Society perceives women to be beautiful based on ideal, unrealistically high expectations such as having a slim body type, being tall, having a face free of wrinkles, and long flowy hair. In this technological age, trending hashtags and challenges on social media spread word like wildfire – challenges that have gone viral worldwide via social media platforms include the A4 waist challenge, the belly button challenge, the collarbone challenge, the thigh gap challenge, and the iPhone legs challenge, as users sought to prove their beauty to others. These bizarre challenges are used as an indicator and a form of affirmation of one’s beauty. Nonetheless, hidden beneath the seemingly harmless intent of these challenges, is a potentially harmful and even life-threatening impact on those with low self-esteem. Many feel so poorly about their body image that they succumb to dieting, and eventually end up anorexic, some even committing suicide. Unconvinced about the irrationality of these challenges? Perhaps my explanation of the challenges will change your mindset towards these “innocent” challenges.
The A4 waist challenge, the most recent trend that started from China, is called the “A4 challenge” after the standard paper size that’s just 21cm (8.3in) across. It sees challengers who are mostly women hold up a sheet of A4 paper to their waist and taking a selfie to post on their social media feed. If the paper entirely obscures their waist, they are deemed successful. The belly button challenge, which is also fixated on one’s waist, or in actuality, the flexibility of one’s arms, challenges netizens to touch their belly button by reaching behind their back and around their waist. A challenge dominated by many female users, it spawned 104,000 active discussion threads on Weibo. This alarming figure raises concerns about the unhealthy body image it promotes. The collarbone challenge is yet another trend that is supposedly meant to showcase one’s prominent collarbone, a sought-after feature that makes one look more ‘attractive’. The challenge is to balance coins above your collarbone to see how many you can stack without the whole row toppling over. The number of coins that can be balanced on your collarbone is then taken as an indicator of how prominent your collarbone is.
The thigh gap challenge, which highlights the presence of a thigh gap or lack thereof as a indicator of one’s body weight – lacking this gap is believed to be a sign of obesity. However, based on medical science, the thigh gap is not directly related to body weight. Rather, it is merely a quirk of one’s body shape due to the wideness of one’s hips. Nonetheless, this misleading trend only serves to lower the self-esteem of those who do not have a thigh gap, influencing many to go on crash diets that might eventually cause them to become anorexic due to their obsession with body weight. The most recent challenge, the iPhone legs challenge, uses one’s knees as an indicator of their figures. To successfully pass this challenge, an iPhone 6 placed across one’s knees has to fully cover them. As an iPhone 6 is only 5.44 inches in height, the width of both knees would thus be unable to exceed this. Sounds like these trends are becoming increasingly ridiculous, doesn’t it?
In our desperation to meet society’s idealistic expectations of beauty, we have been blinded to the facts and However, is it really fathomable to measure one’s beauty through such ridiculous indicators? Having a non-existent thigh gap, or being unable to stack coins on your collarbone is not something you should be ashamed of. After all, as cliché as it may seem, beauty is indeed in the eyes of the beholder. Apart from one’s outer appearance, one’s character and personality is what truly defines who you are, and should, in fact, be what draws the friends you have, not your looks. The next time another body-shaming trend spreads, think through it logically before deciding whether or not to attempt the challenge and post a selfie of your success on social media, spreading the word to your peers. After all, why would you want to participate in a challenge that promotes skinny body types and anorexia, and even boosting its outreach to more of the online community?
Chloe Kho (2P)