I am a social researcher, I use social media for this – LOTS! Okay, so sometimes scanning the ever increasing social networking sites (SNS) may be a really terrible way to procrastinate when I should be doing something more worthwhile. However, given that SNS’s such as Facebook, which is reported to see around 31 million UK monthly users (Think Digital First, 2017), as well as increasing daily internet use of the UK population (Anderson, 2015), I hope that I may be forgiven for my interest, which is (almost always) research related – honest!
In my line of research, one of the leading interests I have in SNS’s and their use, is the messages that are being disseminated to users through (for example) advertising, suggested pages and stories, and public interaction with these. Information sharing by such means is often considered with caution, particularly in relation to negative body image (see, for example Levine and Murnen, 2009). However, with the potential reach to it’s target population indicated by the sheer number of SNS users, this mode of communication can certainly be used to provide positive messages, as well as increase critical engagement with those which may not be considered as constructive.
Today whilst browsing a popular site, I came across a post by a well known radio station with the above picture and decided to take a look. The article relates to a new body image campaign fronted by some of the panel of daytime TV show Loose Women, called ‘Body Stories’, information of which can be found here. In short, the campaign is another positive step towards the critical engagement with the socially constructed ideal body and promotion of self acceptance. This campaign highlights the way in which ideals are based upon manipulated representations of the body (airbrushing techniques in particular), by the production of an un-airbrushed photo of the celebrity panel. In addition, including individual disclosure of issues and/or appreciation of their own body. Furthermore, the campaign aims to increase social engagement and body confidence by sharing their own body stories using the hashtag #MyBodyMyStory.
I commend the panel and the campaign wholeheartedly, well done and thank you! This is an excellent way to use your celebrity status for positive social change, and you should be extremely proud of yourselves, each other and those who have contributed in any way. However, whilst I applaud any such attempt to promote discussion and increase awareness of body image as an important social topic, my question is “What about the boys?”. I understand that as the panel is entirely female, a result perhaps of the target audience of daytime TV viewers (again, what about the stay-at-home dads?), this may seem like an odd thing to ask. Nonetheless, it must be noted that there appears a serious inequality in campaigns of this nature targeting the male population. Thus, given that body image is a universal construct of the embodied human, the lack of male discussion appears unjust.
With this in mind, commenting on the campaign, Stacey Solomon (pictured above) states “The thing that really worries me is that my 9-year-old son talks about wanting to go to the gym to build muscle!”. Thus, there is recognition that body image is a gender neutral topic of concern, yet endeavours to increase discussion of ‘boy’s body issues’ appear to remain sparse. But there are male celebrities out there who are actively trying to change this, so why are we not making the best use of their influence by sharing, liking and discussing their insights? What about asking them to pose unfiltered and head a campaign? For example, in response to negative comments on recent pictures posted on his Instagram account, popular film star Chris Pratt replied with the following retort:
With around 11.2 million followers, and this specific post obtaining over 400,000 likes, the important message that body image and body shaming is just as much of an issue for the male variety of human, by an extremely influential celebrity is surely something we should be shouting about.
I am not suggesting that we should reduce the number of female related body appreciation campaigns, what I am putting out there is the need to do more for the men and boys. The ‘Body Stories’ campaign, as well as those that have come before them, have been hugely successful and are important tools for positive social change. So let us take inspiration from these and extend our focus to include consideration of EveryBODY!