Tuesday, September 30th, 2014

Body Bashing: 5 Ways to Fix It

Published on January 30, 2012 by   ·   31 Comments Pin It
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Last week we published an article titled, “The Problem with Skinny Bashing.” Born from my own frustration with how women were insulting other women’s bodies on social media, the article explored how hurtful it can be when people proclaim their body type to be superior to another’s. The most recent facebook phenomenon of posting images like this one, the subject of my last article, shows that skinny-bashing has become acceptable, and even encouraged, as a way to fight against the worship of the size two bodies we see in movies, magazines and on TV. But no one should be body-bashed. And insulting one another certainly isn’t going stop the cycle of verbal abuse that has damaged our confidence and our love of our bodies.

The article went viral. With over 4,000 likes on facebook, over 300 comments on the post, reddit threads and blog responses, women and men came out to share their stories and frustration with a society that shames women (and men too), no matter what they look like.

It was inspiring. Most women who chimed in shared their desire for creating a kinder world. One where we value health and confidence over fitting into the narrow category of beauty that fashion magazines and Hollywood promote each day. This longing to change the way we think about others and ourselves is something we can and should put into action. With the force of women who want a more supportive and safer world to live in, I really believe it can be done.

The question becomes: in a society where people are insulting one another to make themselves feel better at the expense of others, how are we supposed to be comfortable with our natural shapes? Based on the comments and my personal experience, insults are flung from friends, family and even total strangers about everything from cup size to waist size. Some didn’t even realize they were being hurtful, but after further discussion, saw that it’s inappropriate and even cruel to make comments about the shape of another person’s body.

Even after reading the article, some chose still to bash.

One man posted on facebook in response: “+ 1 on the fuller body. I don’t know any man who would prefer the skinny body presented by the woman on the far left.”

My response to him: “It’s not about your preference. It’s about women not worrying so much about what men want or what the media says we should look like, and instead striving for a healthy body. Whatever shape that may be. By the way, I’m skinny and my husband likes me just fine.”

I purposefully left my size out of “The Problem with Skinny Bashing.” I didn’t want my own body to become the focus (and isn’t that the point?). But, inspired by so many women who came forward to share their own stories, I can say: I’m 30 years old, 5’9” and a size two. I’ve always been a size two. Like many of the thin women who commented, I was made fun of for being flat-chested and skinny during puberty. Other young women made fun of me in the locker room for my gangly limbs and training bra. It wasn’t until college that I became remotely comfortable with myself.

Ali Berman

If living in my skin sounds like something to be envied, be warned. If you want to trade your body for mine, you have to take with it the scars from cancer and a permanent disability. No body is perfect. We all struggle. We all have insecurities, and we all hurt when others bash us.

With all women, no matter what the size, facing emotional issues with their bodies (insecurity, insults, fear, health problems), how can we pool our resources to change something that has so skillfully invaded–and created–our feelings about others and ourselves?

Here are some thoughts that I had. I’d love to hear yours, too. After all, if we’re going to build a better way of talking about our bodies, it needs to be a conversation everyone is a part of.

1. I’m a big fan of personal responsibility. If you find yourself looking at another woman’s body and tearing it down in your mind for being too fat, thin, busty, flat-chested, short, tall, wearing last season’s clothes: stop. Retrain yourself to look beyond the physical. I too am guilty of doing this. I’m trying to retrain my brain to be more positive and less critical, both of myself and others. As I’ve grown older, it has gotten easier, but like any change in behavior, it takes work. Knowing the effect one person can have on the world (positive or negative), I’m doing the work, and it’s making me into a happier person.

2. If you hear others tearing someone down, don’t join in, and don’t be silent. Bullies aren’t just in junior high. Adults can be bullies, and bullies need someone to stand up to them, even if it’s gently pointing out to a friend that no one deserves to have his or her body be insulted, criticized, or critiqued.

3. Let go of the way magazines and movies tell you that you should look, and let go of the way they tell you other people should look. Make health and comfort in your own skin your ultimate goal. When we appreciate ourselves and let go of the jealously we feel towards others, we are able to truly be at peace with our bodies.

4. Each person has their own vision of beauty and their own goals for how they want to look. We need to stop expecting other people to agree with our own unique vision and find joy in the fact that our society is built out of all different kinds of people. The “I’m okay, you’re okay” philosophy. It’s not easy, but it can be done.

5. If someone body-bashes you, don’t politely smile and wish you could disappear. (That’s what I used to do.) Instead tell them that their comments make you uncomfortable and you don’t wish to discuss your body with them. If they protest or say that they were complimenting you (so many backhanded compliments!), forward them the article “The Problem with Skinny Bashing.”

Do you have any other suggestions? If so, we’d love to hear them in the comments. And, on twitter, use the hashtag #bodybashing to keep the conversation going. I’m inspired by your stories, and I know others are too.

Ali Berman is a writer/teacher/activist. She works as a humane educator for HEART teaching kids about issues affecting people, animals and the environment. She is also the senior editor for Ecorazzi.com and a fiction writer.

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Readers Comments (31)

  1. [...] We are blown away by all your insightful comments, and the follow up piece is now live here: Body Bashing: 5 Ways to Fix It, kindly go read it and chime in. If you agree that we can treat both others and ourselves better [...]

  2. krissy says:

    People lack the language to deal with this, and this is why feminism should be taught in school. This is called the “male gaze,” and although women and gay men do it, it reflects the impossible standards of heterosexual desirability: its about sex. I know because as a “skinny girl,” I get it from ghetto dudes and construction workers (choicest picks for women, I know) sizing me up, loudly talking about whether or not they’d have sex with me, and even a “good morning” is met with scorn. Its a class issue and it shows that people dont know how to be neighborly unless they want to have sex, its pathetic and the commenter you mentioned is a perfectly gross example. Thanks for calling out the bs!

    • Lena says:

      I am sure men who have are not “ghetto” as you put it are just as able to say sexist demeaning things to women. Let’s not throw in classism and over generalization into this topic please.

  3. VoluptuousVegan says:

    Great post!

  4. annie says:

    here’s another way to help change media & corporate bias. billabong won’t feature one of their top sponsored athletes because she’s a healthy size 8 instead of a size 3 in their ‘modeling’ clothes. please sign this petition:

    http://www.change.org/petitions/sign-to-support-healthy-female-role-models#

  5. [...] Body Bashing: 5 Ways to Fix It | GirlieGirl Army. [...]

  6. Mike Wilson says:

    Great article! I’m a photographer who primarily does model portfolios and conceptual shoots, and I hear the body-bashing from both sides. I have girlfriends who make snide comments about how skinny some of the models are and I hear from models who are already a very trim and healthy weight that the local agency wants them to lose 10-15 pounds. It makes me sad that we teach women to hate their bodies and that it gets reinforced so frequently.

    I had a friend ask me recently “how come you’re only taking photos of skinny girls?” I said “I’ll take photos of anyone who wants to model for me. It just so happens that the majority of girls who want to model are more petite.” A lot of that is the industry, but a lot of that is the way larger women under-value themselves. A larger woman who knows how to move her body can look way better in front of the camera than a slender woman who doesn’t know how to model.

    On a personal note, my wife is a a busty curvy woman who’s always struggled with her weight and self-image. She’s recently gotten into roller derby and has been steadily losing weight by simply finding an exercise she enjoys and counting calories. When we talk about why she didn’t do this sooner she is just amazed and says “you know, no one ever told me how to do it right before”. There are so many crazy diets and confusing health information out there. So much money to be made, and it’s so cheap to be unhealthy that it breeds misinformation. The idea that you have to contort your body into doing unnatural things (don’t eat bread/rice/red meat, etc) in order to lose weight. It creates this mirage that losing weight involves huge sacrifices or a great deal of suffering rather then a lifestyle shift that isn’t beyond anyone’s grasp. She still has a long way to go to meet her goal, but she’s slowly and steadily reaching it.

    There’s just so much JUDGEMENT about women’s bodies and it really needs to stop. Size is not beauty. People are.

  7. Marijke says:

    I’m the skinny bitch. I have been skinnybashed my whole life. I am naturally skinny, I don’t diet and neither want to gain nor loose weight. I have been skinny bashed by overweight guys, average weight women, you name it. I have never called an overweight person fat and don’t think everyone should be as skinny as me. It really hurts me every time I hear it and I doubt that it makes the other person feel so much better after telling me. This definitely needs to stop. After reading this article, I stopped smiling at the bashing comments and calmly asked the other person how the would feel if I commented their body or how they would feel if I suggested them to eat less after they just told me I need to eat more. It still baffles me how bad that goes down while I am supposed to just swallow the comments dished out to me.

  8. bisous says:

    You didn’t have to tell your readers about your body because everyone could have guessed because it was spoken like a true skinny person. Nearly everyone is picked on, people will big noses, or glasses, or gapped teeth, or really anything when they are in school. As someone who used to be overweight, I find it outrageously insulting that you compare yourselves to larger women in terms of being insulted. I am now someone who is a healthy weight and I absolutely agree that that picture (and others like it) is not the way to embrace fuller figures. However, as someone who has always been thin, it is incredible insensitive and rude for you to imply that your struggles with body image are the same as an overweight person. Your body type, while maybe not “idealized” by the media, was certainly not a constant source of belittlement into your adult life. You did not have to shop in special stores, or buy two plane tickets or never see anyone like you in movies/tv/magazines, or have to deal with being considered the opposite of “attractiveness” by the media. While I do agree with your message that this is not the RIGHT way to embrace different body types, I think that for you to make these comparisons is truly insensitive, ill-informed and spoken like a true “skinny person”.

    • Anna says:

      Bisous, that is exactly the attitude that Ms. Berman is talking about. If you’ve never been super thin, then you can’t possibly know that “[her] body type…was certainly not a constant source of belittlement into your adult life.”

      I’ve also always been quite thin. As a little kid it wasn’t something that I got picked on for, but as an adult, surprisingly (you’d think that adults would be better at concealing their contempt for somebody over something so trivial as her dress size), I get comments from people all the time that, while they’re purportedly “backhanded compliments,” really hurt my feelings. Some recent examples:

      -as I walked from the bathroom to my room recently in my towel after a shower, my roommate said, “Good God, those shoulders! Please eat something.” Um, ouch. I really can’t help my shoulders. Sorry they bother you so much?
      -last weekend, at the corner bodega in my neighborhood, a girl waiting in line commented after I ordered fried chicken, “Wait, is that really for you??? I bet it’s really for your boyfriend. Or you’re just going to throw it up later.” What? Uhm, thanks stranger girl, for assuming I’m bulimic. So funny–NOT!
      -the barista at the corner coffee shop: “Girl, if I ate as many croissants as you do, I would weigh 7,000 pounds. You bitch. Hahaha!” Hahaha…? No, wait, I don’t get it. I’m a bitch now?
      -on the beach with a group of friends this past summer, one of said friends exclaimed, “Oh my GOD, will you please cover your frighteningly flat stomach? It makes me angry.” Why? Why are you angry about my stomach, “friend”? How does it affect you *at all*?

      The comments come more or less constantly, from friends, casual acquaintances, and strangers alike. Seriously.

      What I’m saying is that you really can’t know what another person goes through until you’ve actually been in her shoes. I would not pretend to be “certain,” as you put it, Ms. Bisous, that the kinds of insults–verbal, tacit, or systemic/societal–that a curvier woman might endure, because, no, I’ve never been that woman. But I don’t disparage curvy, heavy, or overweight women, because, you know, it’s none of my damn business to do so and what right do I have to try to make them feel a certain way about their bodies? None. I wish others would do me, and other skinny women, the same courtesy.

      While it’s correct to say that, most probably, the societal insults (the way a thin figure is depicted in the media, for instance [that is, generally quite positively], or the way clothes are stocked in stores and what sizes are available where) flung at us are likely not so great as those directed at heavier women, we do get verbal, personal, individual insults from others more frequently than one might imagine.

      The bottom line is that it’s just never appropriate to make a negative assumption about what a person is like based simply on her physique. Allegations that I’m a “bitch” just because I happen to have a fast metabolism are, obviously, absurd and completely baseless. Statements like, “Your stomach is bothering me because it’s so flat, ugh!” are hurtful. Can we all just worry about ourselves and not judge other people for how they appear–including making such judgmental statements as, “your body type…was certainly not a constant source of belittlement into your adult life.”

    • Lena says:

      Bisous thank you for writing your comment….

      Fat phobia is a society issue skinny putdowns is a interpersonal issue. So even though I’m sure the intentions were good due to the way our society currently runs they are not as comparable as this article makes it seem.

    • Darla says:

      Bisous, you’re obviously a bitch with body issues. Look at yourself, see your beauty, and try to work on that attitude.

      • Fatty says:

        Darla, calling someone a “bitch” for expressing their opinion is not ok. The fact that you did this in the comment section of a feminist post is even more ridiculous. Bisous has an opinion and she has the right to share it.

        I was a skinny child, and was teased for being skinny but it did not bother me. It did not bother me because my sister was fat and compared to the comments she would receive, I had it good. As I got older, I gained weight and now as an adult I am now considered overweight, borderline obese.

        I agree with the overall message of the article – no one should be criticized or judged for the appearance of their body. However, I also do strongly believe that overweight people (men and women) are blatantly discriminated against. We are considered “diseased.” Online dating profiles of men often say “I will not a date a woman over XXX pounds.” I have been told by many people that unless I lose half my body weight, no man will ever mary me. I have been told by a man, at the time of rejection, that “a fat person does not know how to love themselves, so how could they possible love another?”

        I think it is one thing to be picked on for being thin, and I think that it is a whole other matter to be discriminated against for being big. Being Big as all sorts of negative associations attached with it. Furthermore, overweight people are often made fun of in movies and television, and it is socially acceptable and even encouraged to ostracize overweight individuals for their size (like the recent Georgia state anti-obesity ads).

    • jeannine says:

      I’m commenting weeks after this was posted so don’t suppose anyone will care, but Bisous, I think you are partly correct. We should still focus on treating other women’s bodies with respect, but yes I agree there is a very big difference between the way an obese
      woman is made to feel and the way an underweight woman is made to feel by body bashing. I have been both – drastically, and I would still always choose too thin over too fat. I was once 190 lbs, and once 110 lbs. And while I’m now happy and fit around 125, I would always always choose to lose weight if I am considering how other people will treat me. The same way society and fashion does – always chooses thin, even “too” thin, over less than thin. And while the writer of this article didn’t need to include her photo because we could tell she is thin, what is worse is that she is a fashion model. Google her and you’ll see. Quite hypocritical to take such a stance after making a career out of being the ultra thin ideal that the author now complains about as a cause of ridicule. I find that hard to believe. Although I do fully believe that many thin women are ridiculed and made to be unhappy with their weight, as overweight women are. Still, not the same. Not that that is the point…

    • Workingonit says:

      Bisous,

      I am a ‘skinny’ girl (and I will add that I hate that as much as fat). My weight certainly was a constant source of belittlement in childhood and continues into m adult life. I do not choose to be as thin as I am. I fight to maintain my weight, to avoid pressure sores from clothing, and to even hide my body. I am 36 years old and I get jokes about puberty because of my breast size, I get chastised for not eating (which is a battle in itself that I won’t go into here), and people seem to think it is acceptable to openly make fun of my weight. As a kid I was teased relentlessly. This has not changed. Realistically, I do not see myself represented in the media…Oh wait, yes I do! As sick, sad, and pitied. That is a great image to see.

      It’s not that I think I struggled more than you or that you are wrong for not understanding. You have a single view, as do I. I just want to share mine in hopes that you will see that feeling uncomfortable in one’s own skin has little to do with the reading on the scale.

    • keeks says:

      Ok wow! This comment is old but the need to respond is incredible. How dare anyone say they have suffered greater when they have never walked in the other person’s shoes. I am skinny. I always have been. And i continue to get rude and outright heartless remarks to this day.
      Just the other day a coworker told me i was “like half a person” because i was so little.
      A customer walked up to me, ignored my friendly hello, and said with a snarl, “you’re too skinny.” I went to the bathroom and cried.
      Another customer asked me where i got my skinny arms. Umm…
      I don’t know how many times i’ve had to listen to guys say how they only like girls with big boobs. I’m an A, so.. thanx.
      In high school 2 guys sitting right next to me had a conversation about how much they hated skinny girls and how ugly they were.
      Everywhere i look now i see ads that say they feature “real” women. I’m not real now..?
      Guys tell me they don’t know how my boyfriend can be with me because they like “real”women that they can hold on to. OUCH YOU IDIOT.
      I’ve been asked numerous times if i have an eating disorder. I’ve been told to eat more when i eat plenty. But NO. You could NEVER walk up to a heavier person and say- where did you get your fat arms? You need to eat LESS. Wow! You are like 2 people. Do you have an eating problem? That would be soo wrong and i would never. I hate the word fat as much as i hate the word skinny. I’m self conscious of my arms and legs and chest etc as much as the next person without you pointing it out and insulting me with a smile STILL HURTS AND IT’S NOT OK.
      And yes – i DO know what it’s like for my body to be source of constant belittlement into my adult life. Chicken legs hurts. You have the body
      of a teenage boy burts. Everyday someone asks me how much i weigh. Rude. And completely inappropriate.
      And YES i DO know what it’s like to shop at specialty stores because i can never ever find pants that fit. Clothing is almost always too big. Stores refuse to carry bra sizes smaller than a B. So i buy online. And buy kids bras. And make my own clothes. Is it right for people to say “well then just gain some weight!”??? NO! I can’t! And i never say ANYTHING? I smile pretend not to care because it hurts!
      And btw- girls in movies do not look like me! They are white, falsely attractive, perfect skin and features and have big boobs. That’s not me.
      So,YOU are insensitive, ill informed, and your comment was spoken like a truely insecure person.

    • selena says:

      Well, I grew up as a skinny twig and was on the receiving end of many taunts and harassment because of it. Even to the extent that I only would wear long sleeve shirts, with baggy sleeves no less, at all while I was grade school age. And in high school the only time I wore sleeveless was when I wasn’t around my peers. I didn’t wear short lseeve shirts until well in to my late 20′s or later, because I felt like it drew unneccessary attention to my skinny toothpick arms, and as a result brough on remarks.
      However, I never faced any discrimination because of it. I do feel that heavier people, both men and women, do face prejudice and discrimination on a regular basis.
      Being harassed, ridiculed, shamed, called names, made fun of, etc, is very different than discrimination and prejudice. And both suck. Be the change.

  9. lingerie says:

    Great post! I am a little fat. Always somebody body-bases me, usually I keep simlie .Now I should listen to my heart and told them their comments make me uncomfortable.

  10. VS says:

    Ali,

    You’re so pretty!

  11. Amber says:

    When it comes down to it, body-bashing, regardless of if it’s skinny/fat, tall/short, dark/fair, hairy/bald…WHATEVER…is just plain wrong! My suggestion to help combat it is to focus less on ourselves and more on others, in a good way, of course! It’s hard to think ill of people when you’re helping and serving them. Plus, it makes you feel great. Win-win!

  12. Kelly says:

    Body bashing should stop full stop it doesn’t matter whether you are fat thin skinny athletic etc we are all beautiful women with curves!

    Please would everyone celebrate their curves now by entering the Curvy Kate Star in A Bra competition USA opening on Monday (www.starinabra.com) – where there are no restrictions and anyone with curves (ie ALL WOMEN) can enter!
    And if you would please help me celebrate mine by voting for me as I made it into the top 30 of the UK version! Voting closes midnight (uk time) Tuesday 3rd April – http://apps.facebook.com/star-in-a-bra/models/788
    Voting is free and only takes two minutes!

  13. Irvina says:

    Thanks for such a great article! I work for a non-profit, Rewrite Beautiful. Our mission is to use art to change how people see beauty in themselves for the prevention of eating disorders. I love everything you mentioned. There is so much body bashing going on in so many campaigns. We believe that beauty is an action and the more we focus on body bashing the farther we get to addressing the real issue of what beauty really is and changing our own perception of it.

  14. [...] And enough with the whole, “strong is the new skinny.”  The “strong” girls in those pictures…are still skinny.  So why are they hating on themselves?  (Can we just stop hating on each other, period?) [...]

  15. Sam says:

    are you nuts? You’re gorgeous.

  16. Sue Top says:

    Why do we have to value ANYTHING other than the fact that people are worthwhile. Period. Valuing health and confidence only changes the judgement topic. Those who have difficulty becoming healthy are an ok target ? I think not.

  17. Amber says:

    After reading all the comments, I find it hard to believe that no one has pointed out that there were times when “voluptuous” women were the “ideal” standard for beauty.

    Follow this link for several examples.
    http://answers.google.com/answers/threadview?id=392421

  18. Karen T. says:

    Bisous: Is there some scale of value on insults? The point of this has been to show that the grass is not any greener on the other side of the fence, that hate has no place here, and that we are better off working together instead of tearing each other down. This is a classic case of divide and conquer.

    And somebody previously made a comment aout Ali having been a model. So what? Did she set the standards? Nope! Is she supposed to be unemployed when there is a paying job available that she is qualified for? In this economy? Please, I’ve been out of work for almost six months and I’d take almost any legal job I could get!

    The whole point of this is that we as women need to stand together instead of tearing each other down. We are stronger together. Or else. As the saying goes, “If we don’t all hang together we will surely all hang apart.”

  19. Sabrina says:

    I am glad to have read this even though it is over a year later.
    I am a size 0, and when I hear people talk about how disgusting size 0 girls are it really hurts. I am not at all scrawny or super sickly thin. I have curves and all that, but I don’t weigh a whole lot.
    Being comfortable with your body is important! Sadly, I’ve hated my body since elementary school.
    I think it’s great to make bigger girls feel better about their figure. But I feel sometimes, it’s pushing to make obesity okay when it really isn’t. Love yourself but please be sure to take care of your health.

  20. Sam says:

    Hei All,

    I have to agree with this article. I was a small kid. We didn’t have much to eat at home (more like nothing that interests me, no variety). So when I became a teenager of 14 years, I started going out with friends. They would go out to dinner/ lunch etc. I tutored a couple of my mom’s friend’s kids. They always offered me food, and i never turned them down. Never.
    And then.. I finished highschool. I gained weight, i knew. I thought i looked fabulous. No one dared to tell me i was putting on weight. No One. At the farewell dinner night, i thought i would wear a dress- coz all my friends were wearing dresses. I put on my dress and looked at a full length mirror- for the first time in years. And guess what I saw? A complete stranger – with familiar pimples. The only household mirror we had was a small hand mirror. I had forgotten about the rest of me. I took this as a lesson and started working out-and eating only when I am hungry. I learnt to say NO to food when I wasn’t. Not that i avoided any kind of food, but I tried eating healthy in all food groups. It took me 2 whole years to drop 15 kg. I was 5 foot 2″ tall with 57.5kg before. back then by hourglass waist didn’t exist due to being fat. Now, I am a slim hourglass, with a 22 inch’ nipped in waist and I still had non-skinny good looking legs. I was finally happy with myself. As my figure grabs too much attention, i go to office in pretty loose office wear. People take a look at my wrists and say I am too skinny. Well, hello.. i am small framed. You do not judge how skinny a person is by their wrist. That is how you measure frame size. My friends who used to know me from highschool are shocked with the transformation. They act differently now. More distant. And say snide remarks like, “you must diet like crazy”. Which I don’t. They would literally push food in my face. Did not matter whether I just had a full meal about an hour back. I do not say mean things about other’s weight, coz I know how it feels. I used to smile in silence, wondering why the hell people are so mean. But now, I do tell them not to discuss weight, because it is inconsiderate and implote.I am not skinny. I am athletic with a body fat percentage of 18%. I have a 22″ waist and 35″ hips. I am a small C cup. I do not have my ribs showing. I’ve always had prominent collar bones. My chipmunk cheeks are gone now. Either way, people won’t stop commenting like they have a right. So i better start training myself to overhear them. Which is working out pretty good. :) a big HA! for those people who said that I will never find a boyfriend.. is that I have been dating the same guy for 3 years, and i am getting married this Dec 2013. And he says I am beautiful in my clothes and out of them, and that I am comfortable to hug and hold. So i knew, i was right. It (body bashing) bothers me no more. :)

  21. leslie says:

    I am so thankful I have always liked myself inside and out. I feel for others who fight differences. All my life my mother said oh you are so beautiful but…… her loss my heart is made of gold. She just wanted me to be thin. Girls or boys love yourself first.




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