I was fooled. I thought that since body shaming had been brought to the mainstream and awareness was being brought to the negative impact it has on people, especially girls and women, society had “woken up” and the practice was no longer publicly acceptable. However, when I posted an article about body/fat shaming on a message board, the responses I received were shocking and heartbreaking. The debates I’ve seen on television justifying why encouraging someone to be repulsed by who they are, repulsed me.
The usual, “fat”, “lazy”, “gross” adjectives are always laced in arguments, all stamped with standard public service announcement of being overweight is just plain “unhealthy.” Well, so is smoking, excessive drinking, smoking crack, emotionally abusing someone, overworking, binge watching Netflix shows, chronic procrastination, however, I never see these topics debated as passionately as weight.
I’ve never seen a before and after photo of a celebrity who entered rehab with the caption “How They Did It.” I’ve never read tweets or social media comments in general attacking a star who smokes cigarettes. Alcoholism is still responsible for more deaths than any of other abusive habit, but I seldom hear public service announcements on the radio urging people to stop drinking so that they can live longer. So, why does body shaming get a pass?
What is shame? Clinical psychologist Gershen Kaufman wrote “Shame is the most disturbing experience individuals ever have about themselves; no other emotion feels more deeply disturbing because in the moment of shame the self feels wounded from within.” Of course, there are times that shame is justified. When a person has acted in a way that has harmed another, shame is an appropriate emotion that lets the person and others know that they are aware and regretful of their behavior. However, that is shame directed at a behavior, not at the person.
The difference between that and fat shaming is the latter type is directed at who someone is. It is toxic, paralyzing meant only to do the worst type of harm. And while it can sometimes work to motivate weight loss, it works for the wrong reasons.
For example, much my motivation for wanting to lose weight has come from wanting to not lose out on parts when I go out for auditions. I am an actress, so weight is a huge issue my industry. One would think that the opportunity to audition for more roles would be motivation enough to help me lose the weight and keep it off. However, it hasn’t been because I didn’t count for one little caveat – life.
My life is more than acting and film-making. Currently, I am not doing much of either because I have a job that absorbs most of my time, I have a dog who just had her third surgery and now I’m trying to figure out how I’m going to pay for it. I am trying to raise money for a slate of digital television series and keep hitting brick walls. I have family members who have medical conditions who need me. All of these obstacles bring on a lot fatigue and sadness and made it much more inviting to reach for the doughnut instead of the apple.
Although I have successfully lost over 50 pounds and have kept it off for over three years through practicing martial arts and working out, based on the current definition of The Body Shamers, I would still be considered fat. I am still considered lazy, although I work almost twelve to sixteen hours a day with my job and on my own projects when I leave work. I am still considered gross by some because I’ve got some extra cushion in my mid section.
They don’t see how often I work out or the muscle definition I’ve developed and maintained, they don’t see how quickly I can take someone down in my martial arts class, they don’t even see how passionate I am about my crafts of acting, writing and producing.
All they see is that I don’t look like them. Let me rephrase that, because many Fat-Shamers are obese and highly imperfect themselves – All they see is that I don’t look like the traditional standards of beauty. And for that reason, they want to punish me and ultimately want me to hate myself.
This is what inspired me to write “An Open Letter to My Body (The Audacity of Fantasy)”. It is my story that I believe other people, especially women, will be able to relate to and encourage them to adopt the spirit of Monique, Queen Latifah, Jill Scott and hashtag queen herself Tess Holliday, in saying, “Eff your beauty standards!”
“An Open Letter to My Body (The Audacity of My Fantasy” premieres Monday, November 23, 2015. Sign up for the “One Chick Army” newsletter to have it emailed to you.