Body shaming is an all-too-common problem, and only seems to be getting worse despite many Millennials' best efforts to teach kids not to body shame, and to celebrate and respect all bodies. While women do their fare share of body shaming, it seems that men are the predominant offenders. Even if men are not body shaming as individuals, there's no getting around the fact that our culture is driven by a male gaze that teaches both men and women the heinous standards by which to judge whether or not a woman's body is "good" and to shame women who look different than the celebrated social norm. Even if not every man himself is a body shamer, the pervasive male perspective undeniably is. Thankfully, there are ways that you can teach your son not to body shame women, and end a vicious cycle that never should have started.
Whether you're teaching your son about consent, or doing your best to love your own body and all of its marvelous nooks and crannies; Whether you're teaching your son not to fat shame, or simply taking a moment to point out all the ways that women are body shamed on a daily basis, you can be the difference between a your son growing up to make women feeling valued and appreciated, or him growing up to make women feeling less than and unworthy.
None of which is to imply that men are the sole deciders of how women get to feel about their bodies, but like, hey, we're all humans sharing space with each other, and we're inevitably going to have some affect of each other's sense of self. Your son being male doesn't inherently give him more agency over the body images of the women who will be in his life (although it certainly might), but him being male definitely does mean that you, as his mother, will be tasked with working a bit harder to make him understand the difference between the world he inhabits as a man, and the same world as it's experienced by women. And hopefully, to help keep him from unwittingly perpetuating the conditions that make it really sh*tty to be a woman sometimes.
If we're going to demand that men respect multiple body types, instead of shame the ones that are different, we must start with our sons. We can't expect the world to teach our sons to be kind to all women, regardless of their weight or height or size or anything else, and we can't expect our sons to see women for more than their body type, unless we teach them ourselves. Our culture bombards men and women with images and messages of body shaming far too regularly for us not to be vigilant advocates for body acceptances and body positivity.
So it's a big problem, and it's daunting to think about taking it all on within the micro-interactions you have with your kid. And it's not solely your job to "fix" cultural body shaming. So relax. But if you care, and hopefully you do, here are 12 things you can do.