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The Problem with the perfect body 

Editor’s note: This article heavily discusses weight, body composition, diet culture, and disordered eating.

What is the “perfect body,” and why does it change so often? The “perfect body” is a concept that is heavily reliant on young women, in which they are pressured to conform to society’s expectations of whatever body shape is currently being praised in the media. Women, specifically young women, go through extreme measures to change their bodies in order to fit within the current standards.

When asked if she had ever felt the need to change her body by making changes to her diet or exercise routine, Emma Riordan, a freshman at Anne Arundel Community College, stated, “When I was in fifth grade a boy said to me that I was ‘too big,’ and I look back at pictures now and I think, ‘wow I wasn’t even that big.’ But I remember that whole summer I was compulsively working out to get thinner.” Why do young girls in fifth grade feel the need to work out excessively in order to fit into the standards that are set by societal expectations? Why do young boys feel the need to comment on other people’s bodies? Why is it so normalized to openly criticize and make fun of women’s looks unprovoked? 

Marylin Monroe, Twiggy, Kate Moss, Kim Kardashian, and Bella Hadid — all these women are vastly different, but have one similarity between all of them. They have all been the beauty standard for women during their peak in fame. Marylin Monroe facilitated the switch from a boyish, boxy, flapper girl figure in the 1920s, to the full figured, sensual blonde in the 1950s. Twiggy’s ultra thin appearance in the late 1960s was the inspiration for the controversial “heroin chic” trend in the 1990s. Additionally, Kate Moss popularized said heroin chic in the mid 90s, with her runway looks and photoshoots of her thin body. Although Kim Kardashian brought back the curvaceous figure, by basing her look off of the natural features of minorities, and specifically Black women, her look is still unrealistic due to her flat stomach and thigh gap. Currently, the ultra skinny look is coming back with Bella Hadid being the center of the new body type that women aspire to be. The culture of body trends has plagued the minds of beautiful and intelligent women, forcing them to focus on their bodies by changing their natural features, rather than enhancing them. 

Fashion trends are a common and normal concept in all different cultures. There is not anywhere in the world where clothes are not seen as a status symbol, whether that be branding on T-shirts or diamonds on dresses. However, when status symbols through fashion trends align with body types, women’s lives get much harder, as it is much more difficult to participate in trends when it relies on the natural, or even unnatural body types.

Youtuber Mina Le, states in her video “the problem with plastic surgery,” “so, unfortunately, body types have always been, and probably always will be, a fashion trend. And yes! It absolutely sucks! Because a lot of the time, fashion trends are also dependent on the fashionable body trends.” Le’s point is especially evident with the current comeback of the early 2000s fashion trends, such as low waisted pants paired with a whale tail, which accentuates the long torso and brings attention to the currently desirable small waist and wide hips, whilst still having a flat stomach.

With the current resurgence of “pro-ana,” or pro-anorexia, accounts on social media, who idolize celebrities who are extremely skinny that facilitate these fashion trends, such as Bella Hadid, the constant changing of these “trends” become increasingly more dangerous. 

Diet culture is something that has been present for centuries. Diet pills were advertised as an easy way to lose weight, and even cigarettes were advertised as a tool for weight loss. One thing about this concept is that all these advertisements were targeted towards women. The late 90s and early 2000s were the era that the word “thinspiration” became prevalent. This was when women would find themselves looking at thin celebrities and models, and aspiring to look like them.

One trend that was popular was women printing pictures of their “thinspiration” and taping those pictures on their pantries or refrigerators. Although this trend is not necessarily very popular anymore, women still feel the need to strive to look like the celebrities in the media. 

Uzochukwu Iloanya, a freshman psychology major at UMBC, stated, “I find myself doing exercises specially to slim my waist and make my rump a little plumper because a lot of women in the media who are in the limelight have bodies that resemble an hourglass.” Thinspiration is still alive and well, but we just do not call it that anymore; our generation’s pictures on the fridge is our Instagram feed. 

Although celebrities are the facilitators of the body trends, they do not necessarily have control over them. Marylin Monroe was seen as a sex symbol and praised by all of Hollywoood, and although that may seem like a good thing on the surface, her career was reliant on her sex appeal, specifically with attention on her body, and “dumb blonde” stereotype. Monroe was more than just a dumb blonde who feigned for the attention from rich men, she was also an intelligent and talented woman that the media destroyed. This case can be said with many other female sex symbols in the spotlight, such as American model Anna Nicole Smith.

Although this is common with women who were the “standard,” body-wise, other women tend to feed into the toxicity of being the standard. An example of this would be Kim Kardashian admitting to losing 16 pounds in a week just to fit into a dress that was tailored for someone else — ironically it was specially tailored to Marylin Monroe. We should question why Kim Kardashian is so comfortable with admitting that she lost all that weight, and why she felt the need to lose all that weight. 

The perfect body is different for everyone, some may think it is an hourglass shape, or some think it is a borderline emaciated body. However, our society’s view on female bodies is becoming much healthier, with the rise of body neutrality and the praise of all body types. There is still an exponentially long way to go in order for our society to be completely neutral on female bodies, but the mindset is already changing. Riordan said, “the perfect body is whatever body you have, because it doesn’t really matter, like, you are who you are. I don’t think anyone should change who they are to fit a certain standard.”

Therefore, the problem with the perfect body is that it does not exist. The faster society and the media learns that, the faster the general public, specifically young women, will become more confident in themselves. 

Arpa Shahnazarian is a freshman Mathematics and Economics major and Arts & Culture Probationary Reporter. Contact Arpa at