I am ashamed of body shaming

Humans come in a variety of sizes. Tall, short, skinny, wide, and everywhere in between. Yet, the majority of our female models are a very small subset of that population: at least 5’ 10” and a size two. This has become very damaging to society – not necessarily because people aspire to look like models, but because now social media allows public comments that have caused a new, disturbing trend: shaming.

Anyone who doesn’t look like a model (and let’s be honest, I know I don’t) is berated with comments for posting proud pictures of themselves on the internet. I’ve seen shaming against people for their weight, clothing, even “tiger stripes” (stretch marks that many women get after gaining and losing pregnancy weight). I’ve seen it in all directions – fat shaming, skinny shaming, slut shaming, prude shaming. It’s most prevalent when people can hide behind a username, but I’ve seen in-person shaming, as well.

A recent and highly publicised example of shaming involves plus-size model Tess Holliday. For those of you who don’t know, Holliday is 5’ 5” and wears a size 22. She is also leading the campaign #effyourbeautystandards. She is gorgeous, by the way (and no, I don’t just mean for a “heavy set” woman), but what’s more important is her confidence. It’s a confidence I don’t have, and one that I don’t see very often. Yet, shaming attacks this very trait that makes Holliday special, saying we should not celebrate her because of her obesity. It tells her to get off her pedestal, because she doesn’t represent what people “should” be like.

What is that “ideal” beauty standard society keeps asking people to achieve, anyways? Is there truly just one? Some would have us believe so. But think about what is more harmful to kids (or adults) scrolling down their social media feeds. Is it seeing an image of diversity? Or is it a comment telling them that if they are anything other than 5’ 10” and a size two, they should be ashamed and hide themselves?

There is something inherently backwards about this mindset of shaming people who are different. First off, we are all different! Secondly, what’s wrong with being proud about that? Are we teaching ourselves that our bodies should come with a disclaimer: “Sorry if I make you uncomfortable because I do/don’t have a thigh gap?” We should embrace uniqueness, not hide it. Yet, hiding is exactly what culture of shaming promotes.

As individuals we are most comfortable with what we know, which is usually what we are. Yet we must recognize that people can celebrate whatever they want in themselves, and it’s not going to hurt us – instead, it’s going to help the people who need self confidence because they do feel ashamed for looking different. Everyone should feel free to post pictures of themselves without fear of retribution. No one should shame, and no one should feel ashamed of who they are.