Correcting Casual Body Shaming

Some former (current? I don’t know.) Playboy playmate snapchatted a picture of a naked/overweight lady from the gym with a caption something like “If I can’t unsee this you can’t either” and we can all agree that is terrible, right? I mean – that’s a no-brainer. You don’t take or share out naked pictures of someone without their permission. It’s a sign you’re a mean person AND it’s illegal by some definitions. (Most, in my opinion.) We are all on the same page. TERRIBLE. HORRIBLE. NO GOOD, VERY BAD BEHAVIOR.

But. You know what else is terrible? Doing that same type of stuff just between your friends. Which is what she thought she was doing, not quite “getting” snapchat, supposedly. And you know what else is terrible? Posting pictures of outfits you don’t approve of and mocking them on your social media. And you know what else is terrible? When you think you’re being funny and you make comments about people who should and should not be in bikinis. Or spandex. Or leggings.

What that model did is way worse, but let’s not act like there aren’t friends of ours doing it around us in smaller (and legal) ways regularly.

I have one seen someone post a headless picture of a couple, making fun of their outfit at a special event. I have seen someone post pictures of people in public making fun of their hair, or their shoes or something. I don’t see it often (I credit having an amazing group of friends) but once in a while it jumps out at my from my Facebook feed. Or maybe someone says something casually in conversation, “Ug, some people need friends to tell them that outfit does not work.” Once I actually heard someone make fun of someone in a tri suit. JEEZUS, people. We all hate our bodies in tri suits, but they’re necessary to do triathlons…GIVE EVERYONE A BREAK. Also? I’ve heard people have comments on which men should and should not be able to go shirtless while they run. So I’ve been around the body shaming of men as well as women.

AND I DID NOTHING.

NONE OF THE TIMES.

I catalogued it in my head and reminded myself I said shitty things like that in my 20s (none of these people were/are in their 20s) and I give them a pass.

But you know what? Giving that a pass leads to 25-year old models somehow thinking it’s acceptable behavior to make fun of a woman’s naked body at the gym.

I’m noticing my daughter is calling her friends out when they do stuff like use the r-word or making fun of people. And this is exactly what I tell her to do. But I’m a big ole chicken shit when it comes to doing that to people I know. When it comes to calling them out. I’m not talking about trying to changes someone’s political views, I’m talking about how do you point out behavior you think may be causing systematic problems with body image? Where is the line because we can’t enforce our opinions on behavior on people like we’re their parents, but I would like friends to know I’m concerned that our casual relationship with hiding body shame in conversation does not help our children grow up to love themselves.

What are your thoughts? Do you just lead by example? Or do you find loving ways to maybe point out that some changes need to be made in the way we treat people when we’re talking about them with friends?

9 Comments

  • Colleen

    I’m not very good at responding to this either. I’ve managed to say “that’s mean” a few times. One thing I’ve tried to do (after once when one of my kids told me what I’d said was mean) is change my thinking to “I admire her confidence to wear a bikini.” Maybe I should work on saying that out loud instead of inside my head!

  • Carrie

    I’m pretty bad about responding, too. But only because when I’ve done it in the past, people have had really defensive, mean responses back to me about it. It sucks. And then they tell me I need to lighten up, etc. Ugh.

  • Karen

    It does start with us. You would think that as someone who has been body shamed her entire life, I would not struggle with doing the same to others, but I realize that the tendency to notice/comment on others stems from not being comfortable or secure in my own body… almost a need to elevate myself at someone else’s expense. We’ve heard that for years, that “hurt people hurt.” It is a tough cycle to break.

    Kudos to you for helping Nyoka to be confident in who she is and able to speak out when she sees someone being body-shamed.

  • Rhia

    I read a really good response once that is kind of non-confrontational, but might lead people to consider their behaviour:

    “You must be so embarrassed you just said that out loud.”

    I like it because it acknowledges the hard work that it takes to change our thinking, and also assumes that the speaker is trying to do better and had a momentary lapse.

  • Anna

    I call people on it. When I posted about this story on Facebook yesterday I had a few pretty ridiculous comments that were basically slut shaming her for being a Playboy model and I called my friends on it and said “And the worst part is now I’m having to defend this woman against you in my comments for slut shaming her for body shaming somebody else. Come on, ladies!”

  • Beth

    Many people also body shame themselves. That the first place we need to cease.Especially around our kids. When you say I wish I had blue eyes, what does that say to your brown eyed child. When you say I wish I was shorter, what does that say to your 5’4″ 10 year old that is still growing. When you say I hate this outfit on me what does that say to the teen that was just going to say they loved it and can I borrow the top.

  • LC

    I’m a chicken. But I love Colleen’s way of thinking..”change my thinking to “I admire her confidence to wear a bikini.”
    I’m totally going to try to change my mindset to that and maybe my words will follow.

  • meg

    i loved this post – i think its so true and I know im guilty of not being honest when i think people are being mean, I tend to go quiet as if thats a sign of my disapproval. But I aim to take stand, no one should have such nasty opinions of other people – especially people they dont even know.

  • Deb

    I agree with you and all the comments here. There are so many subtleties to this issue. It made me cringe to remember how many times I told my kids not to wear a certain outfit because how the way they would be judged – usually because I wanted them to fit in but this perpetuates the judging yourself thing – always questioning your body, clothes against what you might think other people might think of you. Thank you again for your thoughtful posts. I will be braver in every way – judging myself and others and speaking up when body shaming is happening.