Skinny selfies and the endless quest to be thin



This week isn’t a good week to feel good about yourself on the internet. Australian Fashion Week’s veteran designers, in particular Alex Perry, Ellery and Carla Zampatti cast ultra-slim women to ‘walk’ for them at their catwalk shows in Sydney this week.

Perry even admitted the models he used to parade his collection were in the dangerously-thin territory. “I’m putting my hand up and saying ‘you know what, that was wrong, it was wrong, that was the wrong image to present’,” he said on the Today show yesterday.

Combining this with the launch of the introduction of the (frankly alarming and potentially dangerous) new app SkinneePix we are again slapped with frustrating messages about thinness and beauty. Not even your garden variety selfie is immune to the trend!

A model on the catwalk at Australian Fashion Week.

A model on the catwalk at Australian Fashion Week.

Creators Robin J. Phillips and Susan Green tout it as everything from “weight loss inspiration” to “fun”, but the app is just another way we are increasing the pressure on people to live up to narrow beauty ideals.

The pressure on young people – the most prolific “selfie” takers – to adhere to unrealistic standards of beauty is enormous and this kind of product just further emphasises the overwhelming message from catwalks, magazines and social media that “you aren’t good enough/thin enough/pretty enough”.

In fact, SkinneePix is saying you are so lacking,  you need to digitally shrink before you even THINK about sharing that photo. This app is a sad reflection of the pressures we face to be thinner at all costs.

This app is a sad reflection of the pressures we face to be thinner at all costs.

It also introduces an even more alarming trend of comparison and competition among friends on social media.

Ms Green is quoted as saying this app helps “motivate her” to lose weight in real life, adding it shows what she could look like with a bit more exercise or healthy eating.

A screenshot of the SkinneePix app.

A screenshot of the SkinneePix app.

Hang on? A digital algorithm which shrinks my face is now inspiring me to eat differently or exercise more?

How about the fact it just digitally alters my bone structure, making me look completely unlike myself when I tick the ‘15’ pound reduction (6.8 kilos)?

How about the fact it makes me feel awful because I know I don’t actually look like the picture I poste that garners an overwhelming amount of ‘likes’ and compliments on my weight loss?

This ‘beauty at all costs’ culture is distorting our idea of what people really look like without digital enhancement, make up and professional lighting.

It’s normal not to look perfect in every casual selfie. It’s OK to have blemishes and round faces.

The glamour shots of Alex Perry gowns on impossibly slim women further serve to make us feel like we are not measuring up.

We need more publications of real faces without Photoshop, like the recent shots Lorde posted to Twitter.

The advertising jargon on the website says SkinneePix “makes your photos look good and helps you feel good … no one needs to know. It’s our little secret.”

As a body image specialist this really alarms me. Apps like this appear harmless when they are actually really dangerous. We don’t need to reinforce the idea that we need to look thin to be happy and feel good (it’s just not true ).

What we need to be doing is helping people see their worth regardless of their size or the amount of “likes” they get on social media sites. People need to see more real bodies and less polished and unrealistic images of beauty.

And dare I say it, we need larger women and men on the catwalks of Australian Fashion Week.

Sarah Harry is the co-director of Body Positive Australia

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