I am a skinny white girl. I’m not 5’11” with killer cheekbones, I don’t have flawless skin, but nonetheless I fit the archetypal media ideal body type, and I think that it is very important for me to acknowledge this as someone with someone with a certain level of influence in fashion blogging.
Blogging is different from, and better than, traditional fashion media in that it allows everyone a shot. ‘Normal’ girls from a wide range of backgrounds, each with a very different body, become as influential and aspirational as any model or fashion celebrity. This is really fantastic and in many ways revolutionary, yet the blogging world is still dominated by slim white bodies. That isn’t to say we should discredit these beautiful, inspirational, entrepreneurial creators who build successful careers from nothing, but we should question why most of them are skinny white girls, in a field which (theoretically) could and should be modifying and expanding societal beauty standards rather than reinforcing them. We should acknowledge and celebrate the growth and success of the plus size blogging industry, but question why it must still be its own industry. We should think about why in-between sized bodies are even more scarcely represented.
Having a skinny white body does not leave me free from all scrutiny. I have experienced ‘skinny shaming’ as a result of my body being shared with thousands and thousands of people. Comments on photos of me posted by popular brands on Facebook have ranged from the ‘get her a burger lol’ to the dreaded ‘you should use real women not sticks’, and people have (incorrectly) assumed that I suffer with an eating disorder and have made nasty remarks to that effect (needless to say, eating disorders are a separate and complex issue, but accusations like that are helpful for absolutely no-one). None of this is nice to read, and thankfully it is not something I experience very frequently. More importantly, however, these comments don’t affect me on any sort of long-term basis, and this is partly due to the fact that the media unremittingly reinforces my body as a good body.
What I am trying to say: body shaming of any kind is awful, but being attacked for being skinny is not the same as being attacked for being fat. For every girl who was bullied in school for being too skinny, there are probably a hundred girls who were bullied for being fat. Even in very extreme cases, for example Cheryl Fernandez-Versini’s media onslaught following very visible weight loss, the tone of the articles and tweets about her was overwhelmingly one of concern and pity. When Gemma Collins appeared in the I’m A Celeb jungle, people took gleefully to social media to make fun of her for being fat. Neither of these things is okay, but they aren’t the same. Whatever my personal body insecurities might be, they are not reinforced by society as a whole. Whilst the odd individual or weird gossip magazine campaign (#strongnotskinny?) will try to tear me (and Chezza) down, the society around me is structured to reassure me and build me back up.
This is not always the case for bloggers who don’t have skinny white bodies. I asked the beautiful and successful Gracie of graciefrancesca.com about her experience as a ‘different body’ in blogging –
I don’t have the ideal body type, never have done and probably never will, and whilst there are tons of beautiful ‘skinny white girl’ bloggers killing the game with huge brand campaigns, there is a lack of that for girls who don’t fit into that ‘ideal’ form of beauty. Unfortunately I think it stems further than just body type, I think race and looking different in general also play a massive part.
Growth and opportunities appear to just be harder if you don’t look like what most of the world would like you to look like. You go on the Bloglovin’ homepage and see the same type of girl, you scroll through a popular brand’s Instagram feed and the same type of girl appears there too! Where is the diversity? It’s disheartening, sad and damn right shameful. Are plus size women off brand? And do black girls not fit into your feed? If we’re not skinny and white, are we not good enough?
Of course, I love what I do and I’ve broken down barriers and achieved things I once thought were unachievable but I’m not blind to the challenges so many of us face. There is a very obvious (to me anyway) divide within the community when it comes to size. You’re either a blogger, or a plus size blogger. It doesn’t really matter who created the labelling because its just a label, but I am 100% sure that being a plus size blogger OR having a plus size body type hinders your opportunities.
I receive comments about my body all the time, I’m too fat for some and I’ve been too slim for others. Everyone has an opinion on what women should look like and it can be hurtful and damaging – as a blogger or someone of social influence I think it’s important to challenge body shaming no matter what size you are.
So there’s a little food for thought for next time you’re thinking about commenting on someone’s body on a brand repost, something to notice when you’re scrolling through the fashion brands you follow on Instagram, or something to consider when you’re searching for new bloggers to follow and support. If you have any thoughts on blogging and body image, I’d love to hear them!
Image via Pinterest