Between the catcalls and underhanded remarks (both from people in our lives and from strangers), women's bodies are subject to constant commentary. Though our society tries to elevate and force-feed women one hard-to-achieve version of what the perfect body looks like by blowing up the Internet with diet fads, exercise trends, and tabloid stories on various celebrities' "perfect post-baby bodies," these efforts are fortunately proving ineffective: Women are, more and more, pushing back against the societal definition of perfection and advocating for celebration and acceptance of all bodies in their many varying forms.
It's beyond time for body positivity to go mainstream, both because all bodies — big, small, light, dark, tall, or petite — are beautiful, no matter their shape or size, and because body shaming has not made anyone healthier or happier, ever. Rather than urging women to fix themselves — and spend loads of time and energy on that rather than, you know, realizing their dreams — the cultural messaging around bodies and weight should be encouraging healthy lifestyles and healthy bodies. It's not anyone's place to shame a woman's figure because it doesn't meet their own personal (possibly unrealistic) expectations.
And yet it happens, again and again, all the time. Sometimes it's brazen, but often it's subtle. Body-shaming might not look the way you would imagine. It's not always as obvious as calling someone too fat or too skinny — sometimes it's the suggestion that a certain cut of clothing isn't "flattering" on people built like you. Regardless of the form it takes, one thing that's for certain is that there is still far, far too much of it. Here are just a few ways women get body-shamed day in, day out:
Very few things irk me as much as someone saying that a person is "hot for a mom" or "hot for her age" or — god forbid — "hot for a [person of specific race]." Because it's the one I've encountered most in my own life, let's talk about the "hot for a mom" example: I mean, does the fact that someone is a mom place an automatic ceiling on their level of hotness? Doesn't the act of carrying a child make someone's body even more awesome? The bodies that bring life into this world are nothing short of amazing. Don't let someone trick you into thinking that you're stock has dropped since you've had a child, or that you're inherently limited in terms of how "hot" you can be based on any one part of your identity. Your body, battle scars included, did something incredible. In fact, pretty much everything it does is incredible.
First of all, gross. And second of all — *insert eye roll here* — this is so shameful. To insinuate that a woman's body is simply a sexual object, and that her backside would make a fun playground is so incredibly immature. Who even came up with this ridiculous phrase? If anyone ever says this to you, please feel free to smack them.
I mean, I can't...just...no.
And clearly, this is just one of many offensive idioms that do nothing but objectify women's bodies. This one is even worse because it masquerades as body positive — "Hey, it's fiiine if you're fat, because I would still have sex with you!" — but is really anything but.
Correct me if I'm wrong, but women who have had babies didn't lose their bodies somewhere in between the delivery of their child and placenta, did they? Yup, I'm 100 percent certain that my body is still exactly where I left it before I had a baby. It never left, so it doesn't need to come back.
I'm glad we cleared this up.
"Muffin top" and "pear-shaped" are not my favorite terms to apply to women's bodies. It's like, no, actually this is just a body, and just because it's not a tall, thin, curve-free body, that doesn't mean it's less of a body, or that you have to differentiate it by calling it a food item. Muffins are delicious, but I'm not exactly thrilled when my mid-section is compared to one, and I'm pretty sure no one else would be either. Rock-hard abs are great if that's what your body looks like, but not owning a set of them shouldn't merit comparisons to baked goods. A person's worth shouldn't be measured in pounds or inches, but also definitely not in baked goods.
If there's a gap between your thighs, that's great. If there's not, that's great, too. We're not all built with a thigh gap, so presenting the inner thigh gap as some kind of bodily status symbol furthers the idea that a woman's body is not desirable if her thighs happen to touch, which for the record, most thighs do.
Also, the notion of an inner thigh gap contradicts our society's obsession with a bountiful backside, does it not? Am I supposed to have skinny legs and a thick ass? Make up your mind, people! I can't do it all!
Women are beautiful. Their bodies, in all of their varying forms, are incredible. If a woman is comfortable wearing clothing that shows any part of her body, it's her decision to do so. If someone finds her shoulder, or cleavage, or legs to be distracting, that's likely something that person need to address, not the woman in question. And no, she doesn't need to "cover that up." Women's bodies have a right to exist in non-sexual states. Just because a woman is confident in her own skin that doesn't mean that she's a "slut." (In fact, if a woman has lots and lots of sex with multiple partners, that also doesn't make her a "slut," but that's a conversation for another day.) What a woman wears tells you literally nothing more than that's what she wanted to wear. You don't know why. You don't know her life. You don't need to know. It's none of your business.
So, here's something: Shaming some women for being "too skinny" does not, as some people clearly believe, do anything to create a more positive atmosphere for plus-size women. It's all essentially still just telling some women that their bodies are bad and wrong because of the way they look. Some women are naturally thin. Some might have quick metabolisms, and some might actually have eating issues — there is absolutely no way to know from the outside. Telling someone to "go eat a sandwich" because you think she's too thin might be more hurtful than you would imagine. Whether it's something she can control or not is none of anyone else's business.
Women can't win when it comes to surgically enhancing their appearance: We're hit with a barrage of TV shows and ads for plastic surgery that make us feel like our body is a wasteland of imperfections for which surgery is the only answer, and that if we don't avail ourselves of the technological solutions to the problem that is our aging bodies, we are basically giving up and deserve to be seen as ugly, sexless, devalued subhumans. BUT! If we do have plastic surgery, then we're fake and insecure and, sure, let's throw slutty in there; we're probably slutty too.
It's a losing game all around. What a woman chooses to do to her body is her own prerogative. If she wants implants, so be it. That's her choice to make, for her own reasons. It does not mean she wants a place in Hugh Hefner's mansion or say anything about her sexual activity. Let her do her.
Not every woman is born with natural curves. Some women are perfectly OK with this, but for some it might be a source of frustration. Women are expected to be so many things, and a curvaceous (but still small-waisted) body type is often held up as the ideal. In that context, calling someone's frame "boyish" might make her feel less appealing. Not having hips that rival Beyoncé's doesn't make anyone less of a woman. We are not defined by our frames. There are so many labels for body types that are problematic, but "boyish" feels especially damning since it quite literally strips a woman of her womanhood: "Sorry, that's a boy body. You have the body of a little boy. Better luck in your next life."
The fashion industry seriously needs to wake up. Not everyone is a size 2 (or even a size 6 or 8). There's absolutely nothing wrong with being this size, but I'd be willing to bet that the vast majority of us don't fit those measurements. We're all built differently, so why are so many clothes made for exclusively thinner bodies? There's a reason that so many women dread walking into a dressing room: When we try on clothes that are made to fit one figure and one figure only, we're told that we don't measure up. And though measurements are simply numbers, their impact on our self-worth is often disappointing.
We've made valuable steps towards embracing the many variations of the female form, but there's still some lacking in acceptance. Only when we're able to stop body-shaming everyone will we ever move on from comparing ourselves to ridiculously unrealistic standards.