Body shaming is by no means a new thing. It’s just in recent years with the boom of social media and the meeting of like-minded people that we’ve begun to talk about it openly.
If you’re reading this (heck, if you’ve existed at some point in space and time) then you’ve probably been body-shamed and probably by someone who loves you - like an aunt, grandparent, father or sister. And well, it’s quite shitty, isn’t it?
Before I became woke to the fact that everyone has at some point been made to feel bad for some aspect of their bodies that they could not help, I always felt like it was only me. I thought I was the only one being shamed for not being pretty enough. Eventually, in my 20s, I realised that I was not alone.
And even though I know now that people (especially other kids) could be cruel, I’m still always shocked by the awful things people say about other people's bodies and how they don’t realise that those few words could have a direct negative effect for years and years.
Recently, Refinery29 launched their Take Back The Beach series in which they talk to women about how they feel about their bodies and encourage body positivity. In a survey of 1000 women, 65% of them said the first time someone made a comment about their bodies was before the age of 14, while 41% said they experienced this between the ages of 10 and 13.
This affected the way many of these women saw their bodies and still does. Even though nearly half of the respondents to the survey say that they have become more confident in their bodies over time, 1 in 5 women have cut down on certain activities like going to the beach, buying clothes in store to avoid fitting rooms, and even having sex. Read the rest of the findings here.
See? Words can leave scars that almost never go away.
After reading the Refinery29 findings I was already saddened by how words affected so many women and made them feel like they weren’t worthy of true adoration, but then I saw this Buzzfeed article about a viral hashtag around body shaming comments.
Recently, CEO of e-commerce site Oiselle, Sally Bergesen, tweeted the hashtag #TheySaid with a body-shaming comment she recieved from her father when she was just 12 years old. The tweet spawned hundreds of retweets and replies.
There were comments from moms, brothers, sisters, grandparents and one person even said she was told to “suck in that gut” when she was just three years old. THREE!
I know what it’s like to be body-shamed as a kid. I remember comments being made about my body from about the age of 5. See, I was never a dainty little girl. I was always tall for my age with bigger hands and feet than the other girls and I was always heavier than them too. I also didn’t have straight hair or pretty eyes like my cousins, so I was made to feel like I was less of a person because of it.
I was made fun of and bullied by adults and kids alike. I was told that I look like a giant, was called names, was teased for everything from my weight to the fact that I roll my Rs. So I know what it’s like to be shamed for just being. I know that people can be cruel.
This has had a massive impact on how I feel about my body now and even how I interact with men I might find attractive. While I’d like to think I’m a lot more confident than I was when I was a teenager, I still have those voices in the back of my head telling me I’m not good enough and that my potbelly means that I’ll never find love.
And while you’ve probably been the victim of body-shaming, you’ve also probably been the perpetrator. You might not even have said it out loud, but at some point you’ve probably looked at another person and thought something bad about them because of their physical appearance.
“Wow, she’s too skinny. She looks like a skeleton”
“Look at his huge ass. Boys shouldn’t have asses like that”
“Shame, look at all her freckles. She would be so pretty without them.”
You know you’re guilty of it. But why do we do this? Probably because we feel better about ourselves when we see flaws in others too. I don’t feel like I’m perfect therefore I need to make you seem less so too.
This is especially prevalent among women. We’re pitted against each other from a young age. We’re told to look and act a certain way for the attention of men. We’re made to feel like other women’s success means we need to fight against them instead of celebrating them. We’re taught to dislike girls that are prettier and perhaps more talented in areas we’re not because they have what we don’t.
But now is the time to change all that. We need to create positive dialogues between people about their bodies, their abilities and each other. We need to tell our girl children that while they are beautiful, they are not better than anyone else. We need to tell our boy children that while they are strong and capable, that doesn’t mean that females aren’t. We need to tell each other that we are great just the way we are.
We need to start making amends for the damaging, long-lasting effects of negative comments about each other’s bodies. Because we’ve only got one and we need to love them the way they are.
Have you ever been body-shamed? Tell us about it..