The vernal equinox is a little over a week away, and with it comes longer days, warmer weather, and often a collection of clothing that embraces everything we love about spring and summer. Shirts get cropped, skirts get shorter, and everything is bursting with color and life. Unfortunately, there is a big downside to this time of year as well: body-shaming from the fashion industry and media seems to thrive as people prepare for the upcoming months.
I spoke with a few students on campus to get a better understanding of how they react to the pressure that the American media’s body standards create, particularly in the spring and summer.
“Swimsuit season is so incredibly stressful,” said sophomore psychology major Symone Pinedo. Pinedo spoke of the hostility of the beach culture of Southern California, where she’s from, and how it often causes insecurity in people who don’t fit the appearance put out by the media. “[Beachgoers] will literally judge you if they don’t think you have a ‘bikini body,’” she said.
Abigail Hough, a freshman undeclared sciences major with a minor in classics, spoke about the difficulties her and other plus-size people face when buying and wearing summer clothing. “Plus-size sections are always boring, and have a lot of shapeless, baggy clothing, which makes you look bigger anyway,” she said. “So I would recommend checking out stores catered [specifically] toward larger sizes. Otherwise, you get into this mentality that your clothes never fit and that you never look good in them.”
When it comes to experiencing fat-shaming, Hough said she gets a lot of “back-handed compliments,” and “people telling me I’m brave for wearing something even somewhat revealing.” She explained that this sort of mentality enforces the idea that plus-size people are somehow heroic for not covering themselves, and that saying “you aren’t fat, you’re beautiful,” is a negative. “I can be both,” said Hough.
It’s not only larger body types that face body-related pressures. Lily Muñoz, a freshman undeclared sciences major and geriatrics minor, said, “I have a hard time finding things that are small enough in most stores. I’m not busty or anything, so it’s particularly difficult to find shirts and dresses that fit well.” In the spring and summer months, she said that wearing more revealing clothing makes her feel insecure because of how thin she is. “A lot of people can see my ribs, so I try to wear things that cover my stomach. I’ve gotten compared to a skeleton before.”
The warmer months also produce clothing that reinforce gender stereotypes relating to the body, as explained by Nick Sousa, a senior creative writing major. Sousa spoke of how, as someone who is genderqueer, they’ve noticed that wearing spring and summer clothing, such as flowy dresses or shorts, calls for more negative attention and remarks than clothing worn in the fall and winter. “It’s as if,” they said, “when your body is on display, apparently your gender should be as well.”
Whatever someone’s body type is, even if they fit into the media standard, they have probably faced pressures to change how their body looks. As spring break approaches, and some of us pack our suitcases with summer dresses, shorts, and bikinis, I want to promote body positivity and acceptance. We all should be able to wear as much or as little as we want without insecurity and without judgement. I hope that with further discussion and awareness, the media standard will expand to include bodies of all ranges, and that the only thought that goes through our minds when we think of achieving a “beach body,” is to simply go to the beach.
Photo credit: Emily Pinnell-Stewart/Foghorn