Why tagging your fave’s pic as #goals may actually be problematic and harmful to your self-image
Having goals is always a good thing, right? Goals mark a desire for self-improvement and suggest a level of self-awareness and agency that is necessary in success-driven adulthood. That being said, many of us may recall that the latter half of 2015 was met with many feminist critiques of #SquadGoals as it mostly pertained to Taylor Swift’s exclusive army of her famous female friends. The problem with #goals begins when goals are based on appearances and you think critically of what is being placed as the juxtaposition to such ideals.
By now #BodyGoals has been a trending tag for a while, re-surging in popularity every time Kim Kardashian posts a nude selfie or after Teyana Taylor’s groundbreaking performance in Kanye West’s “Fade” music video debut at the 2016 VMA’s. Something about the hashtag always made me cringe but I did not know how to approach the subject, not even with my friends. I once asked them “What does that mean? What does it mean for someone’s body to be goals?” It felt like a really stupid question to ask but a part of me just felt like I needed to talk about it aloud. I was met with mostly confused looks, as I predicted, but one of my friends turned to me and said simply, “It means body goals, it means I want my body to look like hers.”
My friend’s response took me back to where I was in my first year of college, scrolling through Tumblr at 3 am past images of sad-looking emaciated women who had decided to share their suffering with other people online to “inspire” us to take the route they’ve chosen to take with their body image or succumb to their eating disorders in hopes of achieving and/or maintaining our collective #goal, to be skinny. Once I drew this parallel it was easier for me to recognize why hearing other people’s #BodyGoals always made me cringe and why it never has been nor ever will be body positive.
- #BodyGoals is the new #Thinspo
Yes, there are some stark differences between #BodyGoals and #Thinspo like for one #BodyGoals does not suggest any dangerous practices or self-harm to achieve such goals and #BodyGoals don’t necessarily have to denote someone thin. Ashley Graham has been tagged repeatedly as many women’s #goals, especially this year and last year as she’s reached a heightened level of visibility and has achieved so many accolades that no size 16 woman ever has before. However, I still do not count this as a victory and I don’t think Ashley Graham would either. Most plus-size models and bloggers identify as being body positive advocates, meaning they want to eradicate the standard, not replace it. Many people may think that wanting to look like Ashley Graham is automatically body positive, not considering that someone who’s a size 20 wanting to be a size 16 is not much different than someone who is a size 8 wanting to be a size 4. It’s true that there is a motley of ideal body types being promoted at the moment rather than just one, but promoting multiple ideals is very different from promoting body acceptance. #BodyGoals, just like #Thinspo and #Fitspo, is just a way to get images of socially accepted ideals in one place and promotes longing and personal dissatisfaction with our bodies in order to essentially torture ourselves because we don’t look the way society says we should look or refuse to love ourselves until we achieve said goals.
- #BodyGoals implies your body needs improvement
From reading my previous point you may think that I believe it’s wrong for people to want to improve their bodies. The question is, what qualifies as an improvement? Flat stomach? Six-pack abs? Wider hips? Being toned? Augmented breasts? Smaller thighs? Bigger butt? Does that mean that people who have these qualities have better bodies than those who don’t? Does that mean if you don’t have these qualities your body will always be a work in progress or a problem to be solved? How can that be body positive? #BodyGoals implies that some bodies are better than other bodies and some bodies are #goals and others need to be focused on becoming those goals.
Don’t get me wrong, it is okay to want to change your body to look a way in which you feel you could navigate space more comfortably or even just for fashion or aesthetics. It’s your body and you can do whatever you want with it. If your definition of #BodyGoals are a picture of a celeb that you’re going to show to your plastic surgeon to describe what you want done, that’s perfectly okay. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to change your body, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to look different than you do naturally. The problem is the language often surrounding these changes that places body types in a hierarchy, where there is a 1% of body types that the 99% should be striving towards.
- #BodyGoals promotes diet culture and diet culture is not body positive
One of my fave bloggers, Corissa Enneking of @fatgirlflow recently faced an immense amount of internet backlash for posting a video declaring that dieting is not body positive and because her stance is so nuanced, many people could not understand her firm stance against it. Still, whether or not you agree with her declaration, it is clear to see why at least diet culture cannot be body positive. Diet culture essentially describes how the multi-million dollar dieting industry manipulates us into thinking that thinness is equivalent to being a happy, healthy, and productive members of society, even though dieting has often been proven to be unhealthy and counter-intuitive for several reasons, and being fat is a crime. #BodyGoals is diet culture’s new hot hashtag. Images of celebrities and athletes in combination with this tag is free advertising for all types of diet and weight-loss medications and regimens – the promise of being happier, loved, and accepted written as a fine print no-money-back guarantee in each caption section.
- #BodyGoals =/= health goals
“But what about being healthy?” a mysterious voice from out of the blue always asks. Not to trivialize the importance of physical health, but let’s be honest, most people only want to stress being healthy when it comes to fat people. There is no way that #BodyGoals can be used to describe someone’s goals for becoming healthier because healthy is not a body type. You can be a vegan and be a size 22, you can be a size 14 yoga instructor, you can be a size 2 and eat a diet of strictly Taco Bell, your size is not an indication of your health – period. When we equate the way someone’s body looks with how healthy someone is, it creates room for ignorance in the name of health promotion, aka “concern trolling”, that is used to perpetuate fatphobia and further marginalize fat people in society.
- #BodyGoals places too much emphasis on outward appearances
Your body is a vessel not an accomplishment or a goal. Your body is what you use to accomplish your goals. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to look good and loving the way you look is essential to many aspects of your life, but the purpose of body positivity is to no longer be bogged down by society’s expectations of our appearances to the point that it detracts from what you have to offer as a person, aside from the necessary dismantling of capitalistic, patriarchal, cis- and heteronormative, ableist, and white supremacist beauty standards. We shouldn’t have to squeeze into a mold in order for us to be taken seriously or accepted. Our looks do not determine our value or whether or not we deserve respect. Our goals should pertain to character development, success in our careers, relationships with loved ones, community outreach, charity and organization, and so on. So, I propose that in 2017 we set more meaningful goals that are a lot less problematic.