Brace yourselves, people of the Internet: Someone has posted
an attractive photo of herself online! The nerve of that woman! Quickly, let's
rush to our screens so we can complain about being forced to look at this
unspeakably horrible image.
Oh, I'm sorry, is that not what we're supposed to do? I
couldn't tell, based on the way so many people act these days.
The field of body shaming has become increasingly
complicated in recent years. It started with the "fat shaming" of
women who dared to publicly flaunt bodies above a juniors size three; now it
has grown to encompass women who are perceived to be too busty, too
bootylicious, too flat-reared, too obnoxiously healthy, too short, too tall,
too slender, too … anything.
Take the case of Australian model Erin McNaught for example.
The photo she posted of her rockin' post-baby bod, taken when her son was just
four weeks old, blew up on Instagram last week.
The controversy? While many of her fans were supportive, the
requisite Internet trolls (who seep out of the webwork any time they feel an
unsolicited criticism is warranted, which is always) predictably swooped in to
tag her with the usual body-shaming labels: Unrealistic. Unhealthy. Bad
Frankly, with all the fat shaming and skinny shaming and "I can't believe your abs are already flat after you had a baby" shaming and "I can't believe you're flaunting your saggy postpartum belly" shaming, I can't
keep track of which female body shape is wrong anymore!
Apparently all of them.
The reasons for body shaming usually fall under the
"That body sets an unrealistic example for other
Is it realistic for you or me? Maybe, maybe not, but at no point did she suggest that we should look like her.
For those who say results like McNaught's are unrealistic, I
guess the best thing to do is point out that the definition of
"realistic" is "represented in a way that's accurate or true to life."
I hate to break this to anyone who doesn't like it, but this
is what McNaught's body looks like, in real life. To the best of my knowledge,
it isn't Photoshopped or airbrushed. Are we all models? Nope. Are we all former
Miss Universe Australia contestants? Uh-uh. Are we all engaged in a profession
in which it's our JOB to be trim and work out and have flat abs within weeks of
giving birth? No, thank goodness.
So are these postpartum results realistic? Well, for a
person who was in fantastic shape beforehand, continued to exercise and eat
healthy foods throughout her pregnancy, and worked diligently to regain her
pre-pregnancy body after delivery, apparently so—because these are her
results. Calling them unrealistic doesn't even make sense. Is it realistic for
you or me? Maybe, maybe not, but at no point did she suggest that we should
look like her. That's a message the haters projected all by themselves.
"That woman has her priorities mixed up."
If a woman makes her health and self-esteem a priority after
she has a baby, obviously she must be selfishly neglecting her child and
devaluing her role as a mother, right? So let me ask the body shamers this: If
four weeks postpartum is too soon, what's the approved amount of time a woman
should wait before giving a crap about her body again? Six months? 10 years?
What if the kid is leaving for college; can mom think about herself then?
Here's a news flash: Women can take care of themselves and
their children. At the same time. We're pretty awesome like that.
"I'm just concerned; that can't be healthy."
This one is lavished on women of almost any size, as if you
can tell just by looking at someone whether or not they eat a balanced diet and
get regular checkups or eat glazed donuts while jogging on the treadmill. You
know what I can tell just by looking? That it's none of my business. I can also
tell that the phony concern is just an excuse, a thin veil to toss over a
"Images like this make women feel bad about
Every woman is shaped differently. Every woman has
challenges she deals with, emotionally and physically, regardless of her size.
If someone has a problem with how some other woman's body compares to her own,
that's entirely on them. Stop looking. Stop judging. Stop comparing. If I
constantly worried about the fact that I don't look like McNaught, I'd never
muster the strength to get out of bed in the morning.
Luckily, what she looks like doesn't have anything to do