As a body positive activist, I'm not backwards in coming forwards about body image issues and the problems that women (and men) come up against regarding their own body image and self-esteem. As such, my attention was recently directed towards the December 2015 issue of New! magazine - I didn't think I was easy to shock, as a self-confessed, proud fat woman, I've heard it all. I've often been judged and have received a negative reception to my body more times than people have had hot dinners - but this truly surprised me. Not one or two, but all of the messages depicted on the front cover of this issue of New! pertain to body shaming of some level - this woman is threatened by another's 'skinny frame', 'rival skinny selfie', 'weight-loss revealed' are just some of the messages perpetuated on the cover of one magazine. But when you think about the circulation of this one magazine and how so many other women's magazine jump aboard this body shaming bandwagon - the effects can be entirely detrimental. Once I had overcome the shock I felt at seeing such despicable messages displayed so publicly, I felt compelled to write this article about women's magazines and why they need to rethink their stance on body image - and quickly.
New! and other magazines of a similar calibre sit atop their shelves, ruffling their glossy pages and await the arrival of yet another susceptible victim to peck at. In a culture so rife with body image judgement and so overly concerned with reaching the 'ideal' aesthetic the onslaught of further toxic messages needs to end - body positive activists, myself included, are chipping away at body standards to create an all-inclusive standard of beauty, and women's magazines could do so much more to support this. They need to realise that the messages that they present on the covers of their magazines are seen by everybody - young women do not walk around with blinkers on and there is no age limit to when someone starts feeling self-conscious about their body or when collapse of self-esteem is imminent. When you take into account that by the age of 10 a third of girls cite their bodies as their main source of worry, one in three girls would consider cosmetic surgery and 19% of young women consider suicide as a result of body image issues (with 9% actually attempting suicide) women's magazines need to acknowledge their part in causing these detrimental effects to the next generation.
So this is a plea, from a once impressionable and vulnerable fat women who has found the strength to overcome body image issues and feel comfortable in her own skin, to women's magazines. Not every young woman can cultivate a positive sense of self, and when we are plagued with a barrage of judgements, body preconceptions and body image negativity it can be difficult to retain a positive mindset and it can be so easy to slip down the helter-skelter of low self-esteem, one such ride that is unquestionably difficult and painful to recover from.
Women's magazines need to recognise that what they are doing is ruining a generation (and subsequent generations) with their toxic messages regarding body image, female aesthetics and diet culture. We body positive activists will not be beaten and we will continue to strive for the diversifying of body 'ideals' - and as they say, if you can't beat them, then I suggest that you join them.
This was originally posted on Fran Hayden's blog, here.