10 WAYS WE BODY SHAME WITHOUT REALIZING IT:
1. Saying Things Like, “She Would Be So Pretty If…”
Have you ever uttered anything along the lines of, “But she has such a gorgeous face” or “She would be more beautiful if she put on a few pounds”? You are limiting your idea of beauty to a cultural stereotype. Beauty is not conditional. If you can’t say anything nice, maybe it’s time to learn how.
2. Judging Other People’s Clothes
While it’s fine for you to choose clothes any way you want, nobody else is required to adhere to your style. The person wearing that outfit is, in fact, pulling it off, even if you think she’s too flat chested, big chested, short, tall, fat or thin. And fat people don’t have to confine themselves to dark colors and vertical stripes, no matter who prefers it. And spandex? It’s a right, not a privilege.
3. Making It an ‘Us vs. Them’ Thing
The phrase “Real Women Have Curves” is highly problematic. Developed as a response to the tremendous body shaming that fat women face, it still amounts to doing the same thing in the opposite direction. The road to high self-esteem is probably not paved with hypocrisy. Equally problematic is the phrase “boyish figure” as if a lack of curves makes us somehow less womanly. The idea that there is only so much beauty, only so much self-esteem to go around is a lie. Real women come in all shapes and sizes, no curves required.
4. Avoiding the Word “Fat”
Dancing around the word fat is an insinuation that it’s so horrible that it can’t even be said. The only thing worse than calling fat people “big boned” or “fluffy” is using euphemisms that suggest body size indicates the state of our health or whether we take care of ourselves. As part of a resolution to end body shaming, try nixing phrases like “she looks healthy,” or “she looks like she is taking care of herself,” and “she looks like she is starving” when what you actually mean is a woman is thin.
5. Making Up Body Parts
We could all lead very full lives if we never heard the words cankles, muffin top, apple shaped, pear shaped or apple butt ever again. We are not food.
6. Congratulating People for Losing Weight
You don’t know a person’s circumstances. Maybe she lost weight because of an illness. You also don’t know if she’ll gain the weight back (about 95 percent of people do), in which case earlier praise might feel like criticism. If someone points out that a person has lost weight, consider adding something like, “You’ve always been beautiful. I’m happy if you are happy.” But if a person doesn’t mention her weight loss, then you shouldn’t mention it either. Think of something else you can compliment.
7. Using Pretend Compliments
“You’re really brave to wear that.” By the way, wearing a sleeveless top or bikini does not take bravery. “You’re not fat, you’re beautiful.” These things are not mutually exclusive — a person can be fat and beautiful. “You can afford to eat that, you’re thin.” You don’t know if someone has an eating disorder or something else; there is no need to comment on someone’s body or food intake. “You’re not that fat” or “You’re not fat, you workout,” need to be struck from your vocabulary. Suggesting that looking fat is a bad thing is also insulting.
8. Thinking of Women as Baby-Making Machines
One of my readers mentioned that her gynecologist called her “good breeding stock.” Also awful: “baby making hips.” Worst of all is when people ask fat people when they are due. As has famously been said, unless you can see the baby crowning, do not assume that someone is pregnant.
9. Sticking Your Nose in Other People’s Exercise Routines
A subtle form of body shaming occurs when people make assumptions or suggestions about someone’s exercise habits based on their size. Don’t ask a fat person, “Have you tried walking?” Don’t tell a thin person, “You must spend all day in the gym.” I have had people at the gym congratulate me for starting a workout program when, in fact, I started working out at age 12 and never stopped. I had a thin friend who started a weight-lifting program and someone said to her, “Be careful, you don’t want to bulk up.” How about not completely over-stepping your boundaries and being rude and inappropriate?
10. Playing Dietitian
If you have no idea how much a person eats or exercises, you shouldn’t tell her to eat less and move more or suggest she put more meat on her bones. (Even if you do know what she eats, don’t do it). How do you know she’s looking for nutritional advice from you or the newest weight-loss tip you saw on Dr. Oz?
Written by: Ragen Chastain
From “France likes cheating, Egypt is cool with divorce, and other things the world believes about sex and marriage,” by Vox, April 16, 2014.
They say keys are lucky because they unlock opportunities. And knots are supposed to represent commitment and keep a lover tied to you. To use these charms, buy a blank key, paint it red, and add it to your keychain or tie knots in a ribbon and pin it inside a purse or wear it hidden someplace in your clothes.
Extreme cases, although more complex, include women that have been detained at customs or arrested on suspicion of prostitution for simply carrying condoms. Yes, that’s in the U.S. While several laws have only recently been passed to prevent such groundless arrests in the first place, the mainstream social and cultural stigma of a woman carrying condoms is thriving, very real, and it’s total bullshit. The answer is not to tell women to not carry condoms, it’s to encourage more women to carry condoms.
They were artists, entertainers, and sometimes concubines. Fashion leaders and highly educated conversationalists. They knew how to cultivate desire and provide pleasure a thousand different ways.
And it’s all about our response, as the audience — as if the only possible reason a woman would show her body was because she expects praise for it, and not because it functions in the service of a story she is acting in, or simply because she individually likes the way she looks without pants.
For the boys, carrying a condom is a right of passage. Hell, your school (or maybe even your parent) provided you with this latex token of sexual freedom. If you’re a woman and you are carrying a condom, it’s assumed that you’ve come to this rooftop party to sleep with all the men present and perhaps even the rest of Brooklyn, too.
As a culture, we have at some point lost the knack for being able to see diversity of shape and form as anything other than a series of mistakes that need to be edited in Photoshop.
A Vindication of Love: Just How Much Should Love Hurt?
Originally published on SexReally.com on June 24, 2009.
An assistant writing professor at George Washington University taught a course a couple of years ago called “Love, American Style.” To her surprise, her students (all female) enjoyed discussing “chick lit” books like Bridget Jones’ Diary but were not inspired by deeply romantic novels such as Jane Eyre. Quick flings were okay with students, this professor told me, “but love was rarely mentioned. They were not that interested in it as a concept for their lives.”
Of all the readings she assigned, their favorite was an anthology of poetry entitled The Hell with Love.
Love is not an easy emotion for anyone to live with. For those of you who work hard and play hard, it can embrace you in what can seem a paralyzing squeeze. In the eyes of your friends, colleagues, parents, and/or teachers, love is a nice but muddy-headed emotion that you just have to get over if you want to be taken seriously as a student, a professional, a thinker.
So you’re tempted to tell yourself, “I’m not ready for love,” even as you try to fight off the feelings you’re starting to have for the soccer player you met or the colleague with whom you’ve shared a couple of drinks after work.
Essayist Cristina Nehring might advise you to stop fighting and give in to those instincts.
In her new book, A Vindication of Love, Nehring comes to love’s rescue. But the emotion she describes and defends in her romp through Western literature and poetry is not necessarily the love that many of us would want as a regular diet. In fact, it’s a dangerous kind of love that could lead some women and men to make exceedingly bad choices. (She opens with the passion-story of 18th-century author and feminist Mary Wollstonecraft, who twice attempted suicide over a man.)
But it is romantic love, all the same—the love, for example, of Pride and Prejudice’s Elizabeth Bennet for Fitzwilliam Darcy, or of Emily Dickinson’s letters to her “Master.” And, to Nehring’s credit, she is not afraid to defend it. Nehring never actually tells us what love is, but she has quite a bit to say about what love is not.
It is not, for example, “sex-on-tap,” or “the relentless emphasis on sexual climax that…has a largely depleting effect on the life of the emotions.” “When erotic intimacy is available at the tap of a mouse,” she writes, “or, indeed, at the amiable request of one’s household partner (“what about a quickie before lunch, dear?”); when magazines nudge us to “claim” orgasms as we do receipts at the end of our transactions at Starbucks; when Broadway hits like Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues have women hollering the names of their genitals and baking cakes in their shape, then sex has simply become too available.”
This availability makes romance impossible, she says, because romance depends on “other-ness, tension, and reserve.” Absence does indeed make the heart grow fonder.
Love is also not an equal partnership, in her view. It is the ardor of a college student for her professor, a young man for an older man. It is frequently not sanctioned – bravo the adulterer! – and even forbidden, as in “Don’t go near that player. He’s only using you.”
Hers is not a pretty love. She writes: “I bear the bodily scars of a loss or two in love. I have been derailed by love, hospitalized by love, flung around five continents, shaken, overjoyed, inspired and unsettled by love.”
Such words may comfort those who have pursued a love affair that was as exhausting as it was exhilarating, that threatened one’s mental, and even physical, health. It may also encourage some girls to ask what they’ve missed.
And it may provoke readers such as Anne Kubitsky, a 26-year-old designer and writer, to say, “Been there, done that, not going there again.” Nehring’s description of love, says Anne, “sounds a lot like what I thought love was in high school and college, and this led to extreme emotions and behaviors that were not good.” True love, she says, is not needy, and comes only after you know you are “whole, complete, and have everything you need to be happy, fulfilled, and satisfied.”
Anne provides a clue as to why the students of “Love, American Style” so appreciated The Hell with Love, which is described as “a one-of-a-kind collection that helps you through the classic stages of heartbreak.” Perhaps they too had been there and done that.
Those who value the secure, companionable love that Anne describes may wish for another book to sit beside The Hell with Love and A Vindication – a book that tells stories of compassion, as well as passion, and the sweet splendor of everyday love.
Have you ever experienced the kind of love Christina Nehring describes?
Would you want to experience it (again)?
Laura Sessions Stepp is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, formerly with The Washington Post, who specializes in the coverage of young people. She has written two books: “Unhooked: How Young Women Pursue Sex, Delay Love and Lose at Both,” and “Our Last Best Shot: Guiding Our Children through Early Adolescence.” She is a consultant to The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy.
Lest we forget, women were once criticized and even punished for wearing pants. It was considered something that only men did, and simply improper for women. But more and more women started to wear them, and now we live in a world of unisex jorts … See where I’m going here? The point: put a condom in your pocket. That’s right, your pants pocket. If you don’t rely on condoms as a form of birth control, do it anyways! Wait, why?
Aside from the glaringly obvious point that a friend may find herself in need, it deconstructs the belief that women shouldn’t carry condoms or that if they do, there’s an overwhelming or even prosecutable level of promiscuity going on. Carry a condom—because if we all do, maybe we can start to normalize it.
From “Changing Condom Culture,” Boinkology 101, July 31, 2013.
Carry a condom, ladies! (And read the rest of the article.)