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Gender Block: body shame doesn’t cancel itself out

Hillary Di Menna

Is dissecting a woman’s picture to prove it has been Photoshopped really body positive?

Media is a big message transmitter and dictates feelings, philosophies, morals, values—pretty much everything that makes up society rules. No matter how critical the viewer, we are still subjected to ads in subway stations and on buses, on billboards and in newspapers, radio, TV, Internet—it’s everywhere. And when these messages are being sold as truth, when things are altered, it gets scary. There is no problem criticizing the industry and challenging what makes this the norm.

However, going detective on something like a Beyonce picture (Headline: Beyoncé Caught Possibly Photoshopping Her Pictures Again )is vilifying the individual and ignoring the big problem. Beyonce is altering her pictures, which is sharing the impossible body ideal. This presentation is dangerous because many will see these photos and assume that this altered body is the norm, and then expect all women to have a perfect body, and that it is attainable, concluding if a woman doesn’t have this body it is a failure on her part. This is, of course, problematic. But isn’t Beyonce a victim of the same messaging?

It is hard to shed tears for the rich in general, especially those who profit from appearing to be perfect while the rest of us feeling enormous pressure to look the same. But why isn’t the real issue being fought against? It’s hard to see celebrity women as people when they are sold to us as objects. But why is Beyonce expected to look this way? Rather than shaming her, let’s look at marketing and public relations. Let’s continue discussing how what we are being sold isn’t real life. Let’s look at the industries that profit from our insecurities. Let’s think critically and do it without body shaming another woman.

Beyonce is just one example. Another could be Kim Kardashian. It is important to acknowledge that these pictures have been altered. But let’s do it without making personal attacks regarding these women’s physical appearance.

It is difficult battling against a superficial message that we have shoved in our faces everyday without resorting to superficial tactics ourselves. We see this with messaging about how “real” women have curves. It is instinctive to fight the more socially dominant group this way. And yet, it’s also very much an attempt to empower to one group by disempowering another. We’re fighting society’s expectations, but we’re also encouraging one group of women to fight another group of women. Dividing ourselves into superficial groups isn’t going to solve anything. What will help solve body shame issues is stopping the use of women in any objectifying way—even when we think we are doing so for good.

A former This intern, Hillary Di Menna is in her first year of the gender and women’s studies program at York University. She also maintains an online feminist resource directory, FIRE- Feminist Internet Resource Exchange.

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