In recent years, the U.S. has seen a rise in body diversity in the mainstream media. Brands like Dove, with their ‘Real Beauty’ campaign, and Modcloth, the first retailer to sign an anti-photoshop pledge, have been leading the way in body positivity. Celebrities like Jennifer Lawrence are in on the movement, too. Lawrence told Elle, “I’m never going to starve myself for a part … I don’t want little girls to be like, ‘Oh, I want to look like Katniss, so I’m going to skip dinner.” She’s not the only celeb who has publically dished the media for putting such a strong emphasis on the way women look.
And while all of these steps forward should be celebrated, our work as a society isn’t done. It takes more than a handful of businesses and public figures to dismantle a centuries-long obsession with women having the “perfect” body. For every commercial that promotes a healthy body image, there are ten more who tell girls that they should have big boobs, a slim waist, and a perfectly shaped ass. For every celebrity that refuses to starve themselves for a role, there are a handful of others posting bikini pics on Instagram, no flaw in sight.
That’s not to say that these famous women (and men—guys have body image issues, too) shouldn’t be posting pictures of their bodies—that would be a gross double standard. But until all body types are widely represented, there will be a disconnect between what girls and women see in the media and what they see in the mirror.
There are many ways we, as a society and as individuals, can fight to reclaim body positivity in every space. One of the first steps is to simply understand the different types of bodies out there. With an accurate representation of the many ways a body can look, rejecting the belief that a body should look a certain way becomes easier.
The Statistics on Body Image Issues
Before we dive into the different body types (and how common each one really is), it’s important to get clear on just how many women deal with body image issues. These issues can range from a slight dissatisfaction with your appearance to body dysmorphia, an anxiety disorder that causes a person to have a distorted view of how they look.
According to a survey done by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 91% of women are unhappy with their bodies. Another 80% say that the images of women in the media make them feel insecure. 81%? That’s the number of 10-year-old girls who are afraid of being fat. It’s no wonder that the weight loss is a $55 trillion industry.
Knowing Your Body Type
Scientifically, there are three main body types. The ectomorph body type is characterized by narrow hips and clavicles (the medical term for collarbone), small wrists and ankles, a thin build, stringy muscle bellies, and long limbs. People with a mesomorph build usually have a wide collarbone, a narrow waist, thinner joints, and long and round muscle bellies. Lastly, an endomorph body shape is characterized by a thick rib cage, thicker wrists and ankles, hips as wide (or wider than) their collarbone, and shorter limbs.
This is just a baseline overview of body types. Within these groupings, bodies can be categorized by different shapes. A study of over 6,000 women by shopyourshape.com, found there to be 8 main body shapes. These include:
- Straight—your bust and hips are the same sizes and your waist is slightly smaller
- Pear—your hips are larger than your bust
- Spoon—your hips are larger than your bust and may have a “shelf” appearance
- Hourglass—you have a well-defined waist and your hips and bust are nearly the same sizes
- Top Hourglass—your bust is larger than your hips and your waist is well-defined
- Inverted Triangle—your hips are narrow and your bust is larger
- Oval—your waist is larger than your bust and hips
- Diamond—your waist is larger than your bust and hips and your shoulders are narrow compared to your hips
Understanding which of these shapes is closest to your body type can alleviate some of the frustration that comes with struggling with body image. When the media only represents a certain shape, it becomes more likely that we compare our bodies to that. Realistically, there are many different types of bodies (with even more nuances among each individual— like uneven breast sizes or “hip dips”).
And while all bodies can be more or less categorized by these man-made definitions (humans sure do love labels), every person’s body is unique. These classifications are not meant to be used to define, criticize, or shame your body. They are a tool for giving you realistic insight into how varied—and beautiful—bodies are.
Ideally, the next few years will bring us closer to a society where the majority of the marketing and entertainment industries use realistic representations of body type and those who don’t are the outliers. Until that happens, you can use this knowledge of body types and shapes to reassure yourself (and your friends and sisters) that your body is normal. Normalizing the way real (aka not photoshopped) bodies look is key to winning this uphill battle with mainstream media.
Photo Credit: Jessamyn Stanley