Body shaming: A line no one is allowed to cross
Apparently we have finally drawn a line no one is allowed to cross. We can pretty much post, tweet, or say anything we want without consequence until we make reference to someone’s body. This really isn’t anything new. Think back to the dark ages when women dreaded walking past construction sites and having to listen to the whistles and remarks of a bunch of beer bellied men who acted like they were still teens in high school.
I will admit, I was one of several guys in high school who use to think we were being funny and clever with our comments as girls walked by. We were so stupid, we really believed the laughter the girls responded with was their way of letting us know they appreciated our failure to see them as anything other than objects for us to admire. It did not occur to us some of the girls took to changing their routes on campus just to avoid our unasked for and asinine comments.
Eventually, we realized our act was not landing us any girlfriends so we went on to just ribbing each other.
However, 40 years ago, there was no internet and no one was posting comments for the world to see. It really was different then.
Today, we seem to have no trouble with politicians, journalists, celebrities, and every day humans posting their thoughts about others in the news or people in their lives. However, we still get riled up when someone touches upon the looks of another person, especially when it is a man commenting on a woman.
It doesn’t help when our manchild of a POTUS is adept at this. He tweets about pretty much anything that floats through his head, but he seems to get himself in the most trouble when he gets into it with a female and makes a point of mentioning something about they way she looks.
Our president can tweet he wants to nuke the crap out of North Korea or destroy Obamacare and most of us just shrug and say, “There he goes again.” We’ve stopped taking him seriously because lets face it, saying something and doing something are very different. However, when he mentions the looks of Rosie O’Donnell or Mika Brezinski, brags about groping women, or makes a point of telling a woman reporter she has a nice smile, he has suddenly crossed the line.
Body shaming is off limits, but intelligence shaming is fair game. As a result, I try to refrain from talking about Trump’s body and choose to focus on his mind, or lack there of because it keeps me from getting into trouble.
Years ago, way back in the 90’s, I had to sit through a teacher “in-service” (training) at the beginning of the school year that spent two hours focusing on sexual harassment. Without directly saying so, the message was really meant to tell males to not make any comments about women on staff. Do not compliment the way they look, do not be alone with one in a conversation, do not look at them and make them feel uncomfortable, and certainly do not say or do anything brazen. My female principal was very clear when she told the staff she wanted to know ASAP if anyone (code for female) was made to feel uncomfortable (guys, you have been warned).
The next day, I happened to be walking across campus toward the boy’s locker room where my office was. As a PE teacher, I had the luxury of wearing shorts to work every day. As I walked across the student quad, a female teacher hooted and hollered at me about my nice legs as students were present. When she did it a second time, I decided to make a U turn and talk to my principal.
Normally, I would have just laughed this off, but I figured, what is good for the goose is good for the gander, or is it the other way around? When I told her what had happened, my principal reacted no differently than had the situation been reversed. A female colleague was reprimanded and it was made clear the rules apply to everyone.
Still, I am not sure what really constitutes body shaming. If I was on a panel asking potential presidential candidates questions, I would have no problem asking Chris Christie, or a female politician of similar build, why voters should elect a man who obviously shows no willingness to take care of his health given his girth. It is a fair question to ask, after all, if you lack self-control with food, what other areas do you lack the ability to reign it in? The job of president is stressful enough and there is nothing wrong with questioning a person’s fitness for the job if they are obese.
Am I the only person out there who thinks body shaming has become the new “I was a victim of” in Hollywood? It seems a few years ago, we had story after story from women who were telling the world they were victims of some kind of abuse during their life. Now I see plenty who say they were body shamed.
I have a difficult time feeling sorry for people who make a career in the public eye who have comments made about how they look. If you do not want people to think you look like a puffer fish, back off the visits to the plastic surgeon. Nick Carter seems to have an issue with women who he over heard describing how he looks like he has cancer because he is so skinny. My feeling is, don’t go out in public until you have had a few cheeseburgers and hit the gym.
We can critique a singer’s voice but must lay off the way he or she looks. This is odd to people of my generation who grew up watching the Rolling Stones look like a bunch of dead guys whose albums and concerts were phenomenal. They really do look better today than they did 30 years ago. That said, no one better ever question any post baby fat Beyoncé might carry with her unless they want to be made to look like they are evil to the core. We can question Beyoncé’s way of life, thirst for fame and fortune, and desire to capitalize on even the names of her children as long as we lay off of her stretch marks, midriff, legs, and that booty.
In a narcissistic world filled with posts of selfie after selfie, it’s odd we cannot say anything critical about how someone looks. If all they hear are positive comments on how they are rocking those too tight jeans with the muffin top, we can expect to be tortured with unasked for less than flattering pictures of people.
If we can not point out how the clerk at the local WalMart appears to have used a thick marker to draw her eye brows, or the helper at Home Depot might need to Spackle in the butt crack he shows the world, then we can expect to see what no one really wants to see.
Still, we will think it. We will also use it to make judgments about you, whether accurate or not. That horribly over weight job applicant may well be denied a job because of the high health risk he carries. Joe Plumber Crack may never get a decent job review because his supervisor’s view of his work may well be influenced by his viewable fault line. The teens with pink hair or a Mohawk will be judged differently than the ones who come to class dressed and styled in a less obvious manner.
Body image is not an easy thing for many people. I get it. We feel pressured to look a certain way and for some, this does not come all that easy. However, intelligence issues also affect people. Do you think a cute blonde girl in school is viewed in the same light as the nerd with horn rimmed glasses when they walk into a classroom?
Perhaps we would all be wise to see the body and mind as one and cease with the shaming of people on public forums and just stick to factual and logical arguments. Doing so does not keep us from thinking what we want to think about another person, but for many, myself included, a little more restraint might be better served than a good insult. Of course, it might be nice if we could convince the Mad Tweeter in the Oval Office to lead by example. Maybe we will in 2020.
Photos are YouTube screenshots
Top photo: President Trump golfing
Jim is a life long resident of California and retired school teacher with 30 years in public education. Jim earned his BA in History from CSU Chico in 1981 and his MA in Education from Azusa Pacific University in 1994. He is also the author of Teaching The Teacher: Lessons Learned From Teaching. Jim considers himself an equal opportunity pain in the ass to any political party, group, or individual who looks to profit off of hypocrisy. When he is not pointing out the conflicting words and actions of our leaders, the NFL commissioner, or humans in general, he can be found riding his bike for hours on end while pondering his next article. Jim recently moved to Camarillo, CA after being convinced to join the witness protection program.