Friday, March 21, 2014

Body Shaming

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Body shaming or body bashing occurs in more ways than one and it seems like these days we can't look anywhere without seeing some form of it. Body bashing is what's happening when we
criticize our own appearance by comparing it to others or making harsh judgments of ourselves, when we criticize the appearances of others without them knowing (i.e., pointing people out when you're with your friends and making rude comments about them, etc.), or criticizing somebody else's appearance to their face. None of these options are much better than the next. No matter which type you partake in, it perpetuates the detrimental idea that people should be judged mainly for their appearance and physical features. This goes on between women and men, but I'm going to focus a little more on women.

One of my favorite quotes I heard a while back is "Our bodies are the shells for our souls. It's like an egg that holds a baby chick inside. Our soul and who we really are is the baby chick." It's a very simple way to put it. The egg serves as protection for the chick and allows it to grow, the way the egg looks doesn't matter. Our bodies are very important. We need to respect our bodies and practice good health in order to reap the benefits of a long and healthy life. However, as long as we are healthy and our bodies are performing and functioning properly, it doesn't matter what we look like. This goes for skin color, height, build, hairstyle, etc.

For decades now, there has been extreme pressure on women to be thin. Infomercials are flooded with surgeries for weight loss and body contouring that can be extremely expensive and dangerous. On nearly every page in magazines for women there are articles titled "How to lose ten pounds in a week!" or "Reduce the size of your waist by 20% in just weeks!" But then, the next page of the magazine is an article about how every woman should feel beautiful and embrace their bodies. Sending mixed messages to young women is not what these magazines should to be doing.

Due to this "skinny craze",  bigger women have been working towards embracing their bodies and preaching positive body image. However, many people are going about this in the most negative way possible. 
"Real women have curves!" seems to be the main slogan people are trying to get out there to promote self-love. However, this may be one of the most stupid thing I have ever read. Women are trying to get other women to love their bodies and be confident no matter what size they are. However, they're attempting to define what a "real woman" using size. That seems contradicting to me. A certain body type doesn't even begin to constitute a "real" woman. Women are the most beautiful and unique combinations of compassion, empathy, intelligence, desire, motivation, dreams, manners, ideas, opinions, independence, spunk, strength, a good sense of self, a good conscience, and more. What a "real woman" is has nothing to do with how she looks. Real women don't need to be thin, they don't need to have curves, they don't need to have a single hair on their head or a pair of heels in their closet.

We can't begin to teach young women about positive body image when we're constantly putting down one body type to build up another. We need to start promoting good health instead of particular body types. Healthy people come in all different shapes and sizes and nothing positive can come from body shaming. If people continue to bash on thicker bodies, young women are going to continue to starve themselves, force themselves to vomit and hate their own bodies. If people continue to preach about curves, naturally thin women are going to go under the knife the day they turn 18 to get larger breasts. Not necessarily because all of them want to, but because they feel like the have to in order to be "a real woman" or to be attractive. We can see this simply by reading statements from countless celebrities who have felt pressured to go under the knife in pursuit of "beauty", and ended up regretting it. Courtney Love, Kathy Griffin, Heidi Montag, and Kenny Rogers (yes, men too) are just a few celebrities who have come forward about their experiences with plastic surgery and their regrets.

I think one of the lowest forms of body bashing is when women bring men into it. When women try to talk about what "men" like in regards to the "ideal female body". A while back something really popular going around was "Real men like curves, only dogs go for bones." I was honestly SHOCKED when I saw this. Now not only were women trying to define what "real

women" looked like, but they were also trying to define a "real man" by what he's attracted to physically.  Good men don't bash on the bodies of any human being, and good women don't compare other women to "bones", and men with different preferences to "dogs". Apparently if a man is attracted to thin girls who don't have large hips or breasts, or athletic girls with more of a narrow build...they aren't real men. That was news to me.

Women aren't the only ones trying to define "real women" though. I see men doing it almost as often as women. Supporting and promoting plastic surgery so that women with tiny waists and slender legs can have gigantic breasts as well. Or men posting memes that make fun of heavier women, with text added on saying things like, "Tag a friend who would f*@! this". Both of these just sicken me. If you're a man who's attracted to small waists and large breasts that's fine. Seek out women who you find attractive, but don't encourage or pressure other women to try to fit that mold. If you're a man who's attracted to "thicker" women, that's great. But don't tell other girls that "They're too thin" or "Have the body of a 12-year-old boy".

I'm sure at one point or another we have all body shamed to a certain agree, definitely myself included, but why? Is there a single thing to gain?

Next time you begin to do something like that, ask yourself  "Does it make me feel better about my own body to criticize another person's appearance?", "Is bashing on her body because I don't like my legs going to make them thinner or more muscular? Is it going to make the things I'm insecure about magically go away?" I can guarantee you the answer is no. And if criticizing another person's appearance truly does make you feel better about your own, I offer you my most sincere apologies and recommend you talk to somebody about that.  If you're thinking poorly about your body, instead of looking at the bodies of others and thinking, "Well at least I don't have her stomach" or "At least I look better than her", look in the mirror and find the things about yourself that you find beautiful. I promise it's more rewarding.

*I love both of these pictures. I found them on The Skinny on Body Shaming, a blog which raises awareness of body shaming and works to promote body acceptance

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