Don’t read the comments. It’s a line writers, bloggers, and others who do a lot of social media work say to each other. We can write the most up-lifting, inspirational, well-researched piece and almost without fail the Trolls surface. It’s gotten to the point that even tweets or Instagram photos are also being infiltrated by those who feel the urge to add their negative, hateful comments on personal posts. I find it curious and perplexing. Mainly, I don’t understand why people can’t just scroll past. Furthermore, if someone isn’t the poster’s Twitter or Instagram follower they have to go out of their way and look up a hashtag just for the purpose of spewing their ignorance and hate. It takes effort. Short of keeping things “private” or for friends and approved followers only, there isn’t a whole lot one can do. The Internet is a public place.
I have been overweight for most of my life. Growing up I received a lot of messages around my body and food. I was raised Orthodox (Jewish) and some of the messages had to do with with modesty. Those could be taken in both negative and positive ways, depending on framing. We have a concept in Judaism (and I suspect in many religions) called צניעות, tzniut, modesty. This one word takes into account both modesty of dress and modest actions (humility).
Body Acceptance in Pop Culture
Recently the pop song “All About That Bass” by Meghan Trainor has been all the rage. And by “all the rage” I mean the radio has been playing it to death. In this catchy, upbeat song the lyrics talk about not being a “size 2” and having the booty where it counts. These aren’t bad messages per se. She’s conveying loving the curvy body she has. That’s awesome! Yay for self-acceptance! But she also says “I won’t be no stick-figure, silicone, Barbie-doll so if that’s what you’re into then go ahead and move along.” There’s also no problem with people having preferences that they are attracted to. Some like dark hair, some like blonde; some like taller folks, others like slimmer or athletic… You get where I’m going. But it isn’t right, nor is it fair, to put others down for their body types and sizes.
The song is fun, and if you haven’t heard it yet, it’s worth a listen. Just keep in mind, it’s not really and truly body positive. Body positive is about accepting all body types. Again, it is not about being attracted to all body types. (Though that is great, too!) It is about seeing the beauty that everyone has and that no one is better than or less than based on their body type.
Putting others down in order to make ourselves feel better is not okay. It takes a LOT of practice to break the judgmental narrative many of us have playing in our minds. They’re automatic comments or thoughts. Elle Chase, aka Lady Cheeky, a sex educator I really look up to, has some great suggestions for breaking this habit of vicious commentary.
Spreading Love and Acceptance not Hate and Viciousness
Over the summer I was thrilled to see that Forever 21‘s Plus Size section (Forever 21+) had a nice two-piece swimsuit section. Not just two-piece, but bikinis. Or fatkinis as many are choosing to refer to them. Also, they were in fun, bright colors and quirky florals. Hot pink is a favorite of mine, you may have noticed. I tried a top and bottom, and ended up buying a bottom. The top was flimsy, unsupportive, and laughable. They needed underwire for sure. I figured I would just pair a decent bra with my bottom and there I would have it – a fatkini of my own.
Not only did I do this, I wore it on the beach in Santa Barbara when I was on a mini-vacation with my family. I had a blast. We enjoyed fun in the sun, the freezing cold waves, and a ton of laughs. My sister snapped this photo of me (below) which I posted to my Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. Mostly I got a ton of love, both from friends and acquaintances as well as from strangers. It felt so great that my own self-acceptance was being echoed and validated.
But of course, there were the mean comments. People who did not follow me on any of these social media platforms, who I can only assume followed my hashtags, wrote some really hateful things – on my personal pages. I understand that posting on social media means things are no longer private, but it boggles my mind to think that people went out of their way to be malicious. Sometimes I can’t help but “feed the Trolls” in an effort to possibly educate.
People wrote things saying I was “disgusting;” that my photo made them want to throw up. Others said I was promoting unhealthy lifestyles. That is a common thread, I have noticed in other areas of the plus size world. In what way is saying I’m happy in my own skin, and look at how happy I look, promoting anything unhealthy? I’m not saying sit around, eat Cheetos, and be a coach potato. If anything I’m saying Embrace YOU. Be happy in your own skin. And do that in whatever way makes you most comfy.
Hopes for the Future
Let me propose a challenge to you. Since it’s New Years, you might be making your resolutions or setting intentions. Make one promise to yourself, your friends, your family, society that you’ll pass on; promote an “embrace yourself and be happy in your own skin” mentality to end the shaming and bullying of people who flaunt it. Even if you think they might not have it, even if you’re not attracted to them, everyone deserves happiness. If you only make one resolution this year, make it this one. Make a difference.