Tell me if this sounds at all familiar.
You’re walking around the mall with your non-social justice friend in the middle of the day. You see a person wearing short shorts and a midriff shirt. Your friend whispers in your ear: “Oh, she should NOT be wearing that out in public.” And then as your friend starts to go on about the appropriate attire for a person’s body size, you start to drown out that voice, and reevaluate why you’re keeping this person as your friend.
Body shaming is highly prevalent in our culture, which is depicted as a person overtly or covertly being socially examined or scrutinized due to that person’s body image/size. Women are most commonly the victims of body shaming, particularly women of color. Women have a long history of being under a social microscope, and often times their value is determined based on their bodily appeal, when considering a heterosexist situation. Women of color’s cultures commonly value or casually accept curvaceous women, but living in this culture brings means clashing the ideal acceptance of one culture, for the socially constructed goal of “thin is good” within the other.
I also have to point out that body shaming is gender blind. Don’t tell me men don’t judge other men based on their bodies. The desire in this instance is to be big and rough, marked by the accusation: “do you even lift, bro?!” Men feel the pain of others’ judgment, but being men, they are taught to internalize and reject any notion that this is troublesome.
But why do people body shame at all in the first place? I might now know the answer to this, but I have a hypothesis. When a person is discontent with his own body, he rejects the pain of focusing inward, and instead will focus outwards, and project his own bodily dissatisfaction onto others. This malicious domino effect has been occurring long before the first bikini was revealed, and can only be thwarted when a person realizes this is being done and takes the responsibility to stop. Having a stomach that isn’t rock-hard tight stomach is a totally acceptable thing. It’s silly to assume that individual worth is as easily readable as one reads the numbers on a bathroom scale. In my own experience, I have hated my bodily perception so much that I was willing to eat little and do 1000 calorie workouts to punish my body just so I can pass in society. But now, I challenge the notion that I need another person’s acceptance to accept my own body. Furthermore, it’s been weeks since I’ve weighed myself, because I don’t believe that number makes me any more or less significant. I can excel in school, work, and life just as well as the person with a six pack, and I bet you could too.