The body positivity movement took the internet by storm, with women from across the world coming together to stand up for themselves and their right to love their bodies. It gave voices to many who were tired of being ashamed and continues to create waves of change every day. Unfortunately, the instances of online body shaming and bullying seem to have only increased, and hate has become a regular part of many online personalities’ lives. Why are we doing this?
One could put forth the argument that because more women are putting out pictures of themselves on social media, and calling attention to their bodies, they are ‘inviting’ this kind of negativity. Because of the transparency and anonymity the internet promotes, you can’t always expect positivity, can you? However, negativity is one thing, but when such comments are deliberately engineered to shame you, saying you aren’t pretty because they don’t like it like that, is when it stops being an opinion, and becomes outright misogyny and bullying.
We have created a culture where women are considered wrong and insulting if they don’t meet a certain standard.
You’re not allowed to show off your body because it offends them. We have created a culture where women are considered wrong and insulting if they don’t meet a certain standard. Women have learned to judge their self-worth on the basis of what other people want to view them as. We must constantly fret over fitting in to a physical ideal if we want to feel good about ourselves. And women who do stand up in support of their right to love their bodies, who are confident and vocal, obviously need to be squashed and put in ‘their place’.
Why do we feel entitled to someone else’s body and someone else’s physical appearance? How in the world could that possibly affect anyone but the person whom the body belongs to?
Body shaming and abuse is a real thing. And every single hate comment is one too many. It is not a normal result of posting a picture on the internet, it is an age-old tradition of other people needing to feel in control of women’s bodies. This is not just negativity that comes with the internet. Throughout history, there have been ‘ideal body types’ (usually those of the rich and powerful) that women should have aspired to fit into.
The Victorian era (19th century) emphasised exaggerated curves with hourglass figures. In ancient Greece (4000 BCE) and during the Renaissance period, larger, plumper, and softer bodies were considered desirable, while ancient Egypt and the Han dynasty wanted small, petite, and toned bodies. The key words here are ‘desirable’ and ‘standard’. Society wanted women to look a certain way and would consider them worthless if they didn’t.
Make a deliberate effort to challenge and stop spreading the idea that women cannot love their bodies unconditionally.
Judging someone based on their physical appearance is something we as human beings are built to do. But the way we have learned to judge women is incorrect and bullying them and telling them that they cannot display their bodies because it offends us is abjectly wrong. It is an effect of an archaic tradition of trying to pry the control of women’s bodies from themselves.
Also read: Fat Shaming Is A Feminist Issue And It’s Time We Talked About It
The long-term goal here is to eradicate these worn-out mindsets and ideals from society and change the way we perceive and react to view physical appearances. But for now, here are a few things I believe we all should practice to create a more positive and safer space for everyone.
Firstly, if you must comment, make it supportive. People appreciate even the smallest bit of love and kindness that comes their way. Additionally, never tell someone to change their body because you’re ‘worried about their health’, especially if it is someone that you don’t know personally. That isn’t kindness, that’s meddling. How a stranger handles their own life and health isn’t your business. Fight internal standards!
If you ever find yourself comparing your body with someone else’s or judging someone negatively based on what they look like, take a step back. Analyse why you’re uncomfortable. We’ve been conditioned to think a certain way from birth, and this is a battle we need to actively fight, even if it is against our own selves. It’s high time we moved on from things that only spread misery. Think about your motivations behind the things you say to people, and really try to understand where they are coming from. It’s easy enough to say, “love your body!” We all know how difficult that is to implement in real life. It’s a journey for you, just like it is for the person in the screen. And just like you feel hurt over things, they do too.
Also read: In Search Of The ‘Perfect’ Body
Practising the act of cultivating empathy can only benefit you going forward. Make a deliberate effort to challenge and stop spreading the idea that women cannot love their bodies unconditionally. All you need to do is step outside the house to see that everyone’s bodies are different and diverse – that doesn’t mean that most of them are ‘bad’ or ‘wrong’. That is simply the reality and it is high time we start supporting and representing that online.
Featured Image Source: CNN