Thigh-gaps and skinny-shaming: Body-shame comes in all shapes. (And f*ing needs to stop.)
Forgive me a moment while I perch atop my soap box.
There are some mornings that feel seriously sexy. I hop out of the shower, catch a glimpse of myself in the bathroom mirror, and stop. Dang girl, you lookin' fiiiiiiiine. I feel strong and glowing and all things beautiful. I brush my hair with an air of confidence, shaking it back to let it air dry. I feel curvaceous, feminine, and ready to take on the world.
Other mornings... Well, maybe not so much. Maybe it's the extra portion of refined sugar I ate last night before bed (health coach hint: how to you treat yourself physically and nutritionally has a direct impact on your psychological ability to love your body), or maybe it's the years of ingrained societal lessons about beauty, thinness and physical perfection. Whatever it is, the language shifts. My curves don't feel quite so feminine. My core doesn't feel quite so strong. I whisper words of shame rather than confident proclamations of love.
I've spent much of the last few months learning more about this thing, body shame. As part of my research for a new creative project, I have been obsessively cultivating a collection of articles, books and interviews centered on body shame and its glorious antithesis: body love.
Most of us are aware of common cultural body-shaming via media outlets and big business brainwashing. We've heard fashion executives speak of the "ideal" customers for their brands and watched or heard or experienced the public shaming of overweight and obese women and men. Our best friends, our sisters, ... ourselves -- have fought the painful fight of disordered eating. We've witnessed as the average age that girls begin dieting drops painfully low -- little girls with pigtails counting calories as early as first grade.
And we've experienced women rising together to fight this cultural pressure point. Creative projects, from documentaries to art collections, powerful role models to community organizations -- even some well-meaning corporate commercials -- have attempted to shine a light on the subjective nature of beauty: shouting in protest and joining forces for change.
The other day, whilst journeying through my research materials, I found myself caught uniquely off-guard by this phrase: Real women have curves. I've used the phrase many a-time in my attempts to knock myself back into emotional alignment with my body. I've heard it everywhere. Heck, they even made a movie of the same name.
Real women have curves, yes. HELL YES.
But real women also don't have curves. Real women have thighs that touch and, yes, I am saying it -- thigh-gaps, too. They are tall and short and broad-shouldered and narrow-waisted and busty and statuesque and curvy and slim. They are pear-shaped and apple-shaped and pencil-shaped and really f*ing beautiful.
My attempts to remind myself that my curvalicious body is really remarkable, beautiful -- striking, even (yep, I said it and own it) -- does not mean that my sister, petite and athletic, is any less so. My friend and kick-ass soul sister may never have had to worry about gaining weight, but that doesn't mean that body shame hasn't touched her and left her vulnerable to the same painful whispers. Just as "Jane," who rocks a cool size 22, should receive words of love and empowerment, so too should "Amy" -- who's been a size 2 her whole life (don't even get me started on the ridiculous subjectivity of clothing size).
I've seen women in online forums who spit words of judgment to their skinny sisters and read the comments from ladies who truly believe that an extra 20 pounds is the kiss of death. In my darkest moments, I too have wondered how women who look so beautiful to me could have the gall to experience body shame. Body shame comes in all shapes and sizes, y'all, and doesn't - for one second - make us better or lighter or brighter in this world. Shaming others is our way of projecting our own feelings of insecurity, worthlessness and invisibility. It's a manifestation of our own shit.
Shame is designed to hold us down and keep us trapped, and, by freeing our sisters (and brothers) from shame, we might just be able to free all of us. To speak truth -- the truth that we are more than the number on a scale or the size that we fit it, the truth that our bodies are magnificent and magic and powerful, the truth that - yes, I want you to be truly healthy and treat your body like the magical vessel it is - and that has nothing to do with the size of your jeans (size 0 OR size 426) -- it slams the door on body shame. And opens us up to the truly transformational: body love.
I'll take a step off my soap box now. Thank you for listening. Oh! And don't forget the men in this conversation, too -- the shame is real for them, as well.