By Sara Torres
We all remember Cady’s revelation at the end of the comedy Mean Girls when she realizes that criticizing Carolyn Craft for her bushy eyebrows and outfit that looks like it’s been picked out by “a blind Catholic school teacher” wasn’t going to help her solve the math problem in front of her for the North Shore Mathletes competition; that calling someone else ugly won’t make you any prettier, and calling someone else fat won’t make you any skinnier.
Girls can quote that movie scene by scene. So why don’t we get it?
Not a day goes by that we don’t hear each other, our roommates, our best friends, strangers talking a table over, criticizing and complaining about their own bodies and constantly making comparisons to others. Eighty percent of women in the U.S. are dissatisfied with their appearance, according to an article on World of Psychology. And instead of building each other up, the trash talk continues.
Gone are the days of Marilyn Monroe where full-figured women were celebrated. “In 1975 most models, weighed 8 percent less than the average woman; today they weigh 23 percent less,” says the same article from World of Psychology. And at least a fourth of icons that girls are looking up to today meet the criteria for anorexia.
In a country that has the highest rates of both obesity and eating disorders in the world, we need to look at the messages our society is sending its young people about what we value in ourselves and other people. When 42 percent of first to third grade girls want to lose weight, and 81 percent of 10-year-olds answer that their biggest fear is being fat, we have to question what we have been showing children and teens on television and in the media. If 50 to 70 percent of normal-weight girls have the perception that they are overweight, we have to ask where they are getting these ideas from.
Spewing hateful words and insults about other girls is not going to make anyone in the room better looking. It only adds to an atmosphere where girls are constantly reminded that they have to look perfect or they will be the topic of conversation next time.
When Stella Boonshoft, a full-figured student in New York, boldly posted a picture of herself in a bikini on Facebook in October of 2012, the post went viral, even receiving recognition from Brandon Stanton, creator of the Humans of New York project, who used the picture in a collection of street portraits across the city.
The picture, which got 2.4 million views on Facebook, read in the caption, “WARNING: Picture might be considered obscene because subject is not thin. And we all know that only skinny people can show their stomachs and celebrate themselves. Well I’m not going to stand for that. This is my body. Not yours. MINE. Meaning the choices I make about it, are none of your fucking business.”
The picture generated 26,000 comments in 14 hours. There were several supportive comments towards Boonshaft’s obviously courageous choice to post the picture, but there was still hateful backlash.
Scott Redecopp on January 27 at 12:38: “Take a lap.”
Dalton Bailey on March 21 at 1:47 p.m: “Now as we come upon a wild african hippopotomus in its natural habitat…”
Lohrasb Amjadi on March 2 at 5:09 a.m: “Contrary to what you’ve heard sweetheart, big is not always beautiful!”
My question is, why have we ingrained into our society that it’s worth our time to speak words of hate at other people because of their weight? Why, with all of our jobs, and school work, and responsibilities, do we still make time in the afternoon to make a cruel comment to a teenage girl making a brave statement meant to empower women of all sizes? How has any of this bullying made our lives better?
And how did we become a society that sparked Stella Boonshoft to write these words at the bottom of her caption: “MOST OF ALL, this picture is for me. For the girl who hated her body so much she took extreme measures to try to change it. Who cried for hours over the fact she would never be thin. Who was teased and tormented and hurt just for being who she was.”
There are currently over 90,000 comments on this picture. If we have so much to say, it’s time that we use our words to empower each other and create an environment where the young girls after us won’t have to grow up making an enemy of their own bodies. We have so much to offer as women today in this world, and it’s a shame if we waste any more energy on tearing ourselves down.