Summer and The Perfect Body
For the past few years, every year around this time, we start hearing and reading the words “Summer Body” basically everywhere. That stigma has been ruining the fun for most of us for a very long time. The concept itself has no clear definition, it feeds on our insecure thoughts and fears, convincing us of its false power in our need to be accepted and admired during the summer. Come to think of it, does anyone remember how it started, or where exactly the “Bikini Body” concept came from?
How is Body Shaming Defined?
Body shaming is simply the act of referring to one’s body in a negative way, whether your own or someone else’s. That includes commentary about a person’s size, height, hair, facial features, skin tone, body hair, acne, skin conditions, and shape & size of reproductive organs. We, as a society, have decided to put together a set of criteria to measure our attractiveness. That set of criteria hasn’t always been the same, it has changed and transformed throughout the years.
The History of Body Shaming
In our current society, it is believed that skinnier and fitter bodies are better, healthier and prettier than larger ones. Historically, on observing paintings and portraits from older eras, bigger bodies and plumpness were a privilege and something to be admired, unlike today’s standard, It was seen as a sign of wealth and healthiness. In Ancient Egypt, symmetrical features were ideal. During the 1920s, women were more beautiful if they were flat chested and had a boyish figure. 30 years later, the ideal body image changed to curvy with a slim waist and an hourglass shape. Then came the 80s to introduce the supermodel body that is tall, toned and athletic. 30 years later curvy bodies are back in. Since then, society has evolved and evolved some more. With each new generation, new expectations of what a perfect body is, has emerged. Anyone who doesn’t fall into this criteria is at risk of becoming subject to insensitive language surrounding our bodies.
The Genderlessness of Body Shaming
According to statistics, 94% of teenage girls have been body shamed. However, the practice isn’t exclusive to just girls. Teen boys and men have been subjected to harmful comments and attacks for a very long time. Nearly 65% of teen boys have been reported to be body shamed.
Based On A True Story
All of the following statements are a very small percentage of what we face everyday of hurtful commentary on our bodies and forms.
“She’s so fat, she’s basically two of X” While X is standing right next to the speaker.
“How many of us are coming? 10, but we can say 11 since Y is joining.. Haha”
“You’re so skinny that I can see right through you!”
“You’re too short, if you gain one more pound you’ll turn into a barrel”
And the one that tops them all “When are you due?” or “Are you pregnant?” joke to anyone with a tummy!
None of these “jokes” are funny or even remotely okay. It is us who have been accepting this language surrounding our own bodies for far too long. It is about time we show the world that we deserve better and won’t be accepting less for ourselves.
Body Shaming in the Media
The“perfect body image” has never been direct or in your face, it is drip fed to us subtly and discreetly.
As an example, we are no strangers to seeing so-called “overweight” characters in movies and tv shows being associated with clichés suggesting that fat people are ugly, unhappy, only think about food, or that they are unloveable or will never be loved and will always be at the butt of every body-related “joke”.
On social media however, body shaming is much more direct and cruel. Growing up, we have all been exposed to the harsh words of our friends and family regarding our bodies and looks. Their opinions have been formed over years of conditioning. We were programmed to think that it was okay to accept such “jokes” because if we didn’t, we risk becoming stapled as too “sensitive” and someone “who can’t take a joke”. It therefore shouldn’t be an unexpected surprise when these kids grow up and project these words out into the world attacking strangers on the internet, hurling on them what they have been absorbing all of these years.
Unfortunately, because of tabloid culture and gossip mediums, many have given themselves the right to outwardly project their opinion and commentary of others and their bodies, into the public space without recourse or consequence. Social media is like a smaller representation of our society. Whatever we think about and engage with, is reflected in the posts we share and the pictures we upload. We strive to be the skinniest, prettiest, trendiest and most attractive. But we never stop to ask ourselves why or what it is for?
The key here is our awareness. Not just of the words of others. But the words we speak to ourselves and those around us. We’re starting to become more aware of our actions and words everyday. We are starting to stand up to our inner demons and outer bullies. I do not claim to change society with my words nor do I expect much change from this article. I do want to leave you with one question this week. We can only lead by example, ask yourself how do you feel about your body and why? If you can pinpoint which comment or experience you had that influenced your thinking, you can start to heal. One step at a time to combat years of cultural conditioning.
Self-shaming is a destructive mindset, it’s time to start the process of accepting yourself. It’s the only way to work on getting healthier and more confident, to accept and love you as you are. Inspiring others to follow suit. Be the change you wish to see, that change starts with you.
… to be continued.