Over the past ten years, thinspiration has faded in and out of the media spotlight. The term “thinspiration” can mean a lot of things, but in general it’s the idolization of extremely thin women that often manifests itself online in forums and blogs. Pinterest and Tumblr recently banned images and boards that promote thinspiration and self harm. Even Instagram photos these days can be spun into thinspiration. While it’s understandable that many are shocked by the imagery associated with thinspiration, we are missing the point in not discussing the price women pay for unrealistic cultural body image ideals.
To dig deeper into this issue, I turned to The Body Project: An Intimate History of American Girls by Joan Jacobs Brumberg. The Body Project poses that unlike any other time in history, women have made their bodies into all-consuming projects that starts in pre-adolescence and continues through adulthood. Unlike our pre-twentieth century counterparts, the body has become the main mode of expression for women.
“American girls are on guard constantly against gaining weight, and, as a result, appetite control is a majore feature of the adolscent experience. ‘I’m too ugly. I’m too fat. I have a crummy personality,’ wrote Carol Merano, a sixteen-year-old. “Joan Jacobs Brumberg, from The Body Project
The body projects of 10 million American women has turned into an eating disorders. Forty percent of newly identified instances of anorexia are in young women age 15-19. But before women even develop eating disorders, children as young as seven report wishing they were thinner. If that doesn’t make you mad, it should.
And yet, here we are. Discussing thinspiration boards on Pinterest and Tumblrs dedicated anorexic models when what we really should be talking about is why women idolize thin women online to begin with. Every time the word thinspiration or pro-ana [anorexia] comes us, we could be discussing unrealistic societal standards instead of talking about the change of terms and conditions online.
Simply expressing disgust over what is posted online is missing the point. We should be talking about how we can create a more realistic world for young women and start asking why it is acceptable that an 42% of 1st-3rd graders think they need to lose weight.