It’s 2018 – if you hadn’t noticed – and people are still here calling others out for their body shape and size. Still.
There’s always someone out there who takes issue with other people’s appearances, and what other people look like is quite simply none of their business.
As I’m sure many of you have, I have been subjected to body-shaming. In my case, it’s because I’m ‘skinny’, or ‘don’t have enough meat on my bones’ as I’m told.
I’ve lost count of the amount of times complete strangers have thought it their business to shout about my appearance to me in the street. Predominantly by men, but not always, I’m told I should ‘eat a meal’ or ‘go get a burger’ or ‘put some weight on, love’.
Unfortunately I’m far, far from alone.
Body-shaming is extremely damaging and the statistics are concerning. According to bullyingstatistics.org a huge 94 per cent of women and 84 per cent of men are affected by body-shaming.
And a government report found 60 per cent of adults said they feel ‘ashamed’ of the way they look.
Body-shaming comes in many forms, people being told they’re too skinny, too fat, too pale, too tall, too short, lanky, spotty, not muscular enough, the list goes on.
The issue of body-shaming is seen to be one that affects all society, regardless of age, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, disability, body size and shape. Some groups were seen to be ‘more vulnerable’ to body image concerns, including children and adolescents, according to the government report.
Having body-image issues and being verbally attacked for the way you look can be incredibly damaging to mental health.
The government report found body image dissatisfaction ‘undermines self-confidence’, and in turn contributes to a higher risk of depression. They believe promoting positive body image is ‘fundamental to addressing other social and public health problems facing young people’.
In the report, it found positive body image was an important element of emotional wellbeing.
Dr Jenny Cole, a senior lecturer in psychology at Manchester Metropolitan University explained body-shaming, why people do it and how it can affect individuals.
She told UNILAD:
Body shaming is extremely complex, with different kinds of body shaming for different reasons and there’s very little on why people body shame overall.
Firstly, you cannot tell what someone’s health is like from their size – and families sometimes engage in this type of body shaming regardless of the objective size of the person it’s directed at.
Secondly, it’s ineffective! Body shaming leads to poor body image, which leads to poorer health behaviours.
As well as some of us being body-shamed face-to-face, it’s visible all over the internet in written form. You see comments on practically every post put up by celebrities.
Annoyingly, people will say ‘well they should expect to have nasty comments if they’re posting photos on social media’, but that’s siding with the problem, isn’t it? It’s almost as if it’s expected now, and that’s sad.
To me, being called out at is very slightly annoying more than anything, but to the next person, it could be potentially devastating.
I’ve gone over the issue in my head many times and I still fail to understand what brings a person to yell comments out at somebody else about their weight or their appearance.
Dr Cole said people of ‘all sizes are subject to body shaming’, although you’re guaranteed to be on the receiving end if you’re overweight, you can be ‘average’ or even ‘thin’ and still be subject to it.
I’ve always been insecure about my body, I’m not really the skinny or the fit girl. I have big boobs, thighs, arms and tummy, and yet people cannot understand how body shaming can affect your confidence, even if I wear nice clothes I can’t be confident that I look good in it.
— ジェライ ❤️ (@gelllai) October 11, 2018
Those saying hurtful comments, or writing nasty messages don’t know what’s going on in that person’s head, what they’re dealing with in life, how their remarks will affect that person.
People come in different shapes, different sizes, different builds, with different features – we’re all human, what difference does it make? And why haven’t some people figured that out yet?
Social media has opened up a whole new platform to say (or write) negative comments. Whether it’s under posts on photos on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter etc. or through online messaging, and unfortunately it’s a place where some think because they’re hidden behind a keyboard, they can say what they want.
Dr Cole told UNILAD:
I certainly think social media has exacerbated the problem because we’re now in a very visual culture where pictures of others bodies are shared constantly, which invites us to engage in social comparison and to provide feedback to those bodies in a much more direct way.
A capitalist society profits from us feeling bad about our appearance – think of all the money spent on beauty products, diet products and groups, cosmetic surgery and through the media messages we’ve been subject to for literally decades.
We’ve now internalised this so much companies don’t have to body shame us to get us scrambling for our credit cards – women are policed by men and crucially, by each other via body shaming.
Celebrities, as well as other public figures, are constantly in the news defending themselves against ‘trolls’ who comment negatively on their social posts. We see it all the time.
Model Gigi Hadid recently hit out at trolls who used to call her fat, but have now criticised her for losing weight.
Shortly after New York Fashion Week, the model was slated on social media, leading her to hit back and reveal she’d been diagnosed with Hashimoto’s disease.
The condition sees your immune system attacking your thyroid, a small gland at the base of your neck, which then causes inflammation and other various side effects.
Hadid opened up about Hashimoto’s thyroiditis – which can lead to tiredness, dry skin and weight gain – in a number of tweets:
For those of you so determined to come up w why my body has changed over the years, you may not know that when I started @ 17 I was not yet diagnosed w/Hashimoto’s disease; those of u who called me “too big for the industry” were seeing inflammation & water retention due to that.
— Gigi Hadid (@GiGiHadid) February 11, 2018
Over the last few years I’ve been properly medicated to help symptoms including those, as well as extreme fatigue, metabolism issues, body’s ability to retain heat, etc … I was also part of a holistic medical trial that helped my thyroid levels balance out.
— Gigi Hadid (@GiGiHadid) February 11, 2018
Gigi told her followers, (not that she needed to):
For those of you so determined to come up with why my body has changed over the years, you may not know that when I started at 17 I was not yet diagnosed with Hashimoto’s disease.
Those of you who called me ‘too big for the industry’ were seeing inflammation and water retention due to that.
Over the last few years I’ve been properly medicated to help symptoms including those, as well as extreme fatigue, metabolism issues, body’s ability to retain heat, etc… I was also part of a holistic medical trial that helped my thyroid levels balance out.
Although stress & excessive travel can also affect the body, I have always eaten the same, my body just handles it differently now that my health is better. I may be “too skinny” for u, honestly this skinny isn’t what I want to be, but I feel healthier internally and (cont)
— Gigi Hadid (@GiGiHadid) February 11, 2018
Although stress and excessive travel can also affect the body, I have always eaten the same, my body just handles it differently now that my health is better.
I may be ‘too skinny’ for you, honestly this skinny isn’t what I want to be, but I feel healthier internally and I am still learning and growing with my body everyday, as everyone is.
More recently, we saw Tess Holliday having to defend herself against comments about her weight when she appeared on the October cover of Cosmopolitan magazine.
Some people attacked the magazine for ‘promoting unhealthy weight’, and criticised Tess in the comments under her posts.
Piers Morgan came out against the cover, saying:
As Britain battles an ever-worsening obesity crisis, this is the new cover of Cosmo. Apparently we’re supposed to view it as a ‘huge step forward for body positivity’.
What a load of old baloney. This cover is just as dangerous and misguided as celebrating size zero models.
View this post on Instagram
Phew, I’m literally a COSMO GIRL!! Can’t believe I’m saying that! 😭😭 Thank you @cosmopolitanuk & @farrahstorr for this incredible opportunity 🙏🏻 If I saw a body like mine on this magazine when I was a young girl, it would have changed my life & hope this does that for some of y’all 💕 Issue hits stands 8/31! 🎉🎉🎉🎉 Photo by the incredible @wattsupphoto #effyourbeautystandards
Responding, Tess said:
To everyone saying I’m a burden to the British health care system, I’m American so you don’t have to worry about my fat ass. Worry about what horrible people you are by whining about how me being on the cover of a glossy magazine impacts your small minded life.
Think about it. Why do people feel the need to comment on what somebody else looks like? How is Tess’ Cosmo cover going to affect their lives?
Dr Cole explained to UNILAD it can all come down to insecurity.
Another reason people shame others may be to make themselves feel better.
There’s a social psychological theory called social comparison, which is where we compare ourselves to others to determine whether we are ‘ok’.
Making a lot of ‘upward’ comparisons – or comparisons with people we feel are doing better than us – results in reduced self-esteem, so one of the ways in which we can try to address that is by ‘bringing down’ the people we may compare ourselves to, but there’s not much evidence on this.
View this post on Instagram
I hate it when men think that fat girls are desperate and that we like every other guy cos "we don't have options" , first of all, check yourself. So this guy tried it and it seems that my response tweet went viral 🔥 liked by Ariana Grande, Ava & Nicki Minaj😭😭😭😭😭😭even Julius Malema showing ya gal love, ku lit !!! 158K + retweets and 551K likes, I don't think I'll know how to act this whole week💁🏽💇🏾👸🏾 #FatAndStillOuttaYourLeague
Dr Cole explained that people with ‘larger bodies’ are more likely to be subjected to hateful comments about the way they look.
She concluded to UNILAD:
Although body shaming potentially affects most people, there’s a special level of ‘body hate’ reserved for larger bodies, which again, is motivated by some of the above factors, as well as the stereotyping of larger bodies as lazy, stupid, worthless and inhuman.
The level of hate goes up when larger bodies are not actively losing weight or ‘playing the game’ – of dieting and self-hate. Body positive individuals in larger bodies are subject to toxic levels of scrutiny and threatening behaviour, especially online.
However, what you do with your body and what it looks like is very rarely anyone else’s business.
Hear, hear. It really is that simple.
UNILAD requested a comment from Mary Glindon MP, regarding her role on the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Body Image, and are waiting to hear back.
Presented by the World Federation of Mental Health, World Mental Health Day is celebrated annually on 10 October. The goal is to help raise mental health awareness.
Talking is often the first step to moving forward. While talking about mental health is vital, UNILAD are calling for action.
We are petitioning the government to improve mental health services offered on the NHS for young people, who sometimes have to wait ten years from the moment they experience their first symptoms to get adequate treatment.
If you’re experiencing distressing thoughts and feelings, the Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) is there to support you. They’re open from 5pm–midnight, 365 days a year.
Their national number is 0800 58 58 58, and they also have a webchat service if you’re not comfortable talking on the phone.