Editor-In-Chief Chelsie Henshaw discusses the problematic article ‘This year’s 50 Best and Worst Beach Bodies: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly’ by the National Enquirer
Content Warning: Discussion of fatphobia, eating disorders and negative comments about body image
You would think that in 2021 we would have moved past the ‘beach body’ conversation, right? Wrong. The ‘beach body’ discussion has still been in full swing this summer, with US magazine The National Enquirer releasing an article titled ‘This year’s 50 Best and Worst Beach Bodies: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly’. While the piece has received plenty of backlash across social media (as it should), it is worrying that the team at The Enquirer ever saw it as a good article idea and worthy of being on the magazine’s front page.
The distasteful magazine cover and article gained traction on social media after a post by none other than Tess Holliday. Holliday slated the post on Instagram for its perpetuation of ‘unrealistic body standards’ and ‘toxic diet culture.’ The article consists of paparazzi photos of celebrities in swimwear at the beach, including Katie Holmes, Janice Dickinson and Kurt Russell. The report is full of derogatory remarks such as: ‘Holmes is a regular Rip Van Wrinkle,’ ‘what an eye-sore’ and ‘[Russell] flaunted his ballooning belly.’ These comments are offensive at best and dangerous at worst – you never know how a negative comment can affect someone else.
When I first saw the article, I was rendered speechless as to how something so visibly damaging to the mental health of so many could be published. Not only is this article likely detrimental to the mental health of the celebrities included in the article it is also dangerous for readers who struggle with body image and those who do not have the idealised body promoted by society. And let’s be honest, so many of us struggle with body image. I could probably count all the people I know who have not had issues with it on both of my hands. Unfortunately, this is the sad truth of our society, which constantly feeds into the toxic narrative surrounding beauty standards.
Personally, I have struggled with body image for as long as I can remember. One particular memory I have of struggling with it early on was in primary school when some of the children in my class kept calling me fat. I went home that evening and refused to eat dinner because of the comments made about me. I also had my diabetes weaponised against me. Although I have type 1 diabetes, which has nothing to do with a person’s weight, I am constantly subject to comments about how it must be self-inflicted and caused by my eating habits and weight. During Sixth Form, I developed an unhealthy obsession with eating healthily, with these intrusive thoughts still being something I battle with. Many of my close friends and family members have battled with anorexia and bulimia. I have watched them suffer at the hands of society’s constant focus on weight. Therefore, this article hits home, and I can guarantee that the insecurity surrounding appearance, reinforced by this article, has been experienced by the vast majority of us.
Also, the images used in the article are real. They are authentic. They are not posed, filtered, or edited. Why is The National Enquirer suggesting that you cannot enjoy a day at the beach if you are not your best-looking self, primed and ready for a photo shoot?
On a more positive note, I will suggest a few body-positive accounts for you to follow. First of all, I, of course, have to shout out the person who shed so much light on the magazine article: Tess Holliday (@tessholliday). Holliday unapologetically exists on a platform that is not designed for plus-sized people with fat shaming comments common and a fatphobic algorithm. In one post, Holliday poses in an orange tie dye bikini kneeling in front of a mirror. While there are many positive comments on the post, some negative ones include: ‘people like Tess are just doing their part to fight world overpopulation. Taking themselves right out of the equation by 35,’ ‘disgusting’ and ‘worst beach bod lmao.’ But really, who are these people to tell a famous model with 2.2 million followers on Instagram that she is ‘disgusting?’
Another body positivity account on Instagram that I love is that of Danae Mercer (@danaemercer). Mercer’s account is all about dispelling myths around our bodies and highlighting the lack of realness online. She constantly posts pictures of her stretch marks, cellulite, and photos from typically unflattering angles to promote self-love and point out that what society has deemed as flaws are in fact beautiful. She also films many reels showing how influencers can use angles to manipulate photos; Mercer provides a constant reminder that social media isn’t always genuine, and so we shouldn’t compare ourselves to an edited version of someone else. Other accounts to follow include Megan Crabbe (@meganjaynecrabbe), Celeste Barber (@celestebarber), Sonny Turner (@sonnyturner___), Stephanie Yeboah (@stephanieyeboah), and Kelvin Davis (@kelvindavis) – because men struggle with body image too.
Going back to the questionable algorithm mentioned earlier, this algorithm often shadow bans those using the app who are plus-sized. Plus-size influencer Carina Shero claims she has been shadow banned for 2.5 years and has been through seven different accounts. Shero has also stated that other plus-size accounts she knows of have been ‘disproportionately censored,’ with accounts and posts being deleted. Society’s troubling view on body size is a persistent problem; we are constantly critiquing the bodies of ourselves and others based on what society deems as the ideal weight, and even computer systems are discriminating against those in larger bodies.
As a journalist myself, I am incredibly disappointed in the magazine for publishing such an inherently wrong article. Journalism is so important. We are constantly consuming it, so we need to be using it to champion all bodies, not just those who are deemed desirable by others.
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