Body shaming. As defined by the trusty Urban Dictionary, this is an act of “shaming someone for their body type.” Most commonly, people are body shamed for being too “fat,” and body shaming very often involves comparing one individual’s body to another. Body shaming is often used by people to insult one another, and this practice can be extremely detrimental to an individual’s mental and emotional development, especially when he or she is an adolescent. So if its so harmful, why do people do it? Why is body shaming often encountered with on a day to day basis?
Well first of all, when people are mad at each other one of the first go-to’s for anyone can be body shaming because while putting down another person’s appearance, you are simultaneously enhancing your own sense of power. The same can be said for anyone who makes comments to their friend in secret like, “Do you see how awk that dude looks? That nose!” or, more commonly, “omg they’re so big, ‘freakin beached whale.” While comments like this would be immensely hurtful if the target was aware, the simple thinking of and utterance of such statements serve to build up the self-image of the one making such observations. Everyone likes to feel good and attractive, and an easy way to do this is to look at someone and point out their flaws.
So, body shaming is an easy way for someone to give themselves an ego boost, but why is our self-esteem lacking in the first place? I’m not going to get into daddy issues or anything, but I’ve found subliminal messaging to be a prime culprit in why modern people, from teens to adults, feel so incredibly vulnerable and have such a pervasive need to prove their own attractiveness. Subliminal stimuli are sensory related and below the threshold of our conscious perception, so they influence our desires and emotions without us even being aware of being influenced. Anyone thinking of advertisements yet? Ding, ding, ding! Advertising is the epitome of subliminal messaging, and also prime culprits of practicing body shaming.
Take a look at department stores and the fashion industry. Even though there has been a movement for “real women” models, what body type do you typically see on the runway? What do store mannequins look like? What form do the clothing models on pictures in shops have? Overwhelmingly, the body type that we see while shopping for new attire is tall, fit, and thin. Now, do you fit this body type? You don’t, do you? I certainly don’t. Oh gosh, I don’t look nearly as good in this dress as that skinny model did, damn, I need to lose weight…and so goes the cycle of body shaming.
Anyone recognize that? Well, a HUGE name in clothing has put out (and recently replaced) an extremely harmful ad campaign called depicting a line-up of Victoria’s Secret models wearing the new “Body” bra sets, and labeled as “The Perfect Body.” This ad from the lingerie giant immediately sparked fires as a clear form of media body shaming, as it grossly encourages low self-esteem in women who don’t fit into the slim standard of beauty that is perpetuated by Victoria’s Secret models. This isn’t to say that models aren’t beautiful or real women, but it is painfully obvious in looking at this ad that it is a horrifying claim to label such a selective category as being the perfect body type, as women’s bodies come in all shapes and it is nearly criminal to label any one type as “perfect.”
PS -My favorite response to the ad campaign is a photographer who got a bunch of women to pose like the Victoria’s Secret models did. Absolutely priceless, especially because VS has not apologized formally, but they have changed to slogan to “Body For Everybody.” HILARIOUS!