Booty and Beauty: 7 Biggest Moments in Body Image for 2014
Amid the Internet behemoth that was (and is) #YesAllWomen, the issue of body image and the media dominated the health and wellness headlines.
Researchers have been studying the effect of media on women’s and men’s self-esteem since the dawn of second-wave feminism. Now you can even get a Ph.D. specializing in body image and media. But not until 2014 has it been so apparent that consumers are paying attention to every misstep—and victory—a brand or celebrity may make when portraying beauty ideals in campaigns, whether it’s a hamburger, a magazine, or a soap.
Take, for instance, Target’s poorly retouched “thigh gap” images compared with Dove’s Real Beauty viral videos. In any other year, these might be the biggest in body-image news, but in 2014, they’re only two of many trends that have made the rounds in social media. Shifting cultural attitudes have spoken loudly, and below we have the biggest moments in body image to take us into the New Year.
7. Swimsuits for All Re-Creates Sports Illustrated Cover
U.S. swimwear company Swimsuits for All took its plus-sized models to the beach to re-create the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition's 50th anniversary cover, featuring topless women with their backsides to the camera. The image, which is one of 12 for the company’s free and downloadable calendar, went viral among body-positive activists.
6. Beyoncé’s Thigh Gap
It was the year of the feminist and the year for Beyoncé, but not everything Queen Bey did was cheered in 2014. An Instagram image of the pop star on a golf course called into question whether her personal photos had been retouched to create thigh gap, which Beyoncé refutes. In January, Kim Kardashian had come under fire for a similar claim that her “butt selfie” had been retouched. Kardashian responded, “It sucks when people make up surgery or Photoshop lies when I am so disciplined and work so hard!” Both women, who possess curvier shapes, have been reviled and applauded for body image this year.
5. Victoria’s Secret’s “Perfect Body”
In 2011, Britain’s Advertising Standards Authority had already moved to ban a Julia Roberts makeup ad because it was too heavily retouched. So it comes as no surprise that a petition to demand Victoria’s Secret change its “The Perfect ‘Body’ ” campaign to something less “perfect” started in the U.K. Victoria’s Secret insists it made the decision to change its ad slogan to “A ‘Body’ for Everybody” on its own. The company still seems tone-deaf to consumer complaints, however, as only the words changed, not the svelte models behind them.
With cultural norms and acceptable behaviors being reevaluated on a constant basis, Meghan Trainor’s “All About That Bass” went from being a message of body positivity for the bigger girl to a skinny-shaming perpetuation of the importance of male desirability within a week of its release. Culture critic Chloe Angyal said of the song, “Loving yourself because dudes like what you’ve got going on is a pretty flimsy form of self-acceptance,” but the single is currently one of the best-selling songs of all time with more than 6 million copies sold and counting.
3. Elizabeth Banks Admits Her Fitness Is Due to Genetics
This may not seem like a big issue at first glance, with a naturally beautiful actress like Elizabeth Banks saying what we all know to be true: No fitness campaign can wage a war against genetics. But Banks is breaking an unsaid rule in the entertainment industry, speaking about her luck in inheritance and not owing her well-formed body to painstaking work. With the health and fitness industry pulling in billions of dollars a year, consumers are often misled by the false messages of hard work equating that beautiful ideal body.
2. Keira Knightley Bares Her Breasts
In August, Keira Knightley posed topless for Interview magazine, saying, “I've had my body manipulated so many different times for so many different reasons…I said: 'OK, I'm fine doing the topless shot so long as you don't make them any bigger or retouch.' ” Notably present in Knightley’s photo are the folds of skin at her armpits, one of the first anatomically correct body parts to go in the retouching process.
When Kim Kardashian posed for Paper magazine’s break-the-Internet cover, balancing a champagne glass on her behind, reports immediately came in that the images had been heavily Photoshopped, but no sources could confirm to what extent. Aside from the racial ramifications of the image, which had paid homage to another image with its own implications, most critics focused on one of two angles: Was showing her nude body an act to inspire confidence, or was it just another tired exploitation of a woman retouched to impossible beauty standards?