In 2016, the ‘ideal’ fit, slim body acts as the norm against which many of us measure, discipline and transform ourselves. In a culture obsessed with bodies, we are made to feel ashamed of our figures figures and consequently invest in diet, fitness and beauty products in order to ‘correct’ them. Adherence to the appearance ‘norm’ therefore generates profit: the current body ideal is constructed by various industries who profit from our body insecurity.
The body is economically exploited by multinational corporations via the production of images that portray ideal beauty. Women are vulnerable to the power of these images since, in comparison, they are made to feel ugly and overweight. Beauty and fitness industries offer products that promise to make the user appear young, slim and attractive. Under the guise of counselling women on ways in which to attain physical perfection, companies increase their profit margins by nurturing bodily anxiety. They create a problem, then offer the solution. As long as bodily dissatisfaction is maintained, women are controllable and profitable.
The products and practices that maintain women’s appearance are costly. The current annual UK market reflects a £2bn diet industry; a £3.6bn cosmetic surgery industry; and a £26bn fashion industry. Since these industries profit from selling bodily insecurity to women, ‘[i]t is vital to the economy of beauty that women believe that they can enhance their attractiveness by purchasing products.’ Women’s magazines and beauty websites abound with articles and advertisements that provide magic formulae for sculpting the perfect booty; reducing loathsome body fat; and ultimately attaining the perfect bikini body. They imply that transformation is easy, as long as the reader is willing to spend.
There are a multitude of products that guarantee to make the body swimsuit ready. These lotions and potions are often endorsed by celebrities. Ok! Online magazine depicts one scantily clad reality TV star, in the hope that sufficient ‘bikini body envy’ will be generated in order to persuade the reader to part with her cash. The products required attain the celebrity’s ‘killer bod’ are conveniently listed beneath the article and range ‘[f]rom faux bronzers that give you a beach-ready golden glow to firming body treatments designed to tone and tighten skin.’ Just four of these ‘must-have products’ total over £200 and include Soap & Glory’s ‘The Firminator Bikini Body Firming Formula’, £12; Orico London’s ‘Bust & Neck Enhancing Elixir’, £28; ‘Nip + Fab Tummy Fix’, £19.25; and Sisley Paris’ ‘Cellulinov Intensive Anti-Cellulite Bodycare’, £142.
In today’s capitalist and consumer driven society, we are constantly encouraged to spend, led by profit hungry industries to believe that the next product will hold the key to the ‘perfect’ body.
 Feminist Perspectives on Eating Disorders, ed. by Patricia Fallon, Melanie A. Katzman, Susan C. Wooley (The Guilford Press: London, 1994), p.62 from ‘”I’ll Die for the Revolution but Don’t Ask Me Not to Diet”: Feminism and the Continuing Stigmatization of Obesity’ by Esther D. Rothblum