So Monday was a day… A relatively well known British fitness company posted a tweet that was inappropriate at best and body shaming at worst. I won’t offer them free advertising by naming them. The gist of the tweet was a woman who had used one of their programmes and had lost a lot of weight. Fine. However rather than focusing on how much stronger she was or how much she was enjoying the programme this was posted as a before and after. (you can read my thoughts on them here..) In addition to the before and after the tweet signed off with “what’s your excuse?“ implying that to exist in a larger body that you are not trying to change you require an excuse and you must justify it to the world. No. Just no. I cannot even begin to describe how frustrating and upsetting it is that we still live in a world where this kind of conversation around larger bodies is normalised.
My good friend and Fitness Blogger Of The Year nominee, Hannah, immediately picked up on this bullshit. She quoted the offending tweet expressing her displeasure and making it clear that she would be unfollowing this company. You would think when a noted fitness blog calls you out that maybe you would think about your actions or at least remove the tweet. Maybe that’s what a decent person would do. What unfolded on Monday afternoon was far from decent.
Several men contacted Hannah asking for a full explanation of why this advert was body shaming or in some cases asking how it wasn’t body positive. Wow! It was particularly interesting and aggravating that the majority of people aggrieved by Hannah’s observation and comment were men. Men trying to tell us that the way our bodies are consistently being measured, scrutinised and deemed successes or failures is not body shaming. After the immediate rush had died down, another debate arose, this time with a woman I know personally. On first glance she failed to see how it was body shaming however after Hannah directly quoted the “What’s your excuse?” section I think she began to see where we were coming from although she wasn’t personally offended by it.
I think that’s part of the issue. The tweet didn’t directly shame Hannah or myself. In Hannah’s case she is slim with an athletic build and I am on the chubby side but not plus size, yet we saw the comments were wrong. So many people seem to exist in their own bubble. Rather than questioning why this language around larger bodies may be a problem, it doesn’t directly affect them and if anything, normalising the degradation of larger bodies makes smaller people feel superior. It creates a them and us mentality. Those of us who question the norms and look around see how much easier it is to exist in a smaller body within our society. If we start treating every body the same regardless of its size, shape or health status those with smaller bodies no longer have a privilege and to some losing their privilege feels like discrimination.
It’s entirely possible to go through life completely oblivious to these issues, buy into the nonsense that you are fed by mass media and continue to allow companies like the one mentioned earlier to profit off the low self esteem that generates but wouldn’t it be better to do something different. To stand up for all the people in your life who don’t fit those ideals. To stop funding a culture that contributes to eating disorders, low self esteem and poor body image in children as young as 3. Naomi Wolfe wrote that dieting is the most potent political sedative in women’s history. For how many more generations are we going to let that continue?