We can all pretty much agree that the beauty ideal in mainstream society includes thinness and degrees of whiteness. While it is important to help change these standards, it is also important that we’re also not bashing women who might fit the ideal, narrow as it is. Sure, most of us don’t look like the women in Victoria’s Secret ads, but just because Behati Prinsloo and her ilk are tall, leggy and gorgeous doesn’t make them any less womanly or “real.”
Model Genevieve Barker is making this argument after getting harsh criticism on a photo of her posted to photographer Byrdie Mack’s Instagram page. In the black and white image shot for Souvenir magazine, we see Ms. Barker lying in the sand, her back to us, her body contorted so that her rows of ribs are on full display. The image proved to be quite jarring for some, who expressed their disapproval in the comments.
“Is perfection starving themselves?” one commenter wrote, while another said, “Why is this perfection? This woman is a rack of bones… what are you trying to say about women’s bodies here?!?” Some people believed the photograph was promoting an unhealthy, pro-ana body image and did not hesitate to offer their criticism: “I think it’s concerning to promote such a low percentage of body fat and more concerning that so many people strive for this. I’m so anti-body-shaming, big or small, but do believe we should all promote healthy weights.” Others commented with burger, pizza and other food emojis.
Barker did not appreciate the harsh words about her physique. “I see articles all the time condemning ‘fat shamers’ and how appalling it is that a woman should ever call another woman ‘too big,'” Barker told the Daily Mail Australia. “However it is seen as empowering, and speaking out for the ‘real women’ if people comment ‘too thin,’ ‘eat something,’ ‘gaunt,’ ‘disgusting’ about thin women. I am thin, I AM a real woman.”
Fair enough. There seems to be a bit of a double standard in the body acceptance arena. Pop Roulette did an excellent video parody commenting on women who are all about body positivity – unless they’re talking about a thin woman’s body. “All bodies are beautiful… unless you’re thin, then you are disgusting,” the lyrics say.
Sure, Barker might be shaped like the kind of woman who is championed as the height of beauty in our society, but that doesn’t make her any less human nor does it give anyone a free pass to harp on her body. As one commenter put it, “Guys, remember there’s a real human in this picture and your comments can be extremely hurtful.”