ESPN, Esquire & The Body Shaming Issue Which Needs To Stop

If you live on the internet or have any awareness of online media, you will have come across two controversial and highly talked about topics. One was the ESPN annual ‘Body Issue’ and the other was an article by Tom Junod from Esquire magazine telling us all why only now women are considered sexy at age 42.

First let’s tackle the ESPN story, because it has a lot of people divided. In case you weren’t already aware, ‘The Body Issue’ features a range of male and female athletes completely naked. There is usually one photo out of every annual issue that gets talked about more than others. This year, surprisingly it was not a woman whose picture was talked about the most, it was baseball player Prince Fielder that got the interwebs talking, proving body shaming happens to men also.

Prince is a pro athlete, and clearly gets paid a lot of money for being pretty good at his craft. And ESPN did good by including a body like his in this issue. Why? Because just like women benefit from having healthy role models portrayed in the media in a range of different body sizes, men feel the pressure too and deserve a break from the images they are bombarded with.

Prince doesn’t have a six pack, he actually has a bit of a belly. So what?!? Does that make him any less of a human being? No. Does he deserve awful comments like these tweets below? Hell no!

 

   

 


Thankfully there are some decent people in the world who recognize body shaming is never good and Prince Fielder shouldn’t have to search his own name to hear crap like that.  

 

       

In his interview about the issue, Prince addresses his body shape and how he doesn’t feel the need to live up to anyone else’s ideals.

“A lot of people probably think I’m not athletic or don’t even try to work out or whatever, but I do. Just because you’re big doesn’t mean you can’t be an athlete. And just because you work out doesn’t mean you’re going to have a 12-pack. I work out to make sure I can do my job to the best of my ability. Other than that, I’m not going up there trying to be a fitness model.”

“People didn’t think I’d be able to play every day because of my size or be capable of having a long career. They were just dismissing me. At first I used it as motivation, but then I realized keeping all that anger in for no reason just got old.”

The Texas Ranger could teach a lot of people out there a thing or two about body image. This whole controversy showed me that while women are more likely to be body-shamed in the media, men aren’t immune to it. Men worry just as much about body image as women, but find other ways to deal with it.

Shaming is never the answer, and we are in full support of ESPN choosing to showcase a variety of body shapes and sizes. The issue is meant to show readers that to be a pro athlete, you don’t have to be a cookie cutter body type.

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But it wasn’t just ESPN magazine that got tongues wagging. The Esquire article touting 42 year-old women as sexy nowadays was a complete waste of internet and print space in my opinion. Since when do women need the validation of a lads mag to know we can feel confident in our “old” age?!

The sub-heading made me lol: “In our occasional ranking of the ages, we found that this year’s most alluring is not what you’d expect. It’s not 27 (honored in 1999) or 39 (2008) or 86 (1937 and 1983). No, this year it’s 42. Because it’s not what it used to be,” writes Tom Junod.

Firstly, who’s to say no one has ever expected 42 year-old’s to be sexy in the past? And I’m curious to know who the “we” that writer Tom Junod is referring to. The group of former frat guys who write about women’s bodies in the magazine? Who think they are offering some sort of authority or enlightenment on the topic of women’s confidence?

“You are wrong when you suggest that it was the women’s liberation movement that made it possible to find a 42-year-old woman appealing, or that 42-year-old women flock to yoga and pilates classes to be appealing to men. It isn’t that at all. We’ve been beautiful and smart and ambitious forever. You just can’t see it,” writes Ann Benoff in an open letter to Esquire in the Huffington Post.

“There’s a part of me that cannot even believe that we are having a conversation legitimizing the sex appeal of a particular age group. It’s absurd. But we are, because when attractive celebrities that certain men want to have sex with reach a particular age, we need a piece like this one to justify desiring sex with said age group,” writes Dr. Logan Levkoff about the article also.

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My point in talking about these two magazine articles is that body shaming is never OK. Why do we do it? Some of the tweets posted above make very good arguments in favor of supporting all body shapes and sizes. Why do we feel is it so easy to hide behind internet anonymity and shame celebrities or others willing to be vulnerable and inspire others, when we would never be brave enough to do the same?

And yes, I said “inspire”, because the poor kid at school who is teased for being “chubby” despite his athletic prowess and aspirations to be a pro athlete can look at Prince Fielder and know there is nothing wrong (save for any extreme health issues of course) with the way he looks. As for the Esquire article, it seems such a shame to still be harping on about about women’s bodies being the sole thing that offers them confidence.

When we talk about bodies without the human soul that is attached to it, it just becomes an object without any feeling or power and therefore becomes a form of objectification, according to Dr. Caroline Heldman and her awesome Ted Talk on this issue. Using a limited number of celebrity examples in no way are representative of the greater population of 42 y/o women who exist in the world. Seems like a pointless piece to me and I’m not sure whether the article was meant for men, for women, or just for controversy.

I hope to one day live in a world, or have my kids and grandchildren live in a world where our bodies are the sole indicator of our worth or value. And I certainly hope more and more magazines decide to forgo blatant objectification as a means to sell units, as UK’s Stuff Magazine has now pledged to do.

Dear people on the internet, we have to choose not to be part of a stupid epidemic which gives us false confidence, while trying to tear it down in others. Dear media producers, you have a responsibility to create content that is not just talked about for controversy’s sake, but actually contributes to the progression of human thinking. That ideally would be nice. We get what you were trying to do Tom Junod, but I’m sorry to say this type of article will not cut it anymore. Let’s put a ban on body-shaming once and for all!

Asha-dahya

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9 Comments

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