Wednesday, 19 February 2014

The Shame In Body Shaming

In recent weeks one of the hot topics of discussion has been body image and body shaming. I personally have a pretty big opinion on the subject as I grew up as the fat girl in the group, the fat one in my family and in general as the token "fat" girl. The label is one that it took me years to get used to despite always being larger in size. Now I'm not one of those people who by any means feels sorry for themselves. I understand that my size is due to various things and that I have issues with food, however I find it extremely offensive when people who have never had a weight problem feel it's their right to pass judgement and insults on those of us who have. I have this same opinion when it comes to people constantly saying derogatory comments towards skinny people too.

I don't know if the issue seems to be heightened by the media at the moment or perhaps I'm just noticing a few things more often, but lately all I seem to read about in my Twitter feed, Facebook news feed and on other social media channels is constant ramblings aimed to make us feel bad about ourselves! Before anyone gets the wrong idea of where i'm going with this no I am not here to promote obesity and I am not here to say anything ignorant or cruel towards my smaller counterparts. I am just rather confused about where we are all headed at the moment. We are constantly plied with mixed messages of what sexy, healthy and beautiful actually is and somewhere amongst all this discussion the topic of health and fitness has gone out of the window, leaving the focus on our image instead.

In a society where we aim to embrace people of different cultures, religions, sexual orientations and many other things I find myself rather confused. Why is it that we have stopped short when it comes to how people look? We do our best to make people feel comfortable and accepted within their minorities, even to a point where we have rules and regulations set to protect them from abuse and other harsh treatments from people. I guess what irks me the most is that lately people are portrayed to each other in a way that I feel resembles that of a freak show! We have television programmes aimed at showcasing people struggling with anorexia, bulimia and various other eating disorders. More often than not these shows are out there to provide the "shock treatment" of bringing us in line. I won't lie I haven't watched all of them but those I have seen often fail to touch on the deeper issues behind the situation. Why is it that when we focus on our body image our main focus tends to be on an aesthetic and cosmetic level? How we look is only one factor of ourselves and I personally think that no matter what your size or shape you should be made to feel comfortable in your own skin so that should you choose to stay as you are or to work on your situation, you can do it with pride and in a safe manner.

Slogans like this anger me to no end, especially as a fat vegetarian! 

A few months ago there was a despicable thing called 'Fat Shaming Week'. What came of it were countless short sighted and nasty tweets and images flooding the internet. I read comments like 'if you can't be carried over the threshold you don't deserve to be married!' What a disgusting thing for someone to say! And that was one of the more tame statements.... I really feel like people need to learn that if you can't say anything positive or productive sometimes it's best to keep it shut! Not all bigger people are your typical happy go lucky bubbly types who are able to laugh at themselves. I happen to know of a few people who have had to suffer serious emotional and psychological damage due to some of the things people have said and done to them in relation to their image and it's just not fair! This is the point I am making, not all people are fat simply because they like to eat too much, many use food as a comfort or as a substance for escapism just as drug addicts and alcoholics do.

What confuses me to no end is how many people have put a series of rules forward for us bigger people to abide by:

- Don't wear stripes
- Don't wear pattens
- Don't wear anything fitting
- Black is a must as it's slimming

I could go on and on and on with the countless amounts of ideals we are meant to follow and 99% of the time the main focus is on image! I really believe that how we feel should come before how we look. In my experience when a person feels good about themselves they generally take more positive steps to take better care of themselves. This tends to be because they have a sense of self worth, a higher esteem and generally take more pride in themselves.

Companies like Victoria Secret and Dove each have their own view on what beauty is. Take a look at these 2 different add campaigns:

I would argue that both groups of women are "real" women and I hate that a large amount of body shaming and snarky remarks come from women. All women face many of the same struggles and we should all aim to be a champion for each other and not the people aiming to tear each other down!

We speak a lot today about airbrushing and the modification of celebrity images, but we are now having to witness companies trying to sell scales with the main objective; us to reach the size of a particular celebrity. When this was spoken about a few weeks ago on social media people were outraged by the idea. Superdrug, the company behind the idea had to witness a heavy backlash from customers and some of the celebrities they had chosen to use. For one thing how would they know how much Beyonce weighs and why would they want to entertain such an idea? The amount of girls who self harm themselves every day through various eating disorders because they are working to look like their favourite superstar is immense and I would suggest that this was a rather silly idea on their behalf. Cheryl Cole who was one of the selected women wrote this tweet to the company:

And Superdrug responded to the customers and celebs concerned with this statement:

I think it's important for us all to take some perspective here. We all face different challenges in our day to day lives and we don't need to be comparing ourselves to others all the time. I would suggest that we all aim to be the best we can be within ourselves and do what we can to be more self confident. I can admit that I would like to lose some weight in the future and take more focus on my health. I personally know that whilst I may not be exactly where I want to be I am happy enough within myself for the time being to be able to get on with my life, head held high and a smile on my face.

In all honesty I can say that I feel so much better about myself since I stopped focusing on crash diets, and beating myself up about how I look. I would urge everyone out there no matter what their shape or size to make the most of what they have and to try and enjoy it. After all the one person you will forever be stuck with is yourself so you may as well learn to get on with it as best you can.

Hopefully we become more tolerant of each other and won't feel the need to push our own opinions and ideals on others in the future. 

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