The Struggle Against Body Prejudice Continues in LatAm

Trends / Realness
Agostina Valle
Federico Roales
Nov 16, 2021
Over the last five years, feminist movements like “Ni Una Menos”1 have slowly shifted public attitudes and transformed our understanding of gender equality in Latin America. These movements have also highlighted how hegemonic beauty standards impact body image. And despite the great achievements in terms of acquired rights, there are still a ton of misconceptions to deconstruct in that field: experiencing judgements on one’s body type is prevalent among Latin American countries, and this currently represents the largest bias among Latin American consumers—particularly among young women.
According to our Visual GPS research, 1 in 3 of Latin American consumers experienced body image bias in the last year, higher than any other global region. This number increases to almost 1 in 2 when only considering Gen Z. This might suggest that the younger ones, who are most exposed2 to judgments by social media usage, are the most affected by this bias. In addition, body prejudice impacts people differently according to gender: 67% of Latin American women that experienced body biases were perceived as too heavy or too curvy, compared to 44% of men (a +23% difference). Women’s bodies are judged more for being overweight.

Despite emerging social media movements like #BodyPositivity3, consumers are demanding stereotype‑breaking imagery and policies from industries in which body‑type discrimination is most prevalent: advertising and fashion. The bodies visualized in commercials and the sizes offered in clothing shops do not account enough for diverse bodies. According to NGO AnyBody, 4 in 5 Argentinian consumers declared4 they had problems finding clothes in their size, and 47% of those who cannot find a size ended up questioning their own body as a result. Although there are some initiatives trying to mitigate this effect (like the Sizes Law5 recently enacted in Argentina), this gap between the hegemonic mandate and the authentic diversity of bodies, generates oppression, discomfort, and self‑contempt for those who do not fit the norm, and this generally affects women deeply. Almost 9 in 10 women think that physical image affects6 life satisfaction, and 86% had dropped out of an activity because they did not feel comfortable with their bodies.
It seems that for marketers, there is an intention (conscious or unconscious) to make bodies that do not comply with the hegemonic mandate of thinness, invisible: only 1% of the most used visuals in Latin America depict larger body sizes. Furthermore, 41% of those visuals show people dieting or practicing healthy habits (exercising or running). In this way, people with larger body sizes are forced to exist only to adapt their bodies to the hegemonic mandate.

Almost half of Latin American consumers know that a company is truly committed to diversity and inclusivity if they consistently show a wide range of people in its advertising and communications. You should consider that campaigns which showcase real‑life depictions of diverse bodies are positively received by Latin American audiences, a reflection of how Latin Americans are the most willing, globally, to actively contest discrimination and bias wherever they notice it.
So, what can you do as a brand? Challenge your unconscious stereotypes and check: are you including non‑hegemonic bodies as a brand? Are you depicting them outside the slimming mandate? Are these people visualized living fulfilling and joyful lives? Are they depicted in positions of power? Are they shown proud and happy in their bodies?
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