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The commodification of women’s body image

Why do women’s bodies go in and out of fashion? Today, thick bodies are in. Cinched waist, a nice helping of boobs and a “perfect” ass. But a perfect ass has meant so many different things over the years. Once upon a time, big butts were a bad thing hence the over flogged comedic trope; “honey, do these jeans make my butt look big?” 

‘Fashionable’ bodies also mean different things to different cultures. The poster for US beauty used to be super thin white women of ‘moderate’ proportions while black skin and thick lips were deemed ugly while in countries like Nigeria, super-thin women would constantly be told that they need to gain weight because “men like women with flesh on their bones”. Like fashion, these acceptability yardsticks have completely shifted. White women now darken their skin and draw lip liners over their lips to make them look bigger while women in Nigeria die on operating tables in botched plastic surgeries that “takes fat away from the wrong places”. Hip-dips were normal until they weren’t; bellies were in until they were out and big butts were abhorred until they became highly coveted in this new wave of blackfishing.

Society preys on the insecurities it projects on women, magnifies them and packages a solution to a made-up problem. This system is built to sustain itself; create a problem, tell women some part of their appearance and body is flawed and then sell a solution to “correct” it. In the future, this correction will go out of fashion with a sense of urgency that forces women to seek correction lest they be seen as ugly. The overplucking of eyebrows that trend today will create a problem of brow hair re-growth in the future and this solution will be bottled and sold back to women. The same way women like Kim Kardashian lasered off their baby hairs in the past but now spend a lot of time curling their edges and money on edge-curling products. The fashion and wellness industries thrive off the insecurities they manufacture. 

Women bend over backwards to have the “ideal body”, a pipe dream that we have been sold. This “ideal body” isn’t static though and so, how many alterations must we make and what insecurities must we bear before we fit this transient standard? The realisation that nothing is wrong with us and that the people who tell us our bodies are flawed in some way or the other are either projecting their insecurity on us, operating out of a desire to make us question and hate ourselves or trying to sell us something is fundamental for our growth and liberation.

That being said, understandably, many women desire these things for the upward mobility and confidence that they bring. Body modifications of any sort are personal. The problem is where these decisions are inspired by the projections of others. Nobody but you should have power over your appearance. Every body is a “summer body”.

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