Gemma Styles | Contributing writer | Saturday, 22 August 2015

Gemma Styles: Normal? Says Who?

Gemma Styles: Project Harpoon Reminds Us There's No 'Normal' When It Comes To Body Type

The Debrief: I know that I don’t have the confidence to put myself out there for bod-related judgment – but I wish I did...

Great news for those of you who enjoy a bit of moral outrage this week – aside from the outpouring of ‘ew’ from terrifyingly popular adultery site Ashley Madison, we’ve been treated to some exceptionally questionable behaviour from the anonymous ‘motivator’ behind Instagram account Project Harpoon. For anyone who’s been lucky enough to miss out on this story, Project Harpoon is essentially a place for amateur photoshoppers to edit photographs of people, mainly women, and slim down their bodies so that they are more 'acceptable' to society. But it’s OK because they’re only doing it to help 'misguided women' to 'realise their potential.' Has anybody got a large bat I can borrow? No reason. 

Social media has given us a lot to live up to in terms of body image. Aside from just worrying about comparing ourselves to celebs in magazines and on TV like when I was a wee lass we now have a never-ending barrage of waif-like women online to feel inadequate beside. The joys. What Instagram and Tumblr have taught us is that as long as there’s a gaping mile between your thighs, you're achingly cool and have just the ‘aesthetic’ that we should all be aiming for. (Side note: people keep asking me questions like 'what is your aesthetic?' and I have absolutely no idea what I’m supposed to say. When did this become a thing? Please feel free to treat me like some obscure branch of architecture and analyse my colour palette or curved lines but I’m pretty much just swanning about going ‘Oh, look, denim!” and wondering where my next vodka tonic is coming from so I really can’t help.) Basically if you’re under 30 and under a size 8 or so then you are just IT.

Gemma Styles: Normal? Says Who?

This isn’t to say that there is anything wrong with being thin. Some people are just built that way, thinner than your average, or taller than your average, or neither or both, and that’s not to say that there’s anything unhealthy about it. It’s just that – sorry not sorry – I’m not built that way and I’m pretty sure the vast majority of people aren’t either. By idolising a very particular body shape we are promoting the idea that this is the only look that is acceptable, desirable and indeed ‘normal’. 

This seems counter-intuitive to me. Surely in a global community of people all interested in each others lives, we should be getting ourselves into a situation where our normal is diversifying and it’s easier to look around you and think – yeah, she kind of looks like me! I know that when I was younger, teenage, this would have gone a long way to improving the body image issues that I’m left with now. I do try to be body positive where I can and it’s amazing to see bloggers and individuals online standing up and saying 'THIS IS MY BODY.' It’s so brave and not something I could do myself. Aside from the fact my personal style has been (affectionately) dubbed ‘Mormon’ in it’s skin coverage – which I love – I know that I don’t have the confidence to put myself out there for bod-related judgment. When I started writing this column I was nervous about offering up my inner monologue but I went for it anyway. How have I ended up in a position where I am more nervous about judgments on my body than my brain? I suppose because personality and humour is more subjective than the rigid and uniform idea of beauty that these garbage humans at Project Harpoon are telling me I should have… I wish I WAS a whale so I could squash you and your harpoon and swim away laughing with my whale mates. 

The only advice I can really give is that when you’re feeling like you’re not right then there are a hell of a lot more people feeling exactly the same way. Rarely are we actually happy with what we’ve got. At the ripe old innings of 24, I’ve happily stumbled onto the age where me and my friends are comfortable enough to message our group Whatsapp and ask: ‘Hey guys, weird question…’ – but it’s taken a long time to get there and doesn’t mean you automatically accept things that aren’t ingrained into your consciousness by the media. I think we should all be following different people online and encouraging our brains to soak up a variety of styles and body shapes so that we can all stop being so gosh-darn hard on ourselves, ya’hear? I’m off to Instagram, quick, before I start getting paranoid about my earlobe fat. 

Like this? Then you may be interested in:

Gemma Styles: Haters Gonna Hate - Why The Internet Is Positive For Us All

Gemma Styles: Are You The Facebook Couple We All Hate?

Gemma Styles: 'In The Defence Of The Humble Emoji'

Follow Gemma On Twitter @GemmaAnneStyles

Photographed by Matilda Hill-Jenkins
With thanks to Airbnb

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