When it comes to body image and eating disorders, it’s hard to know the right thing to do. Do you speak up when you fear a friend is starving herself? How can we know the right approach when these types of illnesses are almost a taboo topic?
Lady Gaga’s “Body Revolution”, a campaign that celebrates the imperfections of the human body, attempts to bring these much-needed dialogues into mainstream language.
The campaign began when the popstar responded to press criticism of her recent weight gain.
Gaga, nearly as well known for her whacky clothing choices as for her music, posted a photo of herself online. It was a photo of herself dressed only in her underwear which ran alongside the caption “bulimia and anorexia since I was 15.”
GaGa’s “little monsters” reared up as one, supporting their “Mother Monster” in the best way they knew. They posted photos of themselves highlighting the parts of their body they themselves have struggled with.
And it’s not just those with eating disorders or issues with their weight.
It’s those that have scarring from acne, amputations, surgery scarring, birthmarks, awkward blemishes – those parts of our bodies that we have rebelled against.
Gaga’s campaign is about acceptance, and even celebration of the bodies we do have, not the ones we want. It’s not about airbrushing, it’s not even about preaching. It’s about being able to say, hey, you know what? I’m still beautiful despite the scars life has given me.
And it’s important for those with a following to remind us that despite their success, they too have struggled with the same issues the rest of us have. Furthermore, it’s important for them to be represented in the media realistically, sans photoshopping.
For Amanda Palmer this resulted in the split from her music label.
The American singer sparked controversy in 2008 after the release of her video clip “Leeds United”, when she claimed Roadrunner Records, Palmer’s label at the time, had wanted to pull images of her from the video that exposed her stomach because she allegedly “looked fat”.
While this was not such an orchestrated campaign as Gaga’s, Palmer’s fans reacted in the same vein.
They posted pictures of their stomachs online with messages to Roadrunner Records. It was a “ReBellyon”.
For Amanda Palmer, this clear difference in values between herself and her music label was a deal breaker.
After further campaigning from Palmer, including a song called “Please Drop Me”; she was released from her contract.
For Palmer this wasn’t the end of her success, but rather a new beginning. The singer, who’s not afraid to challenge feminine beauty norms, has just released a new album funded by $1.2 million worth of Kickstarter donations, a new record for music projects on the fundraising site. It proves that success is not linked to image – you can reject social norms of beauty, such as women shaving their underarms, and still have fans, success and money.
The ReBellyon resulted in further community collaboration and support for body image with the fans publishing a book of over 600 photos and stories. “The Belly Book” was sold to fans all over the world.
This is why these campaigns are positive. It’s not about the person who triggers it, but rather about the response: from fans, the press and the wider community. These campaigns help for the wider community to understand problems that are largely kept in the dark. Understanding can lead to better community dialogues and community participation on solution plans.
For information and support on eating disorders please visit The Butterfly Foundation.