Trending shows and influencers are shaping the way young womxn see their bodies. It’s also changing the way they validate relationships.
By Sara Remus and Linda Ayrapetov
On the surface, the concept of a “Revenge Body” may seem harmless. In the context of relationships, it’s regarded as a coping mechanism – a way to move on – and most imperatively, a way to make an ex-lover jealous.
A quick examination of why we behave this way leads us back to the root of nearly all evils – insecurity, lack of actualization, and worst of all, a crippling need for external validation. But this is not entirely our fault – it is largely a learned behavior – and one that is not only viciously perpetuated by almost every element of media around us, it is the foundation for most of capitalism.
But enough doomsday talk – we’re lucky enough to live in an age of critical thinking that allows us to process what we consume and decide whether or not it’s of value – whether or not to listen. But a willingness to ignore comes with experience and self-actualization – something womxn don’t always have the privilege of internalizing when they’re younger.
“Dedicating so much mental and physical energy to proving one person wrong only keeps you in a headspace of needing validation”.
The show description for Revenge Body from Khloe Kardashian reads, “Welcome to “Revenge Body,” the show that is going to turn lives around with the ultimate True and Total Makeover of the exterior and interior. By gaining confidence and control over their lives, maybe even for the first time, Khloé Kardashian and a team of Hollywood’s best trainers and glam squads help two individuals per episode re-create themselves.
The results are going to be a major transformation. It’s all about showing the world — all those people who doubted you, who rejected you — what they’re now missing. It’s all about the Revenge Body. Because the best revenge is looking and feeling your best.”
Let’s break that down.
“By gaining confidence and control over their lives, maybe even for the first time, Khloé Kardashian and a team of Hollywood’s best trainers and glam squads help two individuals per episode re-create themselves.”
The popularized idea that people without an hourglass figure must be lacking “ confidence and control” is a toxic and damaging belief that equates an anything less than media perfect body to laziness. This is why we need body positive and body confident feminine role models. The Lizzos and Aidy Bryants – the Nicole Byers and every other woman in the world who lives her life without concern of her physical value.
“It’s all about showing the world — all those people who doubted you, who rejected you — what they’re now missing.”
What is it exactly that they’ve been missing? Value that you’re assigned purely due to sex appeal? If people have doubted you, why is there any validation in proving them wrong? Why seek respect from people who don’t value your personhood beyond your physical appearance?
“It’s all about the Revenge Body. Because the best revenge is looking and feeling your best.”
Beyond the obvious issues tied to using sex appeal as revenge – the concept of using “revenge” to move on from a toxic, expired, or otherwise “over” relationship – is another form of caring. The best way to move forward is to not care at all. Dedicating so much mental and physical energy to proving one person wrong only keeps you in a headspace of needing validation.
“Some organizations and individuals are doing what they can to fight back – but it’s difficult to fight something that’s been indoctrinated from the moment we’re old enough to have a sense of self.“
Plus1Pod host Linda Ayrapetov reached out to an upcoming contestant on the show – who is also a plus model. Asking what she thought of the concept of “revenge body,” the contestant explained that she thinks everyone on the show has a different interpretation of what a revenge body is. “For me it was nothing about revenge,” she said.
“It sounds like she had a positive take-away from her experience and didn’t really take the ‘revenge’ part literally,” said Ayrapetov, whose podcast focuses on intersections of relationships and existing as a “plus size” person. “However, the statement of ‘showing everyone what they’re missing’ should be offensive to contestants. Why do you need to prove anything at all? Getting revenge on someone doesn’t empower you – it gives the power to someone else.”
Things get a little complicated when we talk about representation. As womxn, especially as influencers – you carry an ability to impact others – specifically younger girls through how you present yourself in any sort of medium.
According to stats from NEDA’s website, 69% of elementary age girls who read magazines say that the pictures influence their concept of the ideal body shape. 47% of those say the pictures make them want to lose weight. Compound that with constant access to social platforms like Instagram and Snapchat – where crash diets, “ideal” summer bodies, and lip injections are the norm – and you’ve got a dangerous concoction of influences and access that we can’t afford to reinforce.
Some organizations and individuals are doing what they can to fight back – but it’s difficult to fight something that’s been indoctrinated from the moment we’re old enough to have a sense of self. While everyone is impacted, girls are usually targeted the most often. Organizations like MEDIAGIRLS, founded by Michelle Cove, bring classes and activities to young girls to help them more critically analyze media.
Many influencers are realizing the positive impact of changing the face of our feeds. Whether shutting down diet talk or refusing to edit photos, the culture of social media is slowly changing, and authenticity is becoming a commendable trait. A few recommended follows – @bodyposipanda, @mynameisjessamyn, and @mypaleskinblog.
We’re people independent of our relationships. We’re whole independent of our physical appearance. Your physicality is a part of you, but it isn’t all of you. Let’s stop letting the media tell us what we’re worth – and let’s make media a safer place for young minds.
Sara von Remus is the founder and program director for Popularly Positive. A California native, she lived in the golden state’s high desert and Central Valley until 2015 when she relocated to Boston to start a new East Coast life. She is passionate about creating spaces for inclusion, critical thinking, and changing how we handle body image. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter.