While on the campaign trail, President Donald Trump consistently criticized women, namely his opponent Hillary Clinton, based on their appearances. At a rally in Greensboro, North Carolina, he noted that Clinton’s appearance on the night of the presidential debate didn’t “impress him.” She was called a “nasty woman,” which has now become a feminist call for solidarity. Serena Williams has taken to social media to say that she has been called a man because she “appeared outwardly strong,” and has even been accused of using drugs due to her accomplishments.
Melissa McCarthy, actress and comedian, confronted the critics who shamed her for her weight, saying, “Do you have a daughter? Do you tell her she’s only worthwhile or valid when she’s pretty?” This pinpoints the problem that lies in body shaming, which has been perpetuated by a culture that consistently pits others against women so that they can be objectified and visible only in terms of their appearances.
There is more to people than how they look.
A person is worth more than their height or weight. Words do hurt. In my own experiences, I’ve noticed that there is a tendency among many to comment on someone’s outward appearances in a negative manner. These wholly unwarranted comments have become somewhat of the norm, whether it is at family gatherings, or in the halls of university.
Both men and women experience body shaming. Much of the body shaming that occurs has been done so to normalize mistreating women. Body shaming occurs in politics, in Hollywood, in schools and in our daily encounters with others.
The popularity of Instagram and social media comes with a price. The platform provides people with the means to express themselves, and yet I’ve noticed that the comment section of celebrities’ profiles becomes too hard to look at. Social media trolls have taken to body shaming females when pictures are posted of their bodies. The problem lies in the fact that women should be comfortable to use the social media platform to their own means and not be attacked based on their shape or size. The constant scrutiny women face on social media due to their appearances coincides with the fact that 94 percent of teenage girls have said they have been body shamed.
Self-esteem issues are rooted in a lack of confidence that comes from a variety of factors, and one of them is a lack of body positivity. Societal norms make it hard to escape the image of having a “perfect body” that has been idealized in our culture. The negative effects of idealizing unrealistic beauty standards have not gone unnoticed. A study in 2012 reported that 43 percent of college-aged women have tried dieting to control their weight even though 78 percent of them were shown to have a body mass index within healthy ranges. Eating disorders remain pervasive for teens and adults. Instead of perpetuating unrealistic body images, positive body images inclusive of people of all shapes, colors and sizes should be encouraged. Although eating disorders will not be fully eradicated through body positive campaigns, this would be a step in the right direction.
Recently, a topic of debate has been dress codes in schools and how these dress codes are sexist in nature. Many girls have been told to change, or leave school to find more appropriate clothing, and yet what exactly is deemed appropriate? If society is teaching young girls that their bodies and the way they look serve to make male counterparts “comfortable,” then society has already failed. Body positivity must be encouraged so that girls can feel comfortable in their own skin and not have to worry about their clothing, but rather focus on their priorities and gaining an education, in an environment that empowers young girls instead of shaming them.
Body shaming is symptomatic of a larger problem that we choose to sweep under the rug.
Women shouldn’t have to limit their means of self-expression in order to avoid comments against their bodies. Furthermore, when women use their voices to speak on a public platform and their bodies are shamed, or they are made to feel less in any way, it only perpetuates a negative stigma that operates as a means to erase women of their accomplishments, accolades and intellect.
Women have the agency to express themselves and be empowered without facing backlash, and they are valid and capable and do not need to prove this by adhering to society’s norms of beauty. Beauty is not homogeneity, but rather coming in different shapes and sizes and owning one’s identity.