Body Image Campaigner Shuts Down Bullies With Bravery

natasha-devon-body-gossip

The worldwide body positivity movement is a powerful thing. We love seeing ordinary men and women taking a stand against bullying and showing others that all bodies are good bodies, no matter how diverse. Body shaming isn’t just something that is reserved for women. Body bullies are no respecter of humanity in general (even though they themselves are humans) but as most of us know about bullying, it generally comes from a place of insecurity.

Natasha Devon is a British body image campaigner, and is the education director for an organization called Body Gossip. She regularly appears on various UK TV shows talking about issues relating to body image, self-esteem and feminism. So when she was trolled for putting a picture of herself online from a lingerie shoot, she had to put all her experience into action to combat such ugly negativity.

She gave an interview with the Daily Star talking about how it all came about. In February 2013 she was admitted to hospital to have emergency surgery for a ruptured spleen. If she had waited any longer after experiencing crippling stomach pains leading up to the surgery, she would’ve died.

“My surgeon had to perform an emergency laparotomy (where they slice you right up the middle like a pirate) to determine the cause of the bleeding, leaving me with 30cm of sliced belly flesh, held together with what looked like bulldog clips,” she said about her harrowing ordeal.

“Later, I discovered that if I had been left for another 24 hours on the ward I probably would have died. Then a thought struck me – my body is brilliant.”

She told the paper that any insecurities she felt about her “stomach flab” dissipated at the thought of how powerful the organs were which worked to repair what went wrong in her body. It gave her a whole new perspective on appreciating her body image.

After the surgery, she posed in a lingerie shoot for brand Curvy Kate proudly displaying her scar from navel to cleavage, she started getting nasty comments online.

natasha-devon-curvy-kate

“Men were discussing how the sight of my body made them feel physically sick. They also said they felt sorry for my boyfriend ‘having to look at that in real life’. Their comments were clearly designed to be as hurtful as possible, but they just made me feel more determined not to be ashamed of my body.”

The fact that there are even people out there in the world who think it’s ok to poke fun at a woman’s body because of a scar which literally represents her life, is just sad. It shows what a disgusting epidemic bullying can be, especially on the internet where anonymity seemingly gives cyber bullies false power.

Instead of allowing stupid comments to affect her self esteem or the choices she makes about how she portrays her body publicly, Natasha tweeted this along with the picture above:

 


What her bullies didn’t realize was that Natasha being brave enough to share her story with the world (unlike those keyboard warriors) meant that it empowering so many other women in its wake.

“I won’t be made to apologise for my brilliant body.” Her tips for combating bullying include ignoring the negativity. Feeding into it is giving bullies and internet trolls more attention than they deserve.

Unfortunately, as long as the media and society is perpetuating negative stereotypes about certain body sizes, it will only serve to feed into people’s reasoning for picking on others. Take the recent incident where a Michigan Plastic Surgery placed this billboard in the city of Ann Arbor:

ann-arbor-plastic-surgery-muffin-top

Here we have a medical organization blatantly telling the public not to love your body, but to spend money on looking like someone else, as if believing that will cure any self-esteem or confidence issues. Thankfully some vigilante graffiti-artists decided to spray pain “YOU’RE BEAUTIFUL” over the advertisement, because friends don’t let friends buy into messages which benefit from making you feel horrible about yourself.

While the company defended the billboard on facebook saying it was meant in “humor” one commenter put it best:

“I find the muffin ad…not funny. Kids that tease other kids for having ‘muffin tops’ are called bullies. I don’t think we need giant billboards that do the same thing.”

And another said this:

“I think this is yet another assault on the beauty of the human body and the self-esteem of especially woman young and old.”

While we are certainly not excusing the actions of individual bullies and saying the blame lies with a particular industry or institution, there has to be a point where speaking out against it is just as powerful if not more, than the negativity.

There is always going to be a risk of attracting negativity and criticism when you put yourself, your beliefs and your opinions out into the world, especially online, just like Natasha Devon. But what’s more important to note and to focus on is how sharing your own failures, mistakes and vulnerabilities means another person doesn’t have to feel so alone in the world.

When you look at the world today and all the horrific situations happening in Syria, Iraq, Palestine and Israel, are we really too small-minded as a race to have to pick on someone’s body because it makes us feel better? Why is empowering someone else seen as such a threat and bullying seen as a good option?

Just like Julya Johnson, the Tennessee newsreader who shut down a viewer who complained she needed to change her appearance, Natasha’s message is a powerful one: don’t change yourself to please others, and certainly don’t apologize for who you are and the choices you make.

natasha-devon-body-gossip

10 Comments

  1. Pingback: Dealing with scar shame | Stories from the Survivors of early Surgery

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