mostly drawn from her face, hair and how she dresses. I think that thigh gaps are a fairly novel characteristic, and that is the reason they are getting so much attention.”

Ladies, you’ve heard it from the source: you do not have to have a thigh gap in order to be pretty, nor is the societal convention of what is considered pretty always the right look for you.  Again, to clarify, it is perfectly fine to have a thigh gap if that is your natural body shape, but let’s face it, not all
of us can have that much-desired gap, and neither should we want to.

If you really want to lose weight this summer, go for it.  Go to the gym a couple of times a week, eat more fruits and vegetables and fewer carbohydrates or jog around your block each night.  There is nothing wrong with wanting to be happy and healthy.  Don’t, however, let your body image remain at the forefront of your mind. Do not get sucked up into this lie that there is one set definition for pretty.  Beauty comes from within, and it is who you are, not what you look like, that really counts.

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