'Heroin chic' vs 'body positivity': how do these two 'trends' co-exist?

Like Bella Hadid, Lea Michele or Khloe Kardashian, thinness seems to have come back into fashion.

Last November, the New York Post announced the return of the “trend” heroin chicwho had marked the 1990s by praising extreme thinness. An announcement that raised eyebrows more than one! But, while the inclusive body positive movement seemed to have made its mark in recent years, are we experiencing a step backwards? How can these two currents coexist?

Thinness would thus once again be the fashionable standard of beauty, according to the American media. He takes as evidence the weight loss of Kim and Khloe Kardashian or the success of ultra-famous models – and just as thin – such as Bella Hadid, Kaia Gerber (daughter of Cindy Crawford) and Lila Moss (daughter of Kate Moss) . And that's not counting the craze for buccal fat removal (the reduction of fat in the cheeks to have a more angular face), the new TikTok trend that some attribute to actress Lea Michele .

Except… Can we really speak of a “return”? Not according to Gabrielle Lisa Collard, author of the book Rebellious body and journalist interested in issues surrounding fatphobia, diet culture and body diversity. “Although we've seen a few curvy models in the last few years, thinness has never ceased to be the standard, heroin chic or not”, maintains her.

An observation shared by doctoral student and researcher at UdeM Emmanuelle Parent, who specializes in the study of social media and social norms. “Since the time I have studied social networks and digital platforms, I can say that thinness has always been presented as an ideal of beauty, she reports. So when we announce her return to fashion, I say to myself: “Ah yes, where did she go?”» 

Between two fires 

Walking on TikTok or Instagram, it is indeed difficult not to come across slim bodies. Although the body positive movementhas been there and has allowed more diverse silhouettes to show themselves, it is not these bodies that we see the most, underlines Emmanuelle Parent.  

“There are so many money to be made on the fact that women are bad about themselves… That's why even if you only follow people who are for body diversity, by scrolling you will surely be targeted by an ad that tells you how to lose your belly,” she laments.  

Edith Bernier, author and creator of the grossophobia.ca site, also denounces the pernicious predominance of the diet industry on social networks. “Social pressure to lose weight or stay thin is still very strong and diet culture is doing its little chameleon to speak to younger and younger girls,” she says. Detox, intermittent fasting, change of lifestyle, fitness, magic foods: the injunction of slimming today gives itself the air of self-care

Slimming down, taking care of yourself, loving yourself as you are… The abundance of contradictory messages that social networks broadcast can lead to loss benchmarks, explains psychologist Janick Coutu.

We are straddling several values ​​– accepting ourselves, wanting to lose weight – and that can cause distress. Human beings like clarity and therefore all these mixed messages can cause feelings of anxiety. Not to mention the fact that certain content can be triggers for people who suffer from eating disorders.

Janick Coutu, psychologist

Redefine or abolish the norm

And if several movements are opposed, it is also because the world has changed, underlines Gabrielle Lisa Collard, who recalls that a few years ago, we did not even speak of fatphobia. “With social networks, we have gained visibility that we did not have before. When I was 16, I felt like I was the only fat one, whereas today there is this space where anyone can show up and exist. It has become a space to get your eyes used to body diversity,” sums up the author, who also likes to showcase herself on Instagram.

While social networks often mirror current beauty standards, they also represent “a golden opportunity for new trends to emerge,” adds Emmanuelle Parent. This is for example the case of the #normalizenormalbodies movement which has allowed many women to show their bodies without sublimating it.  

Among these new trends, several others make Gabrielle Lisa Collard optimistic : “We see more and more nutritionists who are reinventing their profession, there is also more inclusiveness in sport on social networks, whether it is dance or weightlifting… We also see more and more doctors who deconstruct the myths around weight and health, and I must say that it feels good.” 

As for her, the psychologist Janick Coutu wishes that the body is no longer presented as a fashion item. “To say that a body is in fashion, it does not make sense! I think what is desirable is to achieve bodily neutrality, that is to say, no longer focusing on the appearance of the body, but on what it allows us to accomplish. she concludes.

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