Story By Dani
Re: Anorexic. Looks like a go fund me page for an illness; Too skinny; Disgusting; Lost your breasts and femininity; Where did her boobs go?; Maybe I should starve myself for 9 weeks too; Before is better; Just no; You can clearly see her waist is slimmed to unnatural measurements and the butt made bigger; She is so fake; You are missing your hipbones, dear; Your body is only the ‘resize or refine’ tool; Your body is not normal; You are white so you can’t have god given curves; Someone would break her in half; Went from good looking to homeless f***** skinny person; Nope!; That’s too skinny; Promoting eating disorders; Underweight; You look sickly; Not how a woman should look; No.
Just so we are 100 % clear…I’m not offended if my body offends you.
Well then. This is what it’s come down to people. This is the line I’ve taken to playing on repeat.
Usually, I’m taking a deep-let’s-be-patient-with-this breath while I type it. Or at least, that’s what I’m trying to do. I’m trying my best to leave space to remember that most people are probably coming from a decent place and maybe, just maybe, they don’t quite realise the weight of their words. I’m wearily hopeful. Sometimes though, I’m exhaling fury. Frustration. Legit F- you anger.
And yet, the anger isn’t even about the raging debate taking place over my physical appearance. We aren’t talking here about whether my ribs are ribs, or obliques, or just plain disgusting. We aren’t dissecting whether the proportion of my hips and waist are less or more than you are comfortable with them being. We aren’t quizzically searching for my apparently offensive lack of breast tissue (Spoiler alert. I never had a lot to start with anyway and that’s okay!). You guys have already done that all for me, repeatedly, uninvited and entirely self – absorbed in your disdain for my body. The one picture you’re looking at. Cozily sitting behind your phone screen, up on your moral high horse. Well done. Is this you living your best life?
I mean, yes, absolutely at first I was taken aback by some of it. It wasn’t so much the debate that stopped me in my tracks or knotted my stomach up reading the comments. Everyone has different preferences and that’s 100% cool. I would never assume everyone prefers my current state. So, it wasn’t just the content necessarily. It was the manner in which you used your words like a knife, like a heavy object to inflict blunt force trauma on a person. The viciousness and extremity of the words you opted to use was the real kicker. (Yes. Opted; this is a choice. You’re curating your response via your choice of words. Let’s be really, really clear about this people). My favourite was being accused (and I use that word deliberately because the amount of energy and enthusiasm this chick whipped up on account of her disagreement with my body was astounding) of photoshopping my body because I was standing in front of a tiled bathroom wall and she could see lines in the picture. Tiled. As in more than one. As in there are going to be lines when there are tiles side by side. Scandalous but true.
It’s moved way beyond the outcry that these pictures seem to attract though and what I really want to draw your attention to is this; body shaming goes both ways. You can dress it up. You can dress it down. The fact is that the bones, body fat, muscles, tissue, sinew, fascia, skin and cells that make up this physical sack I’m walking around in on the daily are not up for discussion. Period. My body isn’t a landscape for your dissection and critique. For any reason.
There seems to be a growing trend that the aforementioned sack, when smaller in size for whatever reason, attracts a crowd of people who have come to the conclusion that it is ok to shame my sack (ha!) because it’s a smaller one right now. Tell me, would you say to a differently shaped or sized sack – “too much breast tissue!”, “too much flesh”, “not enough leg length” “no”, “too tall!”
I reckon you wouldn’t. And if you did, there’d be one hell of an outcry, and rightly so. It boils down to the very simple situation of you not agreeing with what you see but taking that as a green light to lay your assumptions down on a person you’ve never met. And quite frankly, you might have a million appropriate reasons for coming to that conclusion but I’m done with people veiling their dissection of appearance under “sorry, but…”
Just don’t. ‘Sorry’ is not a pass to say whatever ill-advised thought tumbles into your mind. Sorry does not render your comment insignificant. You are significant. Your words carry weight. Don’t forget that when it suits you to forget that.
Prefacing your verbal or written scalpel with a ‘no offence but…’ before you point out that I lack or show nothing you approve of (insert judgment here) is equally as inexcusable. I reject your rigidity.
“But there’s an epidemic of…!” I hear you cry; you’re probably right. Still not ok. Don’t make me the scapegoat for your assumptions. My shoulders don’t need the world’s problems placed upon them, thanks.
While we are at it, please don’t smash me down and say I don’t know what it feels like to be….fill in the blanks. Don’t reduce my lived experience to anything because you can’t extend your imagination beyond your own experience. Telling me I haven’t felt something or have no right to respond is like saying “No. You are not allowed to have an opinion. Your existence does not count because I say so” This may come as a shock to you, but that isn’t your job.
“But you posted these pictures! What do you expect?” – Actually, my awesome, kind as can be trainer @the_natural_transformer, who promotes balanced eating, happiness and taking care of your mental health above all else posted them for his business. A seriously good human, might I add. And even if I did post a picture of where I am at 2 years into an evolving lifestyle commitment? The short skirt=rape bullsh*t doesn’t fly here either, nor does your decision to sexualise my body (“hotter in 2016” blokes, I’m looking at you). People can post whether they want. You choose whether you inject judgment and criticism into the world in response. See? There’s that choice thing again.
It’s become a far deeper conversation for me. As a social worker, I’m forever interacting with the impact of societal pressures of all kinds on the mental health of all people, so while I can detach from this, what happens to the young man or woman who hasn’t yet developed the capacity to do so? When you hastily label me as having an eating disorder in a cruel and judgemental manner, you unwittingly drive further into shame and secret the silent individual who actually is experiencing that as their reality. And so tell me this – who, then, in their right mind is going to put up their hand and ask for help from the same society stigmatising them in the first place? I know I wouldn’t.