Body shaming is far from new, however with social media and the Internet it has been magnified by a million. From fat shaming to skinny shaming to belly shaming and more, there is not a body part that hasn’t experienced some form of humiliation online.
In a new survey by FitRated titled Body Shamed, 90 percent of Americans surveyed admitted to having experienced body shaming at least once in their lifetime.
No one gets a pass
Women in Hollywood are routinely criticized for looking too old—or turning to extreme plastic surgery to stay young. They are shamed for being too heavy (think Melissa McCarthy and Rebel Wilson), for being too thin (like Tara Reid and Keira Knightley), or even for having, allegedly, recently eaten a hamburger (like Selena Gomez, Kelly Clarkson, and Anne Hathaway).
CNN’s website has featured a running slideshow tallying celebrities who have been body shamed, which as of this writing stands at twenty-nine and counting.
Who’s shaming who?
Over half of the women surveyed (63 percent) said they’d been body shamed by their mothers while parents may not be fully aware how their words are impacting their children. In another survey 1 in 3 kids admitted to feeling fat shamed by their parents by inappropriate comments towards their weight or appearance.
While some may turn to comfort from their friends, according to the Body Shamed survey, 62 percent of women say it’s sometimes those closest to them that are causing them to feel less than good about themselves. Sadly it wasn’t only friends but also includes grandparents, teachers and employers.
Women insulting each other digitally
Technology has now afforded us the luxury of being heard globally.
In June 2014, on her twelfth wedding anniversary, Galit Breen, a Minnesota mommy blogger and mother of three, decided to write a listicle for the Huffington Post titled “12 Secrets Happily Married Women Know.” Along with the article, she included a few photos of herself on her wedding day. Galit had never before publicly posted the photos of her younger, heavier self. But she felt that these wedding day shots portrayed her happiness, the glowing bride and groom, so she sent them along to her editor.
Galit knew “never to read the comments,” but she checked in on HuffPo’s Facebook page anyway, to see the reaction her words of wisdom were getting. Once she did, she couldn’t look away, refreshing the page over and over.
“One thing you didn’t learn is ‘don’t marry a heifer,’” lobbed one critic.
“WE GET IT!” commented another. “Huffnpuff…you love fat women…we get it…enough is enough.”
“People weren’t commenting about marriage or weddings or my article or my writing,” Galit continues, “What they were commenting on is how fat I looked in my wedding dress… When I read those words, I was really devastated. I only showed them to my husband, because I was also ashamed and embarrassed. But because I didn’t tell anyone, I was also very much alone. I cut myself off from both my online and in-person support systems. I couldn’t get past the shame of it, the embarrassment. I think I was depressed. It took me a few months to pull myself out.”
Eventually, Galit realized she had a choice: “Keep on being depressed, or find a way to speak up.” That fall she penned a response piece titled “It Happened to Me: I Wrote an Article about Marriage, and All Anyone Noticed Is That I’m Fat,” which went viral quickly. Galit Breen was soon featured on The Today Show and in Time Magazine for her courage and tenacity for facing fat shaming head on.
Ending body bashing
In the midst of women empowerment with the #MeToo movement, it’s disappointing to learn that it’s our closest friends and family that are using their words to make women feel badly about themselves. Although some people may do this intentionally, there are those that might be unaware of how their words are impacting others.
5 Ways to be self-aware of online body shaming
1. If you wouldn’t say it offline, it doesn’t belong online. Being called fat or chunky is never polite.
2. There’s a difference between clever and cruel — jokes (especially those concerning body types) can be misconstrued on social media.
3. If your friend (or family member) is asking for an opinion about their appearance, especially if it’s on social media, be mindful with your comments.
4. Remind yourself there are filters, photoshop and more on social media. People refer to Facebook as Fakebook for a reason. Not everything or everyone is what it appears to be. Stop believing in perfection. Talk to your teens about this too.
5. Everyone is unique. From our personalities to our bodies, but we have one commonality — words can hurt especially when they are aimed at us from ones we love. Let’s use our keystrokes with care and be upstanders when we witness digital discourse.
In the Body Shamed survey it concluded that the mocking Americans endure over their weight or appearance mainly comes from the people in their personal lives. Isn’t it time we end this body bashing cyber-trash?
Originally posted on Psychology Today.