November 16, 2018
How your media choices can influence body inclusivity
In the last decade, we’ve all likely taken note of the movement in the media to showcase a more realistic and inclusive representation of human bodies. We are finally beginning to see less gratuitous photoshopping to remove cellulite, blemishes, and even ribs to give the impression of a “perfect” body type (will we all laugh at how ridiculous this movement was in 20 years?). In its place, we are seeing more untouched imagery and a wider-reaching representation of normal, everyday bodies.
As our imagery and messaging move toward inclusivity and a better representation of body diversity, navigating language that doesn’t offend, hurt, or disrespect people while still being able to discover and present images of different body types can be a challenge.
Nobody loves labels, especially ones that describe us as “average” “regular” or “normal” – so what is appropriate messaging for all of our different shapes and sizes? And then of course, what is normal anyway? That’s an evolving conversation, but we’ve researched some of the preferred language and keywords to use in order to find relevant content, and build campaigns that treat people and their bodies with the respect they deserve.
Tell A Story About People
Diversity campaigns specifically about body image or body positivity are amazing. But it’s important to go beyond drawing attention to the thoughtful inclusion of body types and just start doing it as a standard routine — i.e. When considering diversity in your projects, integrate a range of body shapes alongside considerations like age, ethnicity, and gender. We want to see beautiful bodies from everyday life that tell a story about people, not just drawing attention to their bodies. By incorporating more body diversity into everyday media imagery, we can begin to show a more accurate representation of the modern world and empower the people living in it.
Curvy Curve Models
The most prevalent body topic in current media is how to view and speak about people who have curves. Plus size has become a common descriptor in recent years, however, it can be problematic as it assumes a normative numerical baseline and that all people beyond an arbitrary clothing size are deemed “other”.
In plus-size’s stead, Curve and Curve Model are gaining popularity as more models and women, in general, prefer to be defined by body shape rather than size. Plus size, however, continues to be a common term and still has a place in media (these things don’t change overnight) but as we keyword, search for, and implement images of curvy people, try combining plus size with curve, curvy or curve model in tandem for more inclusive, progressive projects.
Men Have Bodies Too!
Although the media has traditionally focused on scrutinizing women’s bodies, men also face body image challenges and want to see more varying body shapes and sizes represented in the imagery surrounding them. When designing body positivity projects and campaigns, don’t forget to include men and non-binary identifying people so we can all destroy body shaming together.
The New Norm is No Norm
As the number of people who are defined as “plus-size” or “big and tall” continues to grow, we begin to see a shifting landscape of what the “average” human looks like. But rather than using language suggesting that curve models are the new norm, we can work towards ditching the entire concept of “norm”. Opposition based messaging like “Real women have curves,” or “Skinny people need to eat more cheeseburgers”, can be replaced with body image affirming phrases like “Confidence is the new sexy” or “People should eat whatever makes them healthy and happy.” The more messaging we use to empower all healthy bodies, the more we can move toward a culture that doesn’t require unnecessary normative baselines.
Be Sure of Your Use Case
There are plenty of people in the world who suffer from body-related illnesses and we still need imagery and campaigns to raise awareness about body dysmorphia and habits that cause us harm. But be sure to read image descriptions so you know the model and photographer had intended to illustrate illness or health issues as the subject matter.
WORDS TO AVOID
Fatty, Chubby, Well Rounded, Tubby, Pudgy, Chunky, Rotund, Bony
Curve, Curve Model, Curvemodel, Curvy, Slim, Slender, Athletic, Toned, Strong, Muscular, Healthy
CONSIDER YOUR USE OF
Fat, Plus-size, Underweight, Overweight, Skinny
It is in our power to begin changing perception and to take responsibility for the messages we send to people about body inclusivity. Individuals can only do so much to combat being pushed to the fringes of representation and respect. Media has the ability to help change perceptions around body diversity. Instead of telling people of different body types to “stop caring”, let’s show them that we do.
Stocksy United is an artist-owned photo + video licensing co-op run by relentless creatives and risk takers. We are motivated by a shared love of visual art, working together to inspire and elevate design that challenges convention. Created by artists, united by respect.