These days it’s as if a woman’s beauty is determined by the eye of one beholder: the media. We’re expected to be thinner but look healthier. It’s sexy to have curves but shameful to have any inch of cellulite. The standards for women’s physical attributes are becoming impossible to live up to, and one size 8 model has had enough.
Last week, Australian model Genevieve Barker posed topless on a beach for photographer Brydie Mack. The image, to be published in Souvenir magazine, is sensual, lensed in black-and-white, with Barker lying on her side, looking away from the camera and leaning forward on her elbows. While her thighs and behind look muscular and sculpted, the 26-year-old’s torso is tiny, her ribs clearly visible through her skin.
Mack uploaded the photograph to Instagram last Thursday to promote the launching mag and gorgeous model, but the unexpected backlash it received was extreme. Followers claimed Barker was too thin; some even said the woman looked “skeletal.”
Recognizing the all-too-real double standard women face when it comes to their bodies, Barker told Daily Mail, “I see articles all the time condemning ‘fat shamers’ and how appalling it is that a woman should ever call another woman ‘too big.’ However, it is seen as empowering and speaking out for ‘real women’ if people comment ‘too thin,’ ‘eat something,’ ‘gaunt,’ ‘disgusting’ about thin women. I am thin, I AM a real woman!”
Body-shaming has always been an issue, but in recent years it feels as if we cannot make it through a day without some headline discussing this and that woman’s scrutiny for how their body looks. The truth is, when it comes to weight gain or loss, as a woman, you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t.
More: Since when is skinny-shaming OK?
To celebrate the return of E! Entertainment’s Fashion Police, my mother and I sat down to watch Monday night. The episode focused on the red carpet stylings seen at the 2015 Video Music Awards, and the critics zeroed in on model of the year Gigi Hadid. She was dressed in a yellow Emilia Wickstead bodysuit slit gown, and the officers had mixed feelings on the ensemble, however a comment was made comparing Hadid to the runway model that showcased this look, claiming Hadid wore it better simply because she looked healthier. I instantly cringed. I imagined the model sitting on her couch, watching her body be criticized on national television. Every body has a story, and I wondered what hers was.
There is no excuse for body-shaming of any kind. Telling a woman who is overweight to eat less is equally as cruel as telling a thinner woman to eat a sandwich.
“I used to feel embarrassed and guilty for being the way I am,” Barker told Daily Mail. “I don’t anymore. I work hard for my body. I am naturally slender, I work out most days… I essentially train like an athlete. I nourish myself with the foods that help me train and give me energy for the long days of castings and shoots.”
For every woman who struggles with weight loss or binging or who suffers from an eating disorder, there is a woman who is naturally heavy or naturally thin. What our world needs to realize is that health is determined from a list of factors and that beauty comes in a variation of forms.