MORTON'S SALTY: Body shaming is not a competition
Margo Morton is a sophomore communication studies major and writes "Morton's Salty" for the Daily News. Her views do not necessarily agree with those of the newspaper. Write to Margo at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As the copy director of the Daily News, I read pretty much everything that goes on our website or in the paper before it gets published — and I had more than a few worries when I opened up a column to edit Tuesday night titled "Weight shaming goes both ways."
I was pleasantly surprised to see that while highlighting the body shaming faced by what she calls “skinny” people, the author did not minimize the shaming faced by those who are plus size. I thought the column was well thought out and made some good points.
But that doesn’t mean there isn’t anything I want to argue against, obviously, because I decided to write a whole column in rebuttal instead of working on homework.
My issue with the argument comes down to the fact that body insecurities are not a part of the Struggle Olympics. Meaning, I really don’t want to hear about how people of an “average” size (or smaller) are in fact worse off than overweight people in some ways. We are not in competition with each other to see who suffers more in a society obsessed with bodies.
The previously mentioned column recounts some problems smaller people face: being told to eat more, not finding clothes that fit or being the subject of dreaded middle school gossip. These experiences range from annoying to incredibly hurtful — but hey, being on the opposite end of the spectrum, I’ve been pressured to change my eating habits, shopped in stores where the only thing I’ll ever fit in is the door and definitely waded through enough mean comments in middle school (can’t we all agree that is a really weird, bad time no matter what?).
When it comes down to it, our core experiences are the same, even if they are manifested differently. We all want to feel good about ourselves and our bodies, and to not have to listen to people give us crap for how we look or want to look. There are things that happen to skinnier people that do not happen to bigger people in the context of body shaming, and vice versa, but do we really have to pit our struggles against each other?
Basically, when I think of body shaming, I think of it as something we can all fight against, regardless of our size.
And let’s not forget that body shaming comes in forms other than weight. Society shames men if they’re short, women if they choose not to shave their legs and constantly polices the bodies of people who identify with no gender, just to name a few examples. When it comes to body shaming, everyone is susceptible to its harms.
So let’s push for change. We cannot keep tolerating people being cruel to others for how they choose to present themselves. We cannot continue living in a society that bases worth off of bodies.
The change can start small, and can start personal. Look at yourself in the mirror. Think about what you do like. Think about how far those legs have carried you, and how much longer you have to go. Think about what those hands have held and helped create. But best of all, think about that brain and heart you’ve got inside you — find value in the type of person you are, not the type of person you look like.
Being able to appreciate yourself and your appearance is hard work, and it doesn’t come overnight. The worst part is, even when you get that confidence, it doesn’t mean that it will stay forever and constant. Being self-confident and body positive doesn’t mean you are 100 percent happy with yourself every moment of the day, it just means dedicating yourself to a lifelong journey of self-improvement and kindness to yourself and others.
On a broader level, let’s not tolerate the magazines guaranteeing “Your Best [i.e. skinny, but not too skinny, perfectly tan, 5-foot-11-inch] Body!” Let’s get angry that 30 million people suffer from a clinically significant eating disorder at some time in their life. Start complimenting people on their career success, their sense of humor or their cool shoes rather than their flat stomach.
Skinny shaming is bad, fat shaming is bad … shaming others is bad. Loving and accepting yourself and others … that’s good. This may not be the most eloquent way to put it, but it’s the damn truth.