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Opinion – the heroin chic resurgence must be nipped in the bud

With nostalgia trends all the rage, nineties fashion has made a comeback. However, recent headlines touting thin as being ‘in’ again imply that so too has its toxic counterpart: the glorification of skinniness and the unhealthy behaviours necessary to achieve it.

Although the popularisation of heroin chic occurred long before I was old enough to have it shoved in my face by clothing campaigns and the media, its damaging impact on beauty standards has been tangible for as long as I can remember.

From witnessing loved ones adopt unhealthy behaviours to achieve the waifish, emaciated look inspired by Gia Carangi and made famous by Kate Moss, to experiencing deep-rooted appearance-related anxieties of my own, this culture of skinny-worship was able to stand its ground for most of my adolescent life.

Fortunately, a combination of the body positivity movement and increased compassion towards drug addiction (which the aesthetic is largely reflective of), has marked a profound shift away from the promotion of such harmful ideals.

And today, you’d be hard-pressed to find this kind of insensitive marketing without a corresponding torrent of backlash highlighting its absurdity.

However, alongside nineties fashion’s vehement comeback, heroin chic has somehow managed to sneak its way into mainstream vernacular once more, blatantly ignoring decades of efforts to protect the self-image of impressionable young people by leaving it in the past.

I learned this recently when I came across a New York Post article touting thin as being ‘in’ again, a disturbing claim made on the laughable basis that ‘even the famously bootylicious Kardashians seem to be turning away from curvy physiques.’

While online rhetoric has so far proved that few will accept the resurgence of this uniquely irrational form of fatphobia, the prevailing tendency of social media users to revere diet-obsessed creators and praise celebrities for rapid weight loss shows that beauty standards are still very much a part of the zeitgeist in 2022.

Who’s to say, therefore, that problematic headlines like the Post’s won’t have lasting effects on how we perceive ourselves and others?

Not to mention that it belittles the tireless work of activists who have repeatedly explained the explicit dangers to us.

‘No, we tried this before in the 90s and millions of people developed eating disorders,’ wrote Jameela Jamil in dissent.

‘We’re not doing this again; we’re not going back. Our bodies are not trends. We have come too far. We have to fight back. We have to stop glamourising famine. We have to stop putting our health on the line for something as irrelevant as obedient forced thinness.’

Elaborating on this in an op-ed for Paper Magazine, Jameela stresses that we owe it to the next generation to stop this counterattack on size inclusivity in its tracks.

Before it goes any further, that is, because fuelled by the Kardashians debuting (and bragging about) their newly slimmed down frames, we’re already witnessing the expansion of a reimagined breeding ground for pro-eating disorder content on the Internet.

Yes, apps have attempted to prevent this from happening by blocking terms that glorify hyper-femininity or romanticise girlish figures and redirecting searchers to resources like the National Eating Disorder Association, but the emergence of other aesthetics in their place suggests we’re on the verge of idolising unsafe habits yet again.

This is becoming more and more apparent following news that diabetes medication is such a common tool for weight loss at present that it’s led to a nationwide shortage.

So, regardless of whether or not some brands or high-profile individuals are dead-set on bolstering this toxic narrative, let’s adamantly refuse to engage with it and nip heroin chic’s resurgence in the bud before it wreaks any more havoc than it already has.

We shouldn’t perpetuate the notion that bodies can be adjusted to fit the trends of corporations. Nearly all of them do not have our best interests at heart.

‘When are we going to realise nobody can tell us what the new trend for our own damn bodies is?’, says Jameela. ‘We have the power; we are the market. The media, the fashion industry, the celebrities, they all answer to us.’

‘We gave them what they have and we can take it all away whenever we want. They don’t get to tell us what to do or what to buy anymore.’

‘They don’t get to starve us anymore; we can starve them and see how they like it. We can bring entire institutions to their knees and force their hand to stop harming us with their products and damning rhetoric.’