Designing the Doll: bikini, figure and body-building


The real living dolls.

Not so long ago, female bodybuilding and competing was the preserve of a minority. Then the Bikini category was added, and aided by the explosion of Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, blogs.. previous elitist language such as ‘eating clean’, ‘carb depletion’ have become social media favourites. It seems every other bikini-clad twenty-something on Facebook and Twitter will speak of protein shakes, clean-eating, getting ripped and its spiritually uplifting effects. Partnered with pseudo-psychology (you know I love it) and motivational quotes, women are told they must push harder, the non-believers are jealous haters, and you must never be happy with the body you are given.

A size 8 body is not good enough. The body must show signs of work, of being trained. There are no excuses! The natural size 8 body is guilty of having ‘skinny fat’. The female body in its natural state is not good enough. It is ‘soft’, it lacks ‘definition’. The process must be never-ending, and the gruelling schedule must be on display. Tweets of every meal; Instagrams of the obligatory six pack (limited body fat read as synonomous for ‘healthy’). Facebook snaps of your daily hoard of supplements. To quote Iggy Azalea : This is work.

A size 14 woman who runs 10 miles a day is not wanted here. The size 16 power-lifting woman is ignored. The woman must look like a creation. A beauty parade of hair extensions, fake tans, eyelash extensions, mandatory breast augmentation (the ‘stuck on’ look is celebrated) botox, fillers. Man-made women are in. But this is healthy. They are role models.

There is no mention of how view of these models/ competitors have regular periods. About how many have eating disorders or mental health problems exacerbated by the ‘discipline’. About how many use drugs. About the insomnia from taking extreme caffeine boosts and supplements to curb hunger and fuel training. It is skimmed over when a top pro admits that of course the industry isn’t healthy.

The surveillance gaze is positioned everywhere. The Dollopticon. Monitoring themselves, their peers, and those lazy peasants who dare to be seen in a less than perfect light, or shock horror, in a fast food shop. ‘Fat’ women, (Kelly Brook is far too ‘soft’ apparently) are a particular source of disgust and mockery. Pictures posted of unsuspecting passers-by, so their bodies can be dissected and used for fuel for the cause. Look how revolting this body is! This is why we must embrace the dollopticon. Fat bodies that dare to spill out onto the streets. Spill out of their clothes, uncontainable, out-of-control. Daring to flash their cellulite, having the audacity to wear a bikini without eating their egg whites.

“Through public statements, we want to distance ourselves from this uncomfortable proximity. In uttering the phrase, we call upon others to witness our pulling away” (Probyn, 2000, p.131 cited in Ahmed, 2004, p. 95).

The discipline creates the doll. There should be not an ounce of fat, not a wrinkle, not a sign of ageing. This is health. To fail in prescribing to the doctrine is laziness and letting yourself ‘go’. Daily photos will ensure the dolls do not wane. Worth is bound up in the creation. Heaven forbid the doll who has a few days off diet post competition, and squeals how soft she is. The doll must be hard. This body is constantly is motion, the doll status is fluid, and that fuels the anxiety of maintaining it.

For those who support the ‘Lose the Lads’ Mags’ campaign, check out the bodybuilding magazines. I think these images are far more misogynistic and dangerous. The women are total creations. The language used in various columns of the well-known mags, and on social networking sites, portray the deep hatred of women. Anyone who resembles a natural woman is vilified. Soft flesh, regardless of the petite statue, is disgusting. A woman should have her body and diet under constant surveillance. Meals every 2-3 hours, 6 litres of water a day, endless supplements and daily photo updates act as the new iron maiden. Naomi Wolf’s Beauty Myth couldn’t have imagined the saturating effect that this doll ideal would have in 2013 via social media.

The woman who doesn’t wish to adhere to these norms is misguided, lacking determination, jealous. The woman who flaunts her natural flesh is revolting and dangerous. All hail the Dollopticon.

This post here writes eloquently and thoughtfully on the issue and has had 160,000 views so far! Please do check it out.

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