It has given us the power to stay behind a keyboard and throw hurtful words and opinions without the repercussion of seeing the emotion of the receiving end. Then we have our mainstream media, who like to shove images down our throats of ‘perfection’.
Ok, so let’s think this through. Mainstream media wants us all to be thin and encourages a culture of FAT SHAMING – if someone is overweight then they are looked on differently than others and even the media eye captures them differently. Think of the plot points of “The Truth About Cats and Dogs” or “Drop Dead Diva”. The ‘unattractive’ character was slightly heavier than her counterpoint. (That being said, media seems to equate weight with intelligence – especially based on these two examples so I guess it’s not possible to be thin and smart).
Right, so Fat Shaming on social media has been huge over the years; especially when it comes to the faceless, uneducated masses taking on celebrities or athletes that are not their vision of ideal. Need examples? Go search #FatShamingWeek to see a hodgepodge of the satire and serious.
Recently I have noticed a shift.
We are so over-reactionary now about someone who might possibly be “fat shaming” someone else, that social media has taken another ugly turn into FIT SHAMING.
What is Fit Shaming?
Ever had a friend make a declaration of positive change on Facebook only to be met with their ‘friends’ telling them they’re doing things wrong, they look fine, or not to worry about what the scale says? This is the surface.
Remember this controversy?
The internet went ablaze at this physically fit woman who was making a point. The blasted her for fat shaming, and, in turn, they were FIT shaming. “How dare you exercise when you have three kids?” But that was her point – anyone can find an excuse to not be fit and healthy. She did not find excuses and, despite having three children, here she is: trim, healthy and able to fully enjoy the lives of her sons.
Since I’m on a roll of past media explosions of fit shaming, let’s go with this one:
Watch out. Here is another irresponsible woman who is lifting weights. (Oh and she happens to be pregnant.) “Crossfit Mom” stirred the waters of Fit Shaming when photos of her clean and jerk started circulating the amongst the trolls of the internet. Though she stated that she was cleared by her doctor for exercise, and her weights were low, the fit shamers needed to let her know that she was a horrible person. Let’s also remember that she had been on a Crossfit routine for a long time before her pregnancy. She didn’t take up lifting when she found herself 7months pregnant.
Alright, now let’s move into some personal experiences I’ve had.
Everyone knows that I’m an Herbalife Health Coach. I have a lot of friends that utilize healthy eating programs like I do, in combination with exercise. Do things go astray sometimes? Yes. Do we have to recommit once in a while? Yes.
In the past 2 days I have seen 3 separate instances of good friends of mine (some on Herbalife, some not) being shamed about their decision to become healthier.
I understand that the friends who were commenting thought they were coming from a good place. When looking deeper at some of the comments, I realized there was a lot of projection going on.
“Don’t do that. It’s a diet. It’s a fad. You’re just going to fail.”
“I used to be an athlete and I know you’re doing it wrong.”
“You look fine. Just keep doing what you’re doing.”
“Herbalife is a hoax, you’re going to get fat.”
“You work out a lot. You don’t need to change your eating.”
Right, so those comments are just abridged versions of what I have gotten from a handful of social media sites from my friends’ pages. I also had a friend from Philly post a status about the negativity she’s been feeling ever since she rebooted her program. Not cool. I have been on my journey for over 10 years now. I have endured a lot of hurt and anger over what people have said to me. Here’s a sampling:
“You workout too much.”
“You’re obviously anorexic.”
“Stop exercising. You’re going to hurt yourself.”
“It’s weird that you take that many vitamins”
“You’re being selfish.”
[on a picture of a healthy meal] “Gross. Can’t you put chocolate on that to make it taste good?”
“Muscles are ugly”
“No one will marry you if you lift weights, they’ll all think you’re scary.” (This is why I have my #StrongIsSexy tag)
“You’re stupid for drinking so much water. You don’t need that much.”
“You’re stupid for eating so much protein.”
“You’re getting dyke-ey.”
“You should be working, not working out.”
“You make me feel lazy.”
“You’re too intimidating.”
I’ve also been tagged in many photos of unhealthy habits where the other party seems to be BRAGGING about the unhealthy meal. And when I have put up messages about joining my healthy journey, I have gotten remarks about “Can I do it and eat Oreos?” and other comments along those lines.
Should I keep going? It’s hard to go back through the memory banks and pull these out. I end up commenting on threads and conversations that I should probably stay out of because I don’t want any of my friends to hear these words from people they love and respect. No one should be told that their healthy choice is bad. No one should feel like wanting more energy and life is an insult to others.
Again, sometimes it is meant to come from a place of caring and support, but our phrasing is wrong. I know that I have a very bad reaction whenever someone tells me about the great juice diet they’re about to do for 45 days. No one is perfect, but we need to have an awareness of our words and feelings.
These negative comments come from a place of self-doubt, lack of self-confidence, inability to look at oneself to make healthy changes, or even from a simple misunderstanding of what a healthy lifestyle looks like. Those around us will look at what we are doing and see what they are NOT doing, become defensive, and sometimes go on the attack. The projection ends up on our social media and in passive aggressive conversation in day to day life. It happens all the time, and we are ok with it. Fat shaming is not acceptable, but FIT shaming happens just as often, we just haven’t put the spotlight on it yet.
**Disclaimer: If you have a friend that seriously is not eating, has dropped an unhealthy amount of weight in a short period of time, or has a tendency to go from 0 to 120 mph on things, it’s ok to express your concern. Before you approach them with: “You’re doing this wrong”, ask them questions about what they’re doing and why. I guarantee that every human will be less defensive about your feelings if you come to them from a place of understanding, instead of a place of attacking.
So the next time your friend posts that they’re going to CrossFit for the first time, or that they are starting a running routine, or that they have a goal to lose 20 pounds – encourage them. Support them in public. Ask questions about what they’re doing and what made them go for it. If you’re already healthy, help them along the way. If you are not in a super healthy lifestyle, and you feel indignant, incredulous or any other negativity towards the idea of what your friend is doing, that’s fine. You’re allowed to have those feels. That is your choice, but do not spread the negativity and resentment onto the rest of us simply because your choice is not our choice.
For those of us in this world that are combating the negativity of loved ones on an already difficult journey, keep pushing forward. Life will continue to hit you with obstacles. You are stronger. When you are past all of it and can look back on the journey, you’ll be very glad you did not listen to the naysayers.
Even those of us who train hard and crave power and strength have times where we wonder why we work so hard. Is that extra rep worth it? Is that extra lifting session going to change anything?
Even we who struggle to change the discourse of beauty, and strive to shift the world’s gaze on women wonder if we’re beautiful. Does he not like me more because I’m not a skinny model? Am I too boyish to be seen with in public? Would he talk to me more if my cup size was bigger? Would he want to be my boyfriend if I was pretty like that other girl? Would he be less ashamed if I was more timid?
Even when confidence is at its peak and we know we can conquer the world, that voice in our head tries to belittle us. You can’t do it. You won’t do it. Look at you failing. You’re about to fail. No one wants you. No one trusts you. You’re defective. You won’t get it right. You’re making the wrong choices again. You’ll always be a failure. You’ll always lose. You’ll always be alone. You’re not girlfriend material. You’re too dumb. Too lazy. Too ugly. Too slow. Too clumsy. Too weak.
When every doubt comes at us with the speed and force of a bullet train, we must overcome.
We must trust ourselves to make the right decision when a new situation arises.
We must believe that we are greater than our fears.
We must persevere in the face of failure and doubt.
We must understand that we are desirable and beautiful. That the last rep is worth it. That our speed is greater than our mind can comprehend. That our passion is worthy.
And we must know that if the rest of the world doesn’t see that now, one day they will. That day, when we join the Giants we have been stretching for all of our lives? That will be the sweetest day we have ever known. At least, until we reach the next marker.
It is a tricky thing, the idea of beauty and femininity.
It is something that I’ve pondered a lot over my lifetime, and as I shift the balance of my life I come face to face with the conundrums again.
Growing up with a brother just slightly older than me, coupled with a very work-conscious, feminist mother, I did not expand the image of beauty within myself as a flowering young girl. I was more interested in playing football and king of the mountain than I was with experimenting with makeup and jewelry. The major reason I wanted contact lenses was because I was tired of having them break on me during softball games (which, inevitably, they would each year).
In high school, I did my best to make myself “cute”, but still gravitated towards stovepipe jeans, loose fitting anime-themed t-shirts and (of course) those flame Airwalks (sooooo comfy).
I didn’t really know what it meant to be pretty or feel pretty as I grew up. I liked boys from a very early age (my first crush was in kindergarten), and was always seeking attention from them, but in a conflicted kind of way. I didn’t know if I wanted them to be attracted to me because I was pretty or because I was stronger than them (or both).
Remember the movie “Little Giants”? I could identify with the main character instantly. Her name was Becky ‘Icebox’ O’shea. I think they should do a sequeal where she finds her derby team.
In high school and college I battled against the super tomboy by making myself also overtly sexual. That’s the way to combat it, right? That’s what I thought at least. I may be able to beat them up, but if I make myself a very sexual creature, it’ll all balance out.
Let’s just say that didn’t end well for my ability to hold a relationship, much less for my own self-esteem.
So now here I am. I’m 30 years old facing the same gender roles and paranoia that I was faced with 15 years ago: If I’m strong and have muscle, will men be turned off by me? If my hair is short and I don’t present myself in a sexualized fashion, will I ever gain the interest of a male that I’m into? Even if I’m slim? Even if I put on make-up (sometimes)? I play roller derby, I have just fallen in love with Crossfit (dammit I drank the Kool Aid) and I drink protein shakes like it’s my job.
Will I have a shot in hell, or will they go for the young, easy catches? Will I always loose out to the girl in the dress with the perfect hair cut?
Firefly fans – look deeply at the conflict and struggle that resides in Zoe Washburn: Trying to balance feminine wife with hardened soldier. Captain Mal is the only one that doesn’t see her gender, but he doesn’t see her as a woman either.
She knows she feels more comfortable as the alpha, but as you look deeper into her personality and reactions during the show, you see she is conflicted. She understands that to make her marriage work, she must have times where she backs off and plays docile. She must be the submissive female in a male dominated culture that pretends to be pro-feminism.
Is it possible to feel feminine and beautiful without the heels and the other fancies?
Let me also say this: I do LIKE the fancy stuff. I love my Mary Kay and my Lia Sophia. I wish my knee weren’t screwed up so bad so that I could wear heels again. I love putting on a summer dress and having my hair styled. The truth of the matter is, I haven’t felt worthy enough to put the time and energy to doing it. There is always something else I’d rather do or spend my money on. Plus, when you work out like a beast, what is the point of putting on make-up? Well. Maybe war paint.
Also please know that I do, most of the time, find myself very beautiful. More recently, I’ve been shown that I may still even be sexy and feminine. When you’re admiring your biceps after a round of CrossFit though, these thoughts creep in and you begin to question society’s entire viewpoint on the female species.
So there you go, Interwebs. You have gotten to the soft underbelly of me. Can Merry Khaos (or even Kristie Grey) be strong and powerful, yet soft and feminine? Do they have to go together? Can you be a tomboy and yet be attractive to the opposite sex? Can’t we all just BE and let that be the beauty of us?