One of my favorite blogs, I Am That Girl, created a list called “Love These Links,” which is a compilation of inspirational videos, blogs, and articles across the web instilling female empowerment. On this list,there is a video titled That’s What She Said- a collaboration between the media company SoulPancake and women’s magazine Darling.
Despite the video’s flawed representation of diversity in the categories of body type, ethnicity, and age demographic, their discussion of body image and self-esteem was what drew me in. The women all sat around a table exploring a plethora of topics such as the evolution of their body image issues, identifying triggers that influence their self-criticism, and their resolutions to body peace. One woman spoke about her struggles to feel comfortable in her own skin when the media flaunts an exorbitant amount of unrealistic beauty standards in our faces every day. But another woman outside of the table argued that we can not blame the media for something that we as a people made popular when we demanded to see prettier, thinner people in the public eye. Society produces culture and vice versa. The Photoshopped images of celebrities, weight loss commercials, and beauty product advertisements are all byproducts of the “flawless beauty” standards that our culture has created. Now it is time for our society to sculpt beauty into an ambiguous definition that is accepting of all shapes, sizes, and colors.
In That’s What She Said, I noticed a common theme of comparison being the main reason for why these women doubted their individual beauty and self-worth at some point in their lives. Comparisons are never far beneath the surface each time a hateful word is spoken or written. Negativity stems from comparison which never ceases in its persistence to tear us apart from the inside out. Comparison is simply “the thief of joy” as Kelly from Darling magazine quotes. For example, actress Jennifer Lawrence is widely recognized in Hollywood for her advocacy against the diet culture. Many people admire her for voicing her body peace, yet the criticism against her remains relentless. Critics are constantly “skinny shaming” her in saying she has no right being the poster child for positive body image due to her already slender physique.
All around me I see and hear this vicious animosity towards the female body. The fat girls should bury their heads in shame because their love handles and stretch marks will never be “sexy.” The skinny girls are crybabies who have no right being ashamed of their bodies because they already meet the socially acceptable standards of “ideal beauty.” Why are we always throwing skinny versus fat into the boxing ring? Why can’t they join together as one beautiful entity? In an effort to stray away from this “body shaming” culture we live in we must stop this ugly, tumultuous cycle of hate upon hate upon hate.
The first step towards this change is in our attitude towards ourselves in regards to how we speak and act. Each and every day you make a choice to either be your biggest cheerleader or your biggest bully. You can let the negativity and self-loathing comparisons diminish your worth. Or you can use the hate as “rungs on a ladder” to climb your way up to your goals much like Lizzie Velasquez.
Someone who is breaking the cyclical hate of “body shaming” is Lizzie Velasquez, a 25 year old motivational speaker who has a rare condition called Neonatal Progeroid Syndrome, that causes rapid aging and fat loss from the face and body. Lizzie must eat 60 meals a day to sustain her body. She is a woman who embodies a rare strength that we should all strive for. In high school, her world was shattered when an 8 second Youtube video of her face leaked dubbing her “World’s Ugliest Woman.” The video accumulated over four million views and contained an endless list of hostile, verbal assaults. People wrote comments such as “kill it with fire” and “Lizzie, please, please just do the world a favor put a gun to your head and kill yourself.” From that day forward, Lizzie made the decision to take control and not let those monstrous words define who she was as a human being. Words are one of the most powerful weapons in existence. We can either let the negativity self-destruct or we can “kill it with fire.” The passionate fire of burning love for ourselves and others.
And so I leave you with the words from Natalie Patterson’s poem in That’s What She Said. “You have a beautiful body. And so I will repeat these words until I am no longer reluctant. Until they are a no longer foreign in my mouth. I will repeat these words. I have a beautiful body. I have a BEAUTIFUL BODY.”