Proud2Bme | Goodbye, Bikini Body: Women’s Health Magazine Changes Its Rhetoric

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Goodbye, Bikini Body: Women’s Health Magazine Changes Its Rhetoric

By Ariel Beccia--Ever since I could read, I have adored magazines. On a recent trip back home, I indulged in some much needed “me time” after a busy semester, and revisited all my old favorites (because yes, I have kept every magazine I have ever purchased). The more I read, however, the more shocked I became –  not at questionable 90s fashion trends or old celebrity scandals, but the overarching message contained in each and every issue: SKINNY = BEAUTIFUL = HAPPY.

Of course, this wasn’t really a revelation. I am well aware of the “typical” women’s magazine tropes: the stomach-flattening exercise routines, the hot sex tips, the miracle diets and of course, how to be bikini-ready in two weeks’ time. What was maddening to me as I read was the realization of just how early – and how frequent – I, along with millions of other girls, were subject to such messages. Basically, we’ve all been bombarded time and time again with the idea that there is a “right” way to look, and a “right” way to get there.

Thankfully, I’m not the only one who’s fed up with this. This past January, the editor-in-chief of Women’s Health magazine made some important New Year’s resolutions. She wrote in her editor’s note how the phrases “Bikini Body” and “Drop Two Sizes” are forever banned from gracing the magazine’s cover. She explained:

When one reader said, ‘I hate how women’s magazines emphasize being skinny or wearing bikinis as the reason to be healthy,’ it became so clear: We never want to be that type of women's magazine. So, ‘Bikini Body,’ see ya. Wouldn’t wanna be ya.

OK, so it may be just two phrases on one page of one magazine, but this is actually a huge step! Women’s Health is one of the leading health and fitness magazines for women, and their move toward a more body-positive attitude will (hopefully) set a precedent for other magazines. Words matter – it’s been shown that reading magazines can result in self-objectification, lowered body image and even eating problems in women. It’s so important that Women’s Health is changing their rhetoric because this is a magazine focused on overall health. When this gets defined as looking a certain way (i.e. the mythical bikini body), that’s when things get problematic.

Of course, Laird’s announcement doesn’t mean the work is done. Scroll through the comments on her letter, which was posted online, and you’ll see plenty of readers mentioning the pop-up ad you have to close just to get to the letter: “Keep up-to-date with Women’s Health & get your FREE ULTIMATE 21-DAY TOTAL BODY MAKEOVER.” So no, the messages aren’t gone. Advertisers (who may arguably be the greatest perpetuators of the beauty ideal) absolutely must get on board.

There are also concerns that the actual content of the magazine isn’t the most body-positive reading material out there, given its focus on diet and exercise. While only time will tell what types of articles get published, it is important to remember that health advice does not have to be body-shaming! Let’s hope Women’s Health remembers that, too. As for me, I’ll be sure to pick up next month’s issue and indulge in my favorite pastime, this time with a critical eye. 

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