Two news stories this week inspired this post. The first one is about fitness instructor Cassey Ho, who created this video after receiving a barrage of body-shaming comments on social media.
In the video, she has the opportunity to change all the parts of her body that have been shamed in the comments. She creates thinner thighs, a smaller waist, a bigger butt and boobs, a more sculpted face and she even changes her eye color. At first she looks in the mirror pleased with these changes, but in a few seconds, her expression changes to dissatisfaction. The video ends with the message, “What would you change?” Cassey said that she created it to help combat body shaming.
The other news story was about supplement company Protein World and their new ads for their “weight loss collection” products crap featuring the words “Are You Beach Body Ready?” and a picture of a typically unachievable-by-most-people body of a woman in a bikini (there is a counterpart ad with a similarly unrealistic-for-most male body). Thankfully some people who saw these ads responded with acts of civil disobedience, vandalizing them with their own messages such as “Your body is not a commodity,” “Each Body’s Ready,” and my personal favorite, “Fuck off.” These women are saying something, and it’s that they don’t want Protein World telling them that they must look like the woman in the ad in order to feel allowed to go to the beach. Responding to the criticism, Protein World tweeted:
Fat people are body shamed for not looking like the cultural ideal; then someone like Cassey Ho, who is the cultural ideal, is body shamed for not looking enough like the cultural ideal?? What the hell. I’m not saying one body type should be shamed while the other shouldn’t; I’m saying these body-police will never be happy any which way.
Lena Dunham showing her “less-than-perfect” but perfectly average naked body on television is treated as an act of heresy, the message loud-and-clear: “Your body is wrong, please don’t show it to us anymore.” I spend a lot of time watching HBO, and there is plenty of nudity, and I don’t recall anyone else ever getting questioned about why they are spending time naked on TV.
I don’t know about you, but I’m about fed up on being told how I need to look in order to be socially acceptable, on the beach or in a dress. It started young for me, when my mother implied I probably shouldn’t wear sleeveless tops because my arms were too big or dresses with elasticized waists lest I end up looking like a potato sack tied in the middle with a string (she didn’t say it to be mean – she really thought she was being helpful!). And now we have internet trolls and the weight loss industry to constantly remind us how “wrong” our bodies are. We have Dr. Oz shaming us into buying unproven weight loss products he endorses. We have the media reinforcing the stereotypical ideal by rarely showing bodies of diverse sizes (not to mention colors) in TV and movies.
What happens when we start to use all these external yardsticks of beauty instead of making up our own minds about ourselves? We stop living a life that is authentically our own. We go on diets that don’t work at best and hurt us at worst. We lose interest in all the things that make us interesting, exchanging them for a full-time focus on making ourselves “right” according to everyone else.
I’m not buying it anymore. I’m not using someone else’s idea of beauty to determine how I feel about myself. I’m expanding my beauty palate every day by looking at diverse bodies and seeing what is right about them (answer: everything!). I’ve become so successful at this that now when I hear body criticisms of any sort, it’s like hearing something spoken in Greek (note: I do not speak Greek).
So thanks internet trolls, Protein World, the rest of the diet industry, the conventional fashion industry and Hollywood, but I don’t need your advice on my body anymore. I’ll take it from here. I’ve got my own yardstick.