Another month, another ridiculous body trend.
This morning, when a friend emailed me a link to the A4 Challenge I honestly thought it was a joke. The premise, incase you haven’t heard, is to hold an A4 page in front of your waist – portrait NOT landscape (as one friend queried) – and see if you’re physically smaller than it.
In measurement terms that’s 210mm – about a third less than the length of a ruler.
Scrolling through the very long gallery of images of women, some in their teens, some in their twenties, of all ethnicities (though the trend began in Asia), I noticed most everyone is smiling and laughing. It’s all just a bit of fun, a flash-in-the-pan social media moment. Another Ice Bucket Challenge. Right?
Is it actually just a bit of fun?
These insidious little “trends” have a cunning way of masking themselves as frivolous. They appear in the places you go to mentally check out – Facebook, Instagram, Twitter. There you are, looking at avocado on eggs, and Saturday Night Live skits and then WHAM, it’s in your face, casually but markedly.
As one friend pointed out, it's the word ‘challenge’ itself that is the most concerning of all.
A challenge. A “call to someone to participate in a competitive situation or fight to decide who is superior in terms of ability or strength”; “a call to prove or justify something”.
Of course this test, game, whatever it is, has nothing to do with ability or strength. It has nothing to do with self control, self motivation, eating "right", or working out. For most of us, this is a physical impossibility, regardless of what actions we took
The reality is that, even if we were skeletal, we would NEVER physically embody that shape because of our build and height, our race, our age. It's an unattainable request being bandied about as a call to action and that is where the danger lies – within the implied 'failure' in not passing that test.
Our bodies are not foreign vessels to be judged and summed up. We are our bodies, and so any assault on a single body is an assault on all of us. And no, I am in no way slamming any woman by saying this; the women who have taken part in this are victims, pawns for slander in a comment box.
Any and every woman is more than the measure of a fucking page.
I can't believe I have to say that, as if it's new information. This challenge spits in the face of body dysmorphia, anorexia, everyday women struggling to love their own bodies because of the garbage they are fed every day in what they "should" look like.
Can you tell it gets me mad?
It makes me mad that I am even giving it airtime, but I hope that by writing this that for every Google search on the A4 Challenge there will be a counter article on why it’s a sham. Like this one you're reading right now – or this one, pictured below, from Marie Claire.
It’s not the first of it’s kind and it won’t be the last. Take a look at the Thigh Gap Challenge, Collar Bone Challenge, Belly Button Challenge.
For every one person laughing in a photo, there are hundreds of straight-lipped faces staring at themselves in the mirror, wondering why they are different and wrong and feeling so excluded and alone that they go to bed a little hungry every night.
These trends may take off and die off on social media over a matter of weeks, even days, but their lasting impressions take root. They are shaping a generation.
Some will pass this whole thing off as completely ridiculous. Others won’t.
So, I’m calling it. The end of the so-called challenge, the hashtag goals. If they could all fuck rightly off that’d be brill?