I feel as though I’m beginning to sound like a broken record.
[[M.A.C. Cosmetics at New York Fashion Week, via Facebook]]
Just. Stop. Hating.
I feel like this goes without saying. Right? But apparently it doesn’t, because it just keeps happening. (I’m not saying everyone should listen to me, but surely, as a society, we’ve managed to advance to the point where we understand that people have different bodies. Right?)
Listen to this song for a moment, and then return here to read my rant:
Here’s the thing:
When you comment on another person’s body just because it doesn’t meet your standards for beauty, you are doing something incredibly unkind.
When you shame someone for being too skinny, too fat, too muscly, too different to how you feel all people should look, you’re being a massive dick.
When you get on Facebook and call people anorexic, disgusting, foul, ugly, or otherwise (particularly women; I’m not saying that people don’t shame male bodies, but it seems to be much more prevalent a practice when women’s bodies are involved), you look like a bigoted piece of shit.
I’m not just talking about fat bodies.
I’m talking about all kinds of bodies. There is a disturbing trend of increasingly nasty body shaming happening online. I read a good little article the other day about Reddit, in which the author compares the relative anonymity of that space to the total “nonymity” of Facebook.
Reddit works on a system of up and down votes. Basically, in most cases, people will vote your opinion off the page if what you’re saying is boring/narrow minded/excessively controversial. (No doubt there are certainly exceptions to this rule, and with sub-Reddits existing for every topic imaginable, there are spaces within that site where body shaming is not only allowed, but encouraged; that’s not what I’m referring to here, as I’m assuming that decent human beings don’t frequent these pages. Reddit is also far from a perfect system.)
It’s also relatively anonymous, in that users tend to adopt usernames, a la pre-social-web days.
Facebook, on the other hand, is a space in which people tend to use their real name, for the most part. They make connections in one of two ways: by Friending people they already know offline, or by Liking pages set up by businesses, organisations, institutions, and communities. The vast majority of the other people whom also Like said page will be people that one doesn’t personally know; they will not be a part of one’s pre-existing social group.
Yet, for whatever reason, people are fucking jerks on Facebook.
They seem to think it’s okay to comment on advertisements, news articles, and posts, and say whatever the hell they like about the subject - especially when it features a body that displeases them, with complete disregard for who might be reading and what such comments might say about them as a person. And, boy oh boy, do people love to body-shame on Facebook.
Let me say this: It is never, ever okay to hate someone’s body (and, by extension, the person themselves) because it doesn’t look like what you think it should look like – whether that means it’s the “wrong” size, disabled, too old or young, a different colour to yours, or exhibits sex and gender traits that you don’t personally understand.
This rant has been sparked by a Facebook comment thread I saw this morning. I know, I know, stop feeding the trolls/consuming others’ ignorance. I feel like I’m on the verge of wanting desperately to quit Facebook, but I won’t because a) it’s a great way to keep in contact with my students, and b) I’m about to leave the country for a very long time, and god knows people don’t check their emails nearly enough these days.
The comments were on a gallery posted by M.A.C. cosmetics. I follow M.A.C. because oh my gosh, you guys – have you seen their eyeshadow range? Amazing.
[[My favourite part of the discussion on this page was all the comments on how the makeup wasn't appropriate for everyday wear ORLY? Funny that, at a fashion show. Le sigh. This image unashamedly thieved from M.A.C.'s Facebook gallery of New York Fashion Week.]]
Anyway, the gallery featured catwalk models wearing M.A.C. makeup. Some of them were pretty slim; the others, you could only see their face, but they didn’t look “unusual” in any way; they just looked like young women in makeup. The photos were taken at New York Fashion Week – i.e. one of the biggest fashion events on the planet. Let’s make a list of what we know about models, shall we?
- They are usually very slim. There has been a marked trend in recent years towards showcasing other kinds of bodies, but that’s a discussion for another day.
- There has been a lot of discussion in recent years about not using exceedingly underweight young women in fashion campaigns.
- Slim models are chosen because they are, effectively, walking coat hangers. (I detest this idea and feel horrible even writing it, because these women are much more than coat hangers, but that’s how the industry currently works.) The clothes hang off them and sway as the model walks. The fabric, not the model, is the star of the show.
- The modelling and fashion industries are, unfortunately, historically replete with drug abuse and eating disorders.
- Many of them are very young and have not yet fully developed bodies. (This is fact. Although females tend to mature young compared to males, many do not develop so-called “womanly” shapes until they are in their 20s. I had boobs from about 11 years of age, but didn’t have shapely hips until around 21.)
So we know all this. And yet, people still feel the need to hate on other women. To wit:
- “Honestly all these girls looks sick. They need to eat.”
- “Y do all ur modelz look like they have a drug problem ? Wherez the real pretty healthy women at?. Just sayin.”
- “Mac makeup is fab, but really these models are way to thin, they look ill and there is no life behind their eyes – maybe it is drugs or just not enough food. They are not good role models, so why do companies insist on using these type of people rather than ‘ normal’ looking people. Shame on the world of fashion.”
I’m going to stop right there for a second - not good role models?????
Since when are fashion models role models? What the actual f? Here’s a crazy idea: If you have a son or daughter, how about encouraging them to look for role models that do more than walk down a runway in expensive clothing? I do not mean to demean the work of the fashion industry here, but seriously… how about encouraging your child to admire and aspire to the work of scientists, doctors, teachers? How about being a good role model for your child, rather than expecting the fashion industry to do it? Absolutely ridiculous. I continue:
- “Not for nothing, the makeup is gorgeous but these models look anorexic!’ That’s not beauty”
- “Love M.A.C but models are extremely thin!!! I dont like it at all!”
- “These women look disgusting.”
No, commenter. You are “disgusting”, but it has nothing to do with your looks. Shame on you, you piece of shit.
I’m not a follower of fashion, but I do keep an eye on it and discussions about fashion because I am incredibly interested in the place of the body, so this thread doesn’t come as a surprise at all, but it upsets me nonetheless. Why does anyone believe it is their right to say horrible things about another person – especially people they don’t know? You can’t assume anything by looking at these photographs. To call a woman “anorexic” because she is skinny is just mindboggling incorrect. One of my best friends is 5’10″, weighs 58kg (about 120lb), runs half marathons, and eats like it’s the reason she was put on this earth. I’ve been friends with her for 17 years, and she’s been tall and slim the entire time. Yet, these commenters, without even knowing her, would probably call her anorexic.
Do people even know what anorexia is? Do they understand that it’s not a controllable disease of vanity or of disgust with seeing fat bodies? That nobody has anorexia because they think they’re better than others, or more successful at remaining thin?
Putting it another way, would those who are quick to bitch out models for being “anorexic” be just as quick to bitch out someone for being bipolar, or having multiple sclerosis, or having cancer? Or is it just easy to hate on anorexia because it concerns the body – the part we can easily see – and that body is in public space, getting all up in your face and offending your sensibilities?
Somewhere along the line, it became really quite acceptable to hate slim bodies, in a way that not acceptable when it comes to fat bodies. People still do hate fat bodies, but it’s almost more institutionalised, more ingrained in society; it’s just accepted that fat is disgusting. We’re not quite at that point with slim yet, because it’s still very socially acceptable to love slim bodies. Because of that, people have no qualms about hating on them publicly – like their opinion is, in some way, doing everyone a favour, by pointing out the unbearable thinness of being.
This has gone on for a very long time, so I’m going to wrap it up, but not before sharing something with you that I read on Twitter yesterday. Meghan Tonjes is one of my most favourite ladies on the Internet. She is absolutely freaking awesome. She’s all over YouTube and Twitter and Tumblr so I highly encourage you to get on board, because she comes up with gems like this:
When you praise or insult a woman's body, every woman in your life around you takes that and internalizes it as a standard you hold for them—
Meghan Tonjes (@meghantonjes) September 16, 2013
Never has a truer word been spoken. When you praise or insult a woman’s body, every woman around you – whether it’s your girlfriend, friends, daughter, mother, sister, grandmother, aunt, cousin, acquaintances, or strangers on Facebook - takes that and internalizes it as a standard you hold for them.
Please. Stop body shaming, stop body hate.