Body shaming- does the media play a role?
Nombuso Asanda Dlamini
The media plays a vital role in our society. It shapes how we think and look at the world. However, we cannot shy away from the fact that the media also plays a huge role in body shaming.
24-year old Zanele Ngcobo has been struggling with self- esteem for many years. She says she finds it hard to walk comfortably around the beach in her swim-suit as she feels magazine and television advertisements give the impression that only slim bodied women are suited to wear swim-suits.
“I can hardly even wear shorts in public because my body is not an ideal summer body,’’ she added.
It is quite rare to find underwear adverts done by thick/curvy women. Even with men underwear, you need to have a six pack and a model-like body in order to qualify for an underwear advertisement.
Although women are more subjected to body shaming, men also fall victim to it.
Sipho Khuzwayo has lost all hopes of being an underwear model. This happened after he applied with a modelling agency to model for an underwear brand and was rejected due to “not being fit enough” and “not having a six pack”.
Statistics from The Body Image Therapy Centre prove that 42% of girls in grade 1-3 want to lose weight, 45% of boys and girls in grade 3-6 want to be thinner, about 1, 000 women die each year from ED( eating disorders) due to malnutrition, heart attack and suicide.
According to Dr Sanelisiwe Mahlase, a qualified psychologist, body shaming can affect an individual’s mental and physical health in many ways. It shatters a person’s confidence and may even lead anxiety, depression and social isolation.
“The media has set unrealistic beauty standards for individuals, giving them an impression that having a certain type of body is the way to go resulting in people staring themselves in order to achieve that body type” she explained.
Dr Mahlase says that the biggest threat for individuals who try to lose weight is Anorexia nervosa, an emotional disorder characterized by an obsessive desire to lose weight by refusing to eat.
Newspapers and magazines constantly offer tips and adverts on how to lose weight “burn unwanted calories in a few days” without considering that there may be people who love their extra calories.
Zanele Ngcobo said that she wishes that the media would stop associating heavy people with unhealthy lifestyle while slim people are considered healthy and sexy.