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How capitalism tries to profit from our bodies

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The new series of Love Island is launching. Sophie Squire investigates why certain body types are marketed to us, and the pressure to buy into them
Issue 2761
The new season of Love Island has come under fire for its lack of body diversity
The new season of Love Island has come under fire for its lack of body diversity

Love Island returned to our screens on Monday with a new host of singles.

Yet for some viewers, the latest lineup of contestants was lacking something. Not just in terms of race, but also body size.

It’s not wrong for people to want to see themselves represented.

That’s especially true when the right constantly attacks calls for diversity by claiming it’s “woke”.

The bosses are only interested in pushing diversity—whether that be board directors or television participants—because it can turn them a profit.

We have the farce of M&S launching a “more inclusive” range of lingerie. It claims this is partly inspired by the “global conversation” following the death of George Floyd.

Love Island’s contestants are also picked for their ability to make money.


They become “aspirational” figures that the viewers are encouraged to emulate, from what they wear to what they look like.

It’s no coincidence that the Love Island villa includes a well-stocked gym and is being sponsored by sportswear shop JD Sports this year.

The message is if you pay for a gym membership and buy new sports gear you too can look like the contestants on the show.

Social media and the entertainment industry constantly feed us with examples of their perceived physical perfection.

They then partner with corporate sponsors and advertise products that they say could make us look this way.

This creates new beauty and body “trends”, which we feel crushing pressure to follow.

One surgery that has seen a surge in popularity is the Brazilian Butt Lift.

This cosmetic procedure has the highest mortality rate of any plastic surgery at 1 in 3,000. Yet thousands are still flocking to get this surgery.

Why then do we watch Love Island, and put ourselves at risk, if it causes so much harm?

The pressure to have the perfect body doesn’t just come from Instagram influencers or TV shows.

It comes from the system we live in.

In a system run for profit every aspect of our lives is seen as a commodity that can be bought and sold, even our bodies.

Love Island—how our bodies are sold to us
Love Island—how our bodies are sold to us
  Read More

When our bodies are sold back to us for the benefit of the bosses, we disconnect from our own realities and no longer recognise these things as our own.

We become alienated from ourselves, our lives and those around us.

This makes it easier to believe we have to look the way society is telling us to.

And often we want to disconnect from our realities or struggles by watching programmes like Love Island.

But there are also contradictory pressures on us. We’re bombarded with adverts that pull us in the opposite direction—fast food adverts for example.

While being told to buy the latest diet plans, we’re also sent offers on the latest things to consume.

We’re then blamed for buckling to the pressure of these adverts.

Ideas flowing from the top about women’s position in society mean our bodies are sexualised and scrutinised.

Women are taught from a very young age that we must meet the beauty standards of the time.

Of course it’s not just women who feel this way, as men are also under some pressure to have a “perfect body”.

Calls for more diversity on shows like Love Island is a push back against profitable beauty standards.

But more body diversity in the media will not completely solve the alienation we have from our own bodies.

Only when people are not living in a society that sees us as a way of making profit will we be truly liberated from capitalism’s pressures.

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