Pretty Cool: Seeing Body Diversity Makes Us More Comfortable With Diverse Bodies


You know how all day, every day we’re inundated with images of women with similar body types (thin) and told, “THIS IS PERFECT BE THIS SIZE OR DIE OF A FAT FAT ATTACK.” Or, you know, just be thin so clothes will fit right, other people will find you suitable for fucking, and you won’t die alone with your rotting carcass eventually discovered under a pile of pizza boxes, diet pills, and Lipitor? The same reason many women spend thousands of dollars to lose those “last ten pounds,” might just be because the only type of women we ever see in the media are thin, thinner, and thinnest (but not too thin! because then she’s probably anorexic and then, “eewww!”) In conclusion, it makes everyone miserable and nobody wins.

Well, a new study published in PLoS ONE, demonstrates that when women are shown pictures of other women with a range of body sizes, the study participants quickly start to get more comfortable with the varying sizes. Of course, the implication is, that if we we’re shown a more diverse arrays of body sizes on TV, movies, billboards, advertising, etc., we’d probably just be a lot more okay with the fact that bodies come in all shapes and sizes, maybe even seeing Tyra in a fat suit (made of a ten thousand jelly beans stuffed into a full-body sweat suit made for a T. Rex) would be less alarming.

When [Ed.: mostly/exclusively heterosexual] women in England were shown photos of plus-sized women in neutral gray leotards, they became more tolerant.
When the women were shown photos of anorexic women, attitudes became more positive there, too. “Showing them thin bodies makes them like thin bodies, more, and showing them fat bodies makes them like fat bodies more,” says Lynda Boothroyd, a psychology researcher at Durham University in England, who led the study. She calls it a “visual diet,” changing what your eyes eat.

The photos initially freaked me out because I was all, “HEADLESS FATTIES OH HELL NO!” but then I realized that by not showing faces and by cladding them all in ugly-ass neutral leotards, the researchers wanted the women to only notice the bodies.

In fact, when shown women of all sizes dressed nicely, study participants responded more positively to the women, no matter their weight. Which, duh, those leotards are the ugliest. Of course, all study participants still “preferred thinner-than-average bodies, but their preferences did move up or down depending on what they saw.”

In conclusion, burn your television and eat your eye balls because I have no other solution! Well, unless Instagram counts as big media now and if so, let’s all Instagram our butts and normalize butts, worldwide.

How Changing Visual Cues Can Affect Attitudes About Weight [NPR]
Visual Diet versus Associative Learning as Mechanisms of Change in Body Size Preferences [PLoS ONE]

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