The last few years have seen the body-positive movement in the UK come on leaps and bounds. It's no longer surprising to see women of varying shapes and sizes featuring on the covers of magazines and being more broadly portrayed in mainstream media. Online shops are no longer airbrushing stretch marks; ASOS has made a commitment to diversifying body types, and some of our best-loved celebrities have given up filtering their social media photos.
But one of the biggest cultural phenomenons that seemingly hasn't got the memo yet is ITV2's Love Island. A whopping 4.8 million people tuned in to watch the first episode of Love Island in January last year, and the same is no doubt expected when the 2021 series hits next Monday (28 June). But as we've seen today, as the first batch of Islanders were revealed to the public: we're being met, once again, by six women with one specific body type.
Tall. Slim. Legs up to their ears. Hair down to their waist. Perfect jigsaw pieces who fit what society has for so long deemed as 'beautiful', 'beach-body ready', and 'Instagram-worthy'.
I'm not denying that this is a body type that exists in society. Of course it does. It's not like Laura Whitmore and Iain Stirling have rounded up five women with purple and green polkadot skin with fluffy knobs on, and shoved them into the villa.
Some people are slim. Some people are tall. And some people do have flawless skin.
But from the 100,000+ applications Love Island reportedly received for this year's series, are these six women a fair reflection of the diversity of body types? Are the chosen ones an accurate depiction of the spectrum of female forms across the country, or the celebration of diversity that it could have been? I'm saying no.
To me, Love Island's choice of 'sexy singles' seems to send a message we just shouldn't agree with: anyone with curves simply can't enjoy a "long hot summer". Plus size isn't as sexy. Any body that isn't toned and tanned isn't the ideal.
Recent data suggests the average woman in the UK is a size 16 with a 34 inch waist and 36DD breasts, and while the Love Island girls might have the latter, why is there not more representation when it comes to the former? Why, when the average body size is a 16, do the six women picked from thousands, all look to be around four dress sizes smaller than this?
Let's give Love Island the benefit of the doubt for a second. Maybe the contestants were all picked separately for their amazing personalities (which I genuinely have no doubt they have), and it was only when they were all put together that someone thought, 'Wait a minute, aren't all these bodies the same?' Maybe it was an accident. Maybe it was a coincidence.
But even if that is the case (side note: how likely?), ITV2 should be more aware than that. They should see the changing landscape around them - the women who are encouraging other women to love the skin they're in; the bodies that refuse to conform to social media's ideas of what beauty is; the women who are curvy and own it.
And more than that, they should take into account the impressionable young people who will be tuning in day in, day out, for the next two months. The millions of us who will be bombarded with impossibly beautiful, toned, tanned, slim, gorgeous people every night, who don't look like the vast majority.
Those of us who get chub rub, and wobble, and have hip dips and tummy rolls and don't look anything like the ladies of Love Island when we're in a bikini, who will be constantly faced with the 'ideal' of what we should be. Where are the back rolls? The thick thighs? The figure that doesn't look completely impossible to attain?
When asked, the show-makers told Cosmopolitan that body shape isn't one of the factors they keep front of mind when picking their contestants. "As a broadcaster, ITV celebrates diversity of every sort across our range of programmes in our schedule and across our channels.
"In terms of casting for Love Island, the only stipulation to applicants is they must be over 18, single and looking for love," read the statement. "This year’s Love Islanders come from a diverse range of backgrounds with a mix of personalities and have a healthy BMI."
The bodies that these six women have are beautiful in their own right, but so are the hundreds of thousands of other body types that aren't being represented on the show. In a year where the media is finally celebrating body diversity, Love Island has missed a trick by not following suit - so let's hope the producers have got something else up their sleeves.
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