The other day on FB, I saw a meme going around with an image of an overweight gal in a bikini and her rolls created a “smiley face” – two deep indents for the eyes, and a large indent across her lower belly with the caption “When the tacos were so good they made your belly smile”
And it pissed me off.
The biggest thing was that I knew the gal – or at least I follow her on IG. Her name is Michelle Elman and she’s undergone some horrible medical issues since a baby. She’s had something like 15 surgeries and I think she’s only 23 years old! And it’s these scars that cause the deep indents in her tummy. I commented on it – because there was a good handful of negative comments about her body being in a bikini – saying who she was and the medical issues she’s been through and maybe think twice about laughing at people.
And then, of course, people start commenting on my comment – how she shouldn’t be in a bikini if she doesn’t want negative comments, etc. There’s always going to be people making snide comments… but WHY? Why do people feel the need to laugh, shame, make fun of – and BULLY people for being different. Whether it’s their weight or a medical abnormality, skin color, religion – whatever! WHY do people do this?
I then had people tell me not to take things too seriously. I’m sorry? Taking a stand against people using someone else’s body as a joke? The photo, likely taken without her permission, being the cause of laughter? I’m sorry, but why shouldn’t I take this seriously? Why shouldn’t I take a stand against that? Sure, it wasn’t malicious like some recent meme’s I’ve seen come across social media, but this is how we become desensitized to it. The more we see memes like this and think “it’s not that bad”, as they become worse and more cruel, the more normalized it becomes and we turn a blind eye to it.
The only thing we need to normalize about her picture is the fact that every BODY deserves respect.
And I think this is why – or one of the reasons – sexual assault/misconduct is such a problem. Things are said and joked about and it’s laughed at, shrugged off, “boys will be boys”, “oh, I was just joking”, “lighten up” and then we wonder when things got SO bad!? It’s because we’ve become desensitized to disrespectful behaviour that no one stood up for SO long that things were allowed to carry on well past acceptable behaviour – and now we’re trying to back pedal and get it out of work culture. And I think if there was more power equality in the work place, people would be more likely to speak up and speak out but most keep quiet because “I didn’t want to make trouble”, “I couldn’t afford to lose my job”, “who would believe me?”. I think people would be shocked and alarmed at the amount of inappropriate comments and behaviour that happens in the work place if there wasn’t fear of being reprimanded.
I saw an undercover video of a young woman in an office who was being harassed by her boss. His mother was watching this footage – I believe it was a family business – live footage as it was happening. A couple of times the mother said “I don’t see anything wrong with this”, and “well, look at what she’s wearing?” – she was wearing a conservative outfit appropriate for an office environment. His own mother was condoning his behaviour and blaming the girl for his behaviour! Thankfully, as the video went on, her tune changed because his behaviour became worse and completely deplorable. The mother eventually stormed into the office and confronted her son at his behaviour.
We cannot turn a blind eye to behaviour we deem inappropriate – without victim blaming!
“She shouldn’t wear a bikini if she doesn’t want negative comments”
“If she doesn’t want the attention, she should cover up”
“Look at the underwear she was wearing” (which I believe a judge actually said to a teenage girl who was raped!!!)
“A fat girl shouldn’t wear certain clothing”
No! No, no, no, no, NO! All these thing are one thing and one thing only – the lack of respect of the individual. It shouldn’t matter how the woman dresses, acts, or if she’s inebriated. Being drunk isn’t consent. Just because you wouldn’t do or wear something doesn’t mean other women shouldn’t. Every person has the right to wear whatever they wish without fear of repercussion – unless it goes against a specific dress code – such as no open toed shoes in a kitchen, heels over a certain height, skirts a certain length, etc. This is usually around a school, place of work, or worship. These restrictions are typically spelled out in writing.
Even being in the military, hair has to be worn a certain way with restrictions on color, no nail polish, minimal makeup, heels a certain height – even the type of purse we’re allowed while in uniform! When we’re in civilian clothing it needs to be conservative – and I’m not allowed to wear sleeveless shirts at work even in civilian attire as someone took offense to one of my tattoos – even though it doesn’t go against tattoo policy.
It’s about respect; respect for others opinions, body, appearance, feelings, lifestyle, differences… you may not agree with it, but you have no right to force your thoughts, feelings – or yourself – onto another person. Ever. There’s no excuse for it. I see plenty of people out there who hide behind their computers and body shame others – more so to those overweight, but it does happen to those who are underweight. People need to stop veiling their body shaming as concern for their health. You don’t give a shit about their health! If they were to die tomorrow, it wouldn’t affect you! Yeah, I know – harsh, but it’s to get a point across – their decisions have absolutely zero impact on your life so STFU! This can be about how they dress, what they eat, where they live, their religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, their skin color… the list can go on!
So, yeah – if someone is getting laughed at because of something – especially if it’s behind their back, without their knowledge, and at their expense – I’m not going to sit back and let it happen! If they’re creating it, sharing it, and laughing about it, that’s one thing! No one should have to put up with that type of disrespect! We need to create safe spaces where people can express themselves without fear of judgement, ridicule, or prejudice.
The world would be so much better for it.