Every now and then, I stumble across a trend on the internet that is so absurd my jaw drops and I literally say, “Are you kidding me?” And so it is with the “arm vagina” fad on social media. Like other online weight loss trends, this trend has nothing to do with health, and everything to do with preying on the insecurities of women.
So what is “arm vagina”? Simply put, arm vag refers to that little extra fold of flesh the majority of us have when we put our arms down by our sides. Not only is this the reason many models (as well as many women who just enjoy taking intricately-posed selfies) stand with their hands on their hips, it’s actually caused a shocking upswing in the number of plastic surgery visits.
While some women opt for less invasive techniques such as injections meant to target fat to eliminate their arm vag, others choose more invasive and dangerous surgical methods that can leave them with permanent physical and emotional scars. Women have reported side effects such as the inability to lift their arms into certain positions and difficulty with every day lifting tasks.
This extra bit of flesh is necessary — at least, that is, if we ever want to be able to reach up over our heads to pull a sweater on or reach that last jar of peanut butter on the top grocery store shelf. We’re already shamed if we choose not to shave our armpits. Additionally, there is such a host of unobtainable body image trends already made popular — we definitely didn’t need another one. Honestly, what’s next? Making women feel bad for having an extra bit of flesh at their knuckles so they can bend their fingers?
What’s even more ridiculous is what causes the folds. A quick peep down your front tells you exactly what creates that extra little fold. If you said your lady jugs, you’d be right! So now, we’re supposed to be busty, but the natural fat that creates our breast is supposed to suddenly stop above the nipple line? Yes, that absolutely makes sense. Thank you, internet!
Social media is full of trends that either purposefully or inadvertently make women feel inferior. From the thigh gap to the trend of scantily clad models promoting green drinks that have all the appeal of pond scum as somehow magically delicious, Instagram and other social media have created a monster for women already suffering from self-esteem issues.
The thigh gap, or having space between your thighs when standing with your feet together, is primarily a matter of genetics, not fitness. Some women have pushed back against this trend with memes stating that a lack of thigh gap means you’re one step closer to being a mermaid. Indeed, many healthy, beautiful, non-mermaidic women have no thigh gap, and it still doesn’t detract from their glow at all. Other trends remain potentially just as likely to lead to eating disorders, and are, thus, just as deadly. A shocking recent fad across Chinese social media depicts young women holding a piece of paper up to their stomachs. The point? To show that no part of their stomach is visible outside the piece of paper. Considering the average sheet of paper is a mere 8 ½ inches wide, that’s a dangerous ideal to promote.
Eating disorders already impact a considerable segment of the female population. One estimate shows that approximately 10–15% of Americans suffer from some form of severe eating disorder. There is a wide range of identified eating disorders, including anorexia, bulimia, binge eating disorder and compulsive overeating. While disorders such as anorexia and bulimia are known to be deadly on their own, they also increase the risk of suicide and the risk of developing comorbid conditions, underscoring the point that we need to take eating disorders and their causes more seriously.
Eating disorders can be notoriously difficult to treat, often requiring intensive inpatient care to bring about full remission. Treatment is also frequently complicated by the fact that eating disorders often occur hand-in-hand with substance abuse disorders. But, while one addicted to booze can quit the sauce, it’s impossible for someone who is addicted to food to stop eating all together. We need food to survive.
It’s not easy to fight back against peer pressure, especially that which occurs over social media. However, it is possible. It’s also critical to the health of women everywhere.
First, don’t share images of these absurd trends. Whether your following is huge or not, you never know who may view what you post and how they will take that message. When in doubt as to whether you should share, just don’t.
Secondly, learn to recognize the signs of eating disorders in your friends and relatives. Depending on the closeness of your relationship, encourage them either gently or more strongly to seek the help they need.
If you have a strong social media presence or just a powerful voice, speak out! Choose to share and comment on only accurate health information online from verifiable sources. If you’re more outspoken, feel free to call out those who post offensive or misguided images showcasing dangerous fads. Just do so in a spirit of loving-kindness, not contempt, as many who post this sort of nonsense do so because they are struggling with issues of their own.
Finally, if you notice signs of obsession with food and/or body image in yourself, seek help. Talking to a trusted and supportive friend in itself can be therapeutic. But if you feel you need further assistance, seek out resources through your school or employee assistance plan. Not one for talk therapy? Text “connect” to 741-741, and you will be connected to a counselor who will text with you about your issue.
Mental health is so important, and recognizing these body-shaming trends as the BS they are is necessary in fighting back against issues like eating disorders. By fighting back, we can save other women from falling prey to this sort of social media-spurred insanity.
Top photo: Wonder Woman
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