So here we are at the beginning of 2016, and as usual at this time of year talk turns to New Year’s Resolutions, and we are bombarded with ‘New Year, New You’ messages at every turn. Now, I’m all for personal development and self improvement, and the New Year certainly offers a perfect opportunity to make a fresh start, change a habit or take on a new challenge, which is all healthy and positive – and is arguably something to be encouraged.
However, sometimes we can be a little too hard on ourselves, particularly where appearance is concerned, perhaps comparing ourselves to others, or to the images of (so-called) perfection that we are exposed to every day, and judging ourselves somewhat unfavourably. Which is why for 2016 the biggest change I’d like to see is a change of attitude, a kind of ‘resolution revolution’ that sees us being kinder to ourselves, and to each other, with less comparison, which is said to be the thief of joy, and a great deal more compassion.
Talking of being kinder to each other, it seemed to me that in 2015 incidents of body shaming increased dramatically, and were hitting the headlines all too frequently – and it would seem that no-one is untouchable, as even Hollywood favourite Vin Diesel couldn’t enjoy a relaxing (off-duty) break in Miami without having his body held up for scrutiny and ridicule, pictured alongside headlines like ‘The Fat and The Furious’ after shots showing him shirtless, with a less muscular physique than usual (termed a ‘Dad-bod’), surfaced and went viral. Another high profile subject of repeated body shaming is Cheryl Fernandez-Versini, who after the most recent incident, which saw her being branded as ‘worryingly thin’, has spoken out, effectively calling for it to be made illegal.
Both Vin Diesel and Cheryl Fernandez-Versini publicly hit back at their body shamers, and have stated that they are happy with themselves, however, they both seem (understandably) unhappy that the practice exists, and Cheryl has openly expressed concern about the harmful effect that it potentially could have on others who are not used to the level of media scrutiny she has experienced, and may be more vulnerable to it’s negative effects.
One such incident that particularly troubled me recently took place in London at the end of November 2015, where some women travelling on the tube were handed cards with the word ‘fat’ on one side, and a hateful message on the other – purportedly the work of a group calling themselves the Overweight Haters Ltd. An act that was not only malicious, but one that could also have serious consequences, as a 2015 study (funded by Cancer Research UK) found that of the 5,056 UK adults who participated found that those who felt discriminated against on the basis of their weight had a 70% increase in symptoms of depression.
Fortunately, on the flipside, there are many fantastic people out there working hard to fight this kind of discrimination, promoting body positivity, diversity and generally restoring faith in humanity!
Campaigns such as The Be Real Campaign (www.berealcampaign.co.uk), which was formed in response to the Reflections on Body Image, report from the All Party Parliamentary Group for Body Image. Chaired by MP Caroline Nokes and coordinated by YMCA the campaign is working with a number of individuals and organisations across three main areas (Real education, Real health and Real diversity) to effect real change and build a body confident nation.
Amazing work is also being done by Models of Diversity (www.modelsofdiversity.org.uk) founded by former model Angel Sinclair their mission is to change the face of fashion and modelling by campaigning for greater diversity in the models we see every day. Their work challenges the beauty, fashion and marketing industries to recognize the beauty in people of all races, shapes, sizes and abilities, reflecting the diversity seen in society, and not excluding anyone from the modeling industry on arbitrary grounds.
It is my hope that as we move forward into 2016 and beyond, the narrow range of what is currently promoted as beautiful will broaden, and the fashion and beauty industries will become ever more inclusive and celebrate our differences, after all it is that which makes us unique that truly makes us beautiful.
What changes would you like to see in the beauty and fashion industries? Tweet me at @SarahUrbanEcho