Do you think it’s ever okay to body shame somebody?
That is the question I would like you to keep in the back of your mind whilst you’re reading this post. But, starting from the beginning, what actually is body shaming? I asked four people (2 male/2 female), all different ages, to give me their opinion on what they would consider body shaming to be. Here is what they said:
Fraser: ‘I’d say anything that makes you feel uncomfortable with your own body. So comments about the way you look – shape, size, colour, even clothing. But also adverts that make you upset/anxious about how you look.’
Natasha: ‘I would class it as making anyone feel bad for the way they look, that could be for being fat, thin, tattoos or piercings, just anything that makes someone feel bad about their body.’
Nathan: ‘I feel body shaming means the judging of someone else’s body in a negative light.’
Gabriella: ‘I consider body shaming to be INTENTIONALLY hurting someone’s feelings in regards to their weight/appearance. Therefore shouting at someone in the street about their height/weight/ethnicity with the intention of being unkind is body shaming.’
Four different people with four different interpretations of the term. In contrast, according to yourdictionary.com, the definition of body shaming is; ‘The definition of body shaming is the practice of making critical, potentially humiliating comments about a person’s body size or weight.’ Keep in mind what I have just written, and I shall tell you a little story. Once upon a time, there was a little girl. She hadn’t long started school (aged five) before another child decided to call the little girl ‘fat’. Unfortunately the little girl wasn’t just getting called fat. She was also getting called stupid, a loner, thick, how everybody hated her and that nobody wanted to be her friend. That three-letter word became stuck to the girl like glue, affecting her in more ways than one. Food even stopped being her friend and became an enemy. That little girl decided that after many fat comments, she was actually fat and food no longer passed her lips unless absolutely necessary. Anorexia. Inability to know the feeling of hunger. Loss of confidence. Negative thoughts about her body image. The absolute fear of going out to eat in a restaurant. Those are just some of the things she had to contend with, alongside being bullied for a further eight years, making her 13 years old. By the time the not so little girl became 18, that gremlin had been with her for 13 years, and it continued to stay with her for many more years after.
You are probably wondering about the story, yes? It’s not a story as such. It’s actually a real life experience of a real person. That person….is me. I’m the little girl.
When the term ‘body shaming’ crops up, people automatically say that it’s directed at ‘fat’ people or the word ‘fat’ in general. However, this is where it gets interesting. Body shaming is not just that. I’ll tell you another story….
Once upon a time there was a girl who had become very poorly for various different reasons and she starting having unexplained weight loss. No matter what she did, she couldn’t put weight on. Many people started coming out with ‘omg you’re so skinny!’, ‘you’re so lucky you can lose weight’, ‘my word, you look like a beanpole’, ‘have you always been so thin?’, ‘you’re just skin and bone, eat a pie woman!’; and so on. Many times that girl sat crying her eyes out because of those comments, or because people were pointing out the fact that they could see her bones.
If you hadn’t guessed already, that story is another real life experience from a real person. Who? Well, it’s me, again. How many of you are sitting there thinking that calling someone ‘fat’ is just body shaming? No, no and no. Calling someone skinny is JUST as bad as calling someone fat. Telling someone they need to put on weight or lose weight are the same. Pointing out someone’s ‘larger’ features and pointing out someone’s ‘bones’, is exactly the same. Telling someone they need to eat fatty foods, or just more food in general and telling someone that they need to eat less and move their backsides, is the SAME.
How would you feel if people pointed out your weight or other issues when they DID know your history and recent story? Angry? Sad? Yeah, I felt both. I am actually crying whilst writing this! My word. No-one should EVER body shame another person, including celebrities. Yes, celebrities post their bodies all over social media and some say that they should expect the criticism, however, no, they shouldn’t. Regardless of how many photographs you put up of yourself on social media, it should NOT give anyone the right to comment on you or your looks in a negative manner. It has been in the media recently about a celebrity who has put on weight and because she is fine with it, everyone is celebrating that fact. Now there are also other celebrities in the media that post pictures of working out, or modelling pictures, yet they get slated for being ‘too skinny’. Fair? No. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, of course they are, but not when it can humiliate or hurt another human being with sheer force. I am fully aware that there is a ‘healthy’ weight and an ‘unhealthy’ weight, and whilst there are a lot of people in the media that may fall under that category, who are we to comment? Unless you’re THEIR doctor, what gives you the right to comment on their weight? It’s the same for anything regarding another person. Their race, hair style, hair colour, clothes and so on.
Not everyone you meet will have the same style, or like someone else’s style. If they did, the world will be a boring place. However, just because you don’t like it or like how they look, doesn’t give you the right to criticise them negatively. Those sorts of comments can ruin someone’s life. It can make them hate themselves. Yes, okay, maybe there are people who take things to heart, I would be lying if I said that I didn’t, but even as a joke those sorts of comments aren’t acceptable. ‘Omg you’re sooooo skinny HA HA’. Just because it has a ‘ha ha’ at the end, doesn’t mean the other person is going to laugh. My history of the above, still hurts me. Want to know why? Because it NEVER goes away. It’s always there in the back of your mind. 21 years ago, I was body shamed, 21 years later, I still get body shamed. When will people realise IT IS NEVER OKAY TO BODY SHAME, EVER! There are even articles in the media at the moment about the new craze of ‘bum contouring’. I’m sure many of you are aware of contouring the face to make it appear slimmer, yes? Well, people are now contouring their backsides to make them appear slimmer too. Why? Is this really the society we live in where everything is governed by how much someone weighs or whether they’re wearing high street clothes or label?
Despite my past, I vowed that if I ever became pregnant and had a little girl, I would ensure my eating history was never brought to life around her. I have kept that promise because I know what it is like to have that looming over you for many, many years. I would be damned if I let that happen to my daughter, ever.
No, it is never, ever okay to body shame anyone.