As the editor-in-chief of GTHQ, I had grand plans to write a personal editorial piece each week, or at least each month. Unfortunately things have been so busy at our headquarters that I just haven’t had time…until now. I have been reading the many celebrity body shaming stories that have been appearing in media headlines over the past few months and I felt it was time to talk about this out in the open with all my readers.
Celebrity body shaming, in particular toward women, is no new concept. It has been going on since the very creation of Hollywood. It is a well-documented fact that women have been subjected to rigorous beauty procedures and stipulations by major motion picture studios because appearance was everything back in the day. The standard has been set for a very long time that women’s appearances are paramount.
Fast forward to today, and not much has changed. Although we live in an era where women are pushing for equal rights, and to be valued for their talents and intelligence, it seems society has not really progressed when it comes to commenting on a woman’s appearance. All of us as women have no doubt felt scrutiny at some point in regards to our appearance. But imagine that scrutiny times 1,000,000. That’s what it must be like to be a celebrity and go through the whole body shaming debacle.
Recently, we saw how Kelly Clarkson became the target of a British woman who decided it was her duty to inform the singer via twitter that she should be ashamed of not yet losing her baby weight a whole year after giving birth, and that she looks like she ate her back up singers. Her response showed class and the ability to shake off the haters. It definitely sent a positive message to her fans and other women struggling with the same issue of being shamed for their weight.
But hers wasn’t the only battle to be given media attention recently. Singer Pink, who has been out of the spotlight lately taking care of her young daughter, was forced to respond to haters and trolls who shamed her while she posted pictures attending an event in Los Angeles.
“I can see that some of you are concerned about me from your comments about my weight. You’re referring to the pictures of me from last night’s cancer benefit that I attended to support my dear friend Dr. Maggie DiNome. She was given the Duke Award for her tireless efforts and stellar contributions to the eradication of cancer. But unfortunately, my weight seems much more important to some of you. While I admit that the dress didn’t photograph as well as it did in my kitchen, I will also admit that I felt very pretty. In fact, I feel beautiful. So, my good and concerned peoples, please don’t worry about me. I’m not worried about me. And I’m not worried about you either. I am perfectly fine, perfectly happy, and my healthy, voluptuous and crazy strong body is having some much deserved time off. Thanks for your concern.”
This was her (once again) classy and polite response to trolls on twitter who decided they needed to make sure the Grammy award-winning singer knew they didn’t feel she looked her best.
You wanna know what bugs me? That we praise both Kelly and Pink for taking the high road. Because they damn well shouldn’t have to! Sure “ignore the haters” and “success is the best revenge” is a good mantra to live by, but at what point do the negative people have to take accountability for perpetuating this awful shaming trend?
Another woman who was targeted by someone online who didn’t like her appearance, was singer Janelle Monae who is famous for her soulful funky tunes, bold red lipstick and her signature black and white suits.
Someone tweeted this to her: “@JanelleMonae girl stop being so soulful and be sexy…tired of those dumbass suits…you fine but u too damn soulful man.”
Here’s Janelle’s response: “@mellow_saa sit down. I’m not for male consumption.” BAM! Just like that, in a matter of a few words, she got right to the heart of the matter about body-shaming. That unfortunately women have been subjected to such ridiculous standards because of the male consumption factor.
And if we don’t dress to appeal to men, we must be lesbians, not interested in sex or God forbid, more interested in other things like having our worth based on the way we treat people.
It’s a sad, sad state of affairs when we cannot see past the physical when it comes to assessing a woman’s worth. For all the initiatives to get women interested in STEM careers, to Lean In in the boardroom, to not be afraid to negotiate more may, and to embrace equality, we still are stuck in a time warp because the number one way society values a woman is for her looks.
Our obsession with models, fashion, celebrity and fame, multiplied by the aggressive and often invasive nature of social media has made it nearly impossible for other types of conversations to be dominant. It is common knowledge that girls who like to expose themselves on Instagram get far more likes and followers than those who post about school, or family, or anything other than near-nakedness.
When do we start to think for ourselves and make a conscious decision not to fall prey to this pack mentality of body shaming?
I love the statement actress Rebel Wilson made backstage at the MTV awards with her outfit. Donning the signature Victoria’s Secret angel wings, she also wore a pair of leggings with the word “THINK” emblazoned across her butt, in the same style as VS’ Pink series.
Her message was clear: body image is not something that should be dictated by a brand or an industry.
“The Bella girls [in Pitch Perfect] are all different shapes and sizes and nationalities. I think one of the good messages in the movie is that you’re all beautiful. Sometimes girls will look at Victoria’s Secret models and think they have to model themselves after that, but I really don’t think that’s the best. Even though they’re called models, they’re not the best people to model themselves after. I’d like to encourage other girls to think that way, which is why I put that on my butt.” She pointed to her head, then her butt and added, “Because it’s really about what’s up here and not what’s here.”
What is the most inspiring about her statement is not just that she is emphasizing that ALL women are beautiful, it’s that we should be thinking for ourselves. Unfortunately we don’t always get to do that because there is a LOT of noise on the internet when it comes to body shaming. Lingerie label Lane Bryant recently caused a stir with the release of their #ImNoAngel campaign which some saw as a subtle middle finger to Victoria’s Secret who have been consistently pushing one type of body shape as the pinnacle of beauty for many years.
Dove’s latest campaign #ChooseBeautiful unfortunately missed the mark in my mind. While they have been the leaders in changing the way advertisers treat women by not taking advantage of their low self-esteem and instead calling into account the ridiculous standards of institutionalized beauty forced down our throats, this campaign simply reinforced the notion that a how a woman’ views her physical appearance is of the utmost importance. Because who cares about being kind, thoughtful, strong, intelligent, funny, creative, and encouraging. As long as you choose to believe you are beautiful (God forbid you EVER think you are average) you are set for life.
It is rather depressing. So what is the solution? Getting angry and railing against the masses? Or politely make a classy statement proving that the hatred doesn’t get to you? Comedian Amy Schumer, in a recent appearance on the Ellen DeGeneres show, left the fellow comedian and host speechless with her 6 minute self-deprecating rant on how her body type does not fit into any Hollywood standards. Take a look:
Yes, it’s funny, and I love her candor. But there is still the frustrating issue of why women feel the need to apologize or make excuses about why they look they way they do. Why should Pink and Kelly Clarkson have to take the high road? Why can’t the people who body-shame them learn that picking on a woman’s appearance is not OK? The more the media feeds into this relentless pressure on women to conform to narrow standards, the less the trolls, haters and body bullies will take responsibility for their actions and words.
I know, it is easy to re-tweet, post a comment, and say something nasty online knowing it will get a big reaction. But the culture of shaming we have built around the wonderful development of technology, like Monica Lewinsky talked about in her brilliant TED Talk, is nothing to be proud of.
Let’s do better society! This is a problem we all share in and we all have to make a conscious effort with our own actions and words to go against the grain. Cultural change begins with millions of individuals choosing to think outside the box and making a difference. I don’t want to keep dedicated more headline space to empowering messages about positive body image in women because it should be a given, not a privileged few. Body positivity statements shouldn’t be few and far between, body shaming should!