Why Body Shape Guides Are Bad For Women

If you’ve ever read a woman’s magazine, you’ve probably come across one: the dreaded body shape guide.

I’m talking about the “helpful” articles that liken women’s bodies to apples and pears, and then strongly “suggest” what we should or should not wear, based on what fruit or other inanimate object our bodies resemble. Stuff like, “If you’re a pear, don’t wear pencil skirts. If you’re a ruler, wear push-up bras. If you’re an apple, don’t wear shorts.” The worst are the guides that suggest if you’re not a size 0-2 to basically cover up your entire body.

What purpose do body shape guides serve other than making us feel inferior? They assign useless, damaging labels, they clump women’s bodies into a handful of categories, they prescribe rigid rules for dressing and they make everyone—no matter what shape they are—feel weird about their size.

It was a certain magazine’s swimsuit guide that forged my ultimate dislike for body shape guides. It basically suggested that any full-figured woman forgo the bikini and opt for a one piece instead. Instead of using models, they used “real women” that they found on the beach. And cruelly, they took a happy, smiling, thin woman in a bandeau top and told her that she shouldn’t wear that style of bikini top because she had a figure like a “ruler” and instead, put her in an extreme push-up bikini top. “FIXED!” they proudly proclaimed, removing the black bar from her face in the “after” photo. What the hell needed to be “fixed”? What is so offensive about small breasts? Why shouldn’t she be proud of the body she has and wear that bandeau top?

All body shape guides do is make us feel bad and try to get us to buy whatever the magazine is pushing. I realize that for some people, these guides may be helpful, but their message is restrictive. No magazine can predict how you rock an item of clothing—dressing well has so much to do with how you feel, and no measurement chart can assess that.

To me, body shape guides are LITERALLY objectifying women by reducing them to inanimate objects. We are so much more than our bodies and their shapes, and we are certainly more than just fruit, or rulers, or hourglasses or any other items you might find in a 19th century study. (Seriously, where do they come up with this stuff?)

So here’s my ultimate body guide:

IF YOU’RE SHAPED LIKE A PERSON, congratulations, you have a body!

It may not be the most detailed guide for getting dressed, but who needs those rigid style rules anyway? No one should tell us how to dress. No one should define us by our “shape.” No one should police our bodies in any way, and for me, that includes guides that tell us what we can and can’t put on them.

(Image via Shutterstock)

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