Thursday, 21 November 2013

An Open Letter To The Internet: Body Snark Is Not Okay

As my First Ever Blog Post, this may not come across as well as I'd like it to, but it's something that I care a great deal about. So much so, that it is actually the subject that inspired me to start writing this thing.

Body Snark. As a 21st Century woman, living in the Western world (and who spends too much time online), this is something that I unfortunately witness a lot of. It's unavoidable. I find it impossible to scroll through my Facebook news feed or browse other blogs without having these opinions shoved relentlessly in my face. And that's exactly what body snark is, opinions.

This particular image is one that I have stumbled upon a few times. Although this may not be the best example, as the woman on the right is slightly on the extreme end of the spectrum, that does not give me, or anyone else, the right to call her "shit" because of what they personally find attractive.

My point is, your personal tastes are just that; personal. If someone's physique is not what you find personally attractive, that doesn't make them any less of a person, with thoughts and feelings,and there are probably thousands, if not millions of other people in the world besides yourself, who think that they are beautiful.

But the thing that really gets me, is in today's society, where expanding waistbands are becoming the norm, is that we seem to have become very defensive of fuller figured women, yet it is often deemed completely acceptable to attack the slimmer percentage of our population. If one were to tell a size 16 stranger that she should "pass on the cake", then you'd expect to be greeted with a barrage of comebacks, telling you that curves are beautiful, and accusing you of being "size-ist". Yet telling a skinny size 8 that she needs to eat a cheeseburger or two to "fatten her up", or worse, implying that she isn't a "real" woman because she lacks the same voluptuous curves, is commonly accepted. Reminder; making anyone feel inadequate is wrong.

Far too many times, I have heard people say that a girl "must be anorexic", based entirely on a picture. Are we forgetting that anorexia is a form of mental illness? Mental illness cannot be diagnosed from a photograph; if only it were that easy. On the majority of the occasions I have heard this, I must add, the girl in the picture hasn't even looked close to the likes of someone with a serious eating disorder, they merely don't match up with the personal tastes of the person critiquing them. May I also remind you that a photograph, whether it be of a model, or a teenage girl, does not depict the lifestyle that the woman in question upholds. Unless you actually know the girl in the picture, you don't know what she eats, how much exercise she does, the rate of her metabolism, or anything else about her state of health, mental or physical. People like this are making a snap judgement, based not on the truth, but on their personal preferences.

This is another image that is making the rounds on the web, often paired with some sort of statement claiming that only the women in the bottom picture are "real women". All women are "real women". The top image is not the only standard of beauty, but neither is the bottom one. All of the women in both pictures are beautiful, and they are all, most definitely, real. Beauty comes in all shapes and sizes, what you prefer is personal, it doesn't make it "right", or make anything else "wrong". Making someone feel bad about themselves, or telling them they need to change because they don't fall within the bell curve of your "type", is bullying, and bullying is the only thing that's really "shit".

One of the reasons that I take this issue so personally, is that for most of my life I have been a victim of it. I have always been naturally fairly slim, without paying any real attention to my diet, or making any real effort to exercise frequently. I'm never going to have wide hips or a 36DD chest, it's just not how my body was made. Yet I can assure you, I am most definitely real. And I'm not likely to "snap in two" either. And I'm perfectly healthy, even without "fattening up", like I have been told I need to many times in my life. And even if I did, I still wouldn't have a figure like Beyonce, because that's not how body type works. Women come in all shapes and sizes, and this is mine.

So all in all I think it would make for a much more accepting world, if everyone just remembered that it's okay to have an opinion, just not okay to make others feel inferior because of it. As we were all taught as children but seem to have forgotten; "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all."

With thanks to Cora Harrington at The Lingerie Addict for inspiration and this amazing blog on the same subject.