Despite the fact we have a lot going on in the world, the news seems chock full o’stories that really aren’t stories. The world has a new hobby…Body Shaming. You must be familiar with it…it’s all over social media…people wearing shorts and showing off cellulite, pregnant women with abs, overweight women in bikinis, models who starve themselves, and people who lost their baby weight “too soon”. And billions of people on social media willing to comment on all of it.
I admit, I do it myself…gawk at a woman on the beach who “has no business wearing a bikini”. Look at a woman in tight pants with a bit of muffin top oozing out the side. Roll my eyes at the thin blonde with huge boobs prancing around the mall. I’ll make snide comments in my head. I am a believer in “dress for the body you have, not the body you want” and “we don’t need to see what you’ve got”(probably because I don’t “got it” and don’t measure up and have to slap my husband’s eyeballs back in his head).
It’s funny that men don’t seem to body shame each other (although I know a few men who have no problem shaming a woman, but that’s a topic for another day). Maybe that’s because what drives us to do it is insecurity. We see ourselves in the others we “shame”…am I that fat? are my boobs that droopy? are my bat wings that flappy? We can’t help but to constantly compare ourselves to others, just to battle our own insecurities and not wanting to acknowledge our own flaws.
I think I’ve become much less likely to “shame” the older I’ve gotten. I’m more secure with my body, even though it’s been difficult and a constant battle every day. I’ve accepted that I’ll never be a size two again, nor will my boobs be as perky. Hell, I used to see the forty-something year olds on the beach with their bikinis and think “they really should wear a one piece”. Now that I’m in that category myself, wearing that bikini on the beach, I have discovered I don’t give a crap what anyone thinks about me. Maybe that’s what these other people are thinking…they don’t give a crap what people think. And maybe people, we should stop caring. Because seriously, is it our business if a woman is a little overweight and squeezing themselves into something that’s not their size? She’s the one that’s uncomfortable, not us. Other than the woman bouncing around the mall with her boobs hanging out, is it really hurting you to look at them?
I can’t say the urge to look at another woman and see how I measure up or the desire to make a comment to my companion will go away. But I’ll tell you one thing though, I’ll be keeping my mouth shut on social media about it. In fact, that’s a great idea for everyone. Let’s resist the urge to fuel the fire and keep our sanctimonious opinions (and ample cleavage) to ourselves.
Body Shaming – or the incredible shrinking women of planet earth.
When I was a teenager and in my early twenties I weighed less than 100lbs. I was very skinny. And guess what, they didn’t make clothes that fit me. (Don’t worry I have a point)
The smallest size in Australia in the 1980’s and 1990’s was an 8 and in the US it was a 2. My mother sewed clothes for me. When I went to work after university I wore glasses, even though my sight was perfect, so that I’d look older because clothes often hung off me and I looked like I was playing dress-ups. I didn’t exercise, I didn’t count calories and I got through university on donuts and cheap wine, just like everyone else. That was just how my body was. I wasn’t the norm. I was abnormal.
Fast forward twenty or thirty years (depending on whether I’m 15 or 25 in the analogy) and they make clothes in Australia in size 4 in the US 00. So what happened? Why did something that was abnormal become something people were expected to be? Sorry, not people – girls and women. Why do perfectly normal women now feel like they need to be painfully thin?
I’m the mother of a teenage girl. She’s genetically predisposed to be built like her father who is a solid man (I refer to his body shape as a nugget – nuggets are traditionally made of gold not chicken by the way and he’s definitely of the gold variety). I digress, she’s never going to be a 00. Never. Does she have a nice body – yes. Is she overweight – no. But still, that’s what she’s told is normal…to be a 00.
She knows that. You can’t be a woman on the planet and not have body images bombarding you day in day out. You can’t shield your teens from body shaming (or slut shaming for that matter) try though you might. Here’s the thing though – she knows that but it probably makes her sad.
In our house we focus on people’s health. We all know that if anyone will get sick in our house it is me. They’re stronger than I am, healthier, they bounce back better. Isn’t that a good thing? When I was just married my husband and I both got a stomach bug – I literally slept on the bathroom floor for 2 days, it was not pretty. On day two my husband carried me to the sofa, packed a suitcase, drove to the airport, flew to Vietnam for work and called me from the markets where he was eating FISH HEAD CURRY. I hadn’t moved at all and the thought of curry – well, enough said. I know who I’d rather be and it certainly isn’t the skinny girl crying on the sofa.
When my daughter talks about kids who don’t eat anything (ridiculous numbers of teenage girls don’t eat breakfast before school or eat lunch because they don’t want to be fat or to be seen eating which is crazy!) I always comment on how hard it must be for them to concentrate at school and if the girl in question has a mean streak or is moody I reference low blood sugar – because honest to goodness that certainly is a factor. Does any of that help my daughter navigate her way through a world of selfies and Forever 21? Who even knows?
Shouldn’t that be our focus though for women and girls – a healthy body, a healthy mind and a cheerful disposition? (Unless someone messes with you, then watch out!)
I’m not 95lbs these days so I’ve experienced people commenting on my weight in the past few years – it’s never favourable. I’m probably about 5kg/10lbs heavier than I should be. In my mind I’m obese. I’m not actually obese, just in my mind and obviously in the minds of the people who have commented. Yet here’s the thing I’m healthier than I’ve ever been and that’s a good thing. Right?
So apparently in the 21st century we like our women as small and as hungry as possible – and feeling guilty about everything they put in their mouths. There’s only one reason people are eating kale and that’s got to be guilt – it tastes like dirt. Is that what we want for our daughters? Really? To be hungry and living off of food that tastes like dirt?
Why do we want our women so thin as to be almost invisible? Why can’t they take a little bit more room up on the bus or at the boardroom table? Why can’t the manspreader on the bus keep his knees together so the women of the world can sit comfortably beside them?
What can we do to help stem this tide? We can be kind to people of all shapes and sizes. We can accept that we’re all on a journey. We can understand that some people do have a decent support system around them – no one to show mind their kids while they hit the gym, no money for gym fees, maybe a parent who feeds them solely from the frozen food aisle because that’s all they know or all they can afford.
And even better than that we can say kind things to people.
“Hey I love you in the colour blue.”
“Your new haircut is amazing.”
“You look different – good different – you look happy.”
Let’s build up our sisters, daughters and friends…it’d be a shame not to.
I hate to admit it, and I am not proud of it, but I’m not going to lie. If I’m honest, I’m guilty of making snide remarks about people’s bodies and the clothes they wore. I never said anything derogatory to someone’s face. But I have been known to snicker and even stare.
Many, many years have passed since I exhibited this type of horrible behavior. I hate my younger self for my actions. It makes me want to cry when I think of how I could have hurt people. No one deserves to be judged based on their body or feel body shamed.
I am no longer the kid I once was. I am now in my forties and I see things much differently than I did in my twenties. I’ve become more self-evolved so I better understand my actions and reactions, past and present. I’m now the opposite person. Where I had mocked, now I relish in seeing someone comfortable enough in their own skin to wear whatever makes them happy, even if the outfit was intended for a twelve-year-old super model.
And I know why….
I’ve never truly been comfortable in my own skin. I’ve always battled with insecurities. I’m a perfectionist and an overachiever and I put extreme pressure on myself. I blow all my errors and mistakes completely out of proportion. And I have always been extremely concerned about my weight.
At six foot two and over three hundred pounds, my father was the runt of his family. In fact, I had one uncle who weighted over seven hundred pounds. He never saw the upstairs of the house I grew up in because he couldn’t fit up the staircase. I saw firsthand the difficulties everyone had, mostly health related, because of their weight. (My dad passed away when I was 14 and my uncle also died prematurely leaving behind young children.) I didn’t want that life.
I also knew in my heart, if my dad was my mother, and was in charge of feeding me, I would have followed in his and his family’s footsteps. I wouldn’t have been overweight I would have been obese. I spent most of my life worrying that would happen. I’ve watched everything I have eaten and always made sure I exercised daily. Yes, I can argue that I am just trying to be healthy, but I know the truth. I was scared.
Looking back, I think I mocked people out of jealousy. They were comfortable while I wasn’t. My snickering was a lame attempted to boost my own confidence and eliminate my own insecurities. But my attempts never worked, it only made me feel worse…
First of all, who in the world has time to body shame someone? Don’t people have jobs, chores, kids, candy crush levels to beat, Pokemon to catch? Why would anyone take time out of their day to post a nasty comment, or be malicious in any way when it comes to someone’s body? Why would anybody think it’s their business what other people clothe themselves in, or what tattoos they get, or what color they’ve dyed their hair? When did people think it was okay to be so brash with their opinions, when did people forget to use their filters?
I get that we should all be health conscious, I understand that we should want the people we love to remain a healthy weight because it means they may not suffer from heart attacks, diabetes, kidney disease, etc. But did people forget their manners? When did it start being okay to be condescending when it came to other people’s bodies? There’s a way to go about telling a loved one, whether it friend or family, that their weight concerns you, and it isn’t to say they look like a homeless person or a fat slob. I have many friends and family members who struggle with their weight, and when has being negative ever truly helped a person? What if that negative comment was said about you? (And no, I don’t believe you when you say you wouldn’t care. You can tell me it till your blue in face and I won’t believe you.)
I guarantee you, every negative comment you make about someone’s weight or hair or clothing, they remember. As years go by they may not recall what you said exactly but they remember the feeling. I’m a firm believer of not caring what people say or think, but even I have lasting emotions about a comment made regarding my outfit years back, or my tattoo. It’s incredibly hard not to focus on that one nasty comment some stranger posted on your bikini pic from Instagram, heck, even celebrities admit to being thrown by some comments complete strangers make!
So keep your mouth shut and comment on that photo of the kitty chasing tinfoil.
It’s so shameful that stories about a rude play mate posting a picture of a naked, innocent bystander have become top news. We live in a world where Body Shaming someone is news because that’s the type of people we have become.
Body Shamers. Think about that. Think about how pathetic that is. Instead of making news for rescuing puppies, or feeding the homeless, we see Body Shaming stories. Almost, every single day. Body Shaming stories. It’s time for people to wake up now.