In this week’s blog post, I want to talk about the fetishisation of teenage bodies – especially female ones. This societal obsession with teenage bodies is toxic and, in part, perpetuates the “thin ideal” – and that’s not okay. If you’re a bit confused at this point, then read on 😉.
First things first, I thought I’d quickly define fetishisation/ fetishising. It comes from fetish, which is an excessive – and usually irrational – obsession with something. E.g. a foot fetish would be a strange obsession with feet. So fetishisation is just the action of turning something – in this case teenage bodies – into a fetish. If you say fetish over and over it kind of sounds like mouldy cheese (or maybe that’s just me).
Some fetishes, whilst odd, are pretty harmless. But the societal fetishisation of teenage bodies is harmful for people’s mental and physical wellbeing. Too often, I’ve heard friends nostalgically wish they had their 15 year old body. For girls , it’s often the “slim hips”, “lanky legs” and “tiny waist” that they miss the most. And this fetishisation is truly toxic, because girls will try to fight against puberty & the inevitable widening of their hips/ thighs/ waist. It can lead to disordered eating and/ or exercising habits. and potentially a full on eating disorder.
Brands don’t help
The reason for this is that many brands that cater towards young girls and women have sizes that will only fit stick-thin, “teenage” bodies. The models they use online and in their media campaigns are usually straight up and down, with few curves that you’d expect to see in more mature girls. Brandy Melville is a big culprit of this, even more so with their ridiculous “one size fits all” ethos, but there are several other brands that do a similar thing.
Society is inherently fatphobic. It does not cater to “larger” bodies in a variety of ways ,excludes them and treats them with disgust and fear. Not only does this play into the fetishising of teenage bodies, it is also a result of it. The obsession with slim twiglet bodies means that anything that doesn’t fit this ideal becomes a source of revulsion. I’ve had friends say they’ve gotten “fat” because they no longer fit their jeans from 6 years ago, when all that’s happened is puberty. Their hips are wider and their legs are stronger, a natural part of growing up. But the media, brands and society in general expresses an aversion to this that makes us all associate getting “bigger” with getting “fatter” and thus no longer being “attractive”.
Growing ≠ getting “fat”
Although I fully acknowledge that the idea of “getting fat” is problematic in itself, I’m using it to express a common (irrational) societal fear. Going through puberty and reaching the end of your teenage years aren’t synonymous with “getting fat”. It’s not the end of your “thin” era. You’re not suddenly “ugly” because you no longer comply with this idealised image of the teenage body. You’re just a human whose got older! We all need to stop this fetishising of teenage bodies and start to encourage acceptance of real bodies that are realistic and not photo-shopped to fit that ideal. That’s not to say there’s something wrong with you if your natural, happy body does fit this stereotype – just that for many it’s not realistic or the case.
A few final thoughts…
Before rounding off this post, I just wanted to remind you that your body is never in the wrong for not fitting into an item of clothing. If your jeans from 5 years ago don’t fit you anymore, it’s probably just because you’ve grown up! So many people want to grow upwards without growing outwards, but that’s simply not possible (at least for most). The sooner you accept your mature, post-puberty body, the sooner you will feel fulfilled and appreciate the unique beauty of it.
I hope this blog post has given you some food for thought, and until next time.