Could Moms Be the Biggest Reason for Body Shaming?

Survey: 90 percent of Americans say they've been shamed for their appearance.

Posted Apr 24, 2018

FitRated/Body Shamed Survey
Source: FitRated/Body Shamed Survey

Body shaming is far from new; however social media and the Internet have greatly magnified it. From fat shaming to skinny shaming to belly shaming and more, there is not a body part that doesn't experience some form of abuse online.

In a new survey by FitRated titled "Body Shamed," 90 percent of Americans surveyed admitted to having experienced body shaming at least once in their lifetime. 

No one gets a pass.

Women in Hollywood are routinely criticized for looking too old — or for turning to extreme plastic surgery to stay young. They are shamed for being too heavy (think Melissa McCarthy and Rebel Wilson), for being too thin (like Tara Reid and Keira Knightley), or even for having, allegedly, recently eaten a hamburger (like Selena Gomez and Kelly Clarkson).

CNN’s website has launched a running slideshow of celebrities who have been body shamed, which as of this writing stands at 29 and counting.

Who's shaming whom?

Over half of the women surveyed in the "Body Shamed" study (63 percent) said they'd been body shamed by their mothers, while parents may not be fully aware of how their words are impacting their children. In another survey, 1 in 3 kids admitted to feeling fat shamed by their parents through inappropriate comments about their weight or appearance.

While some women may turn to comfort from their friends, according to the survey, 62 percent say it's sometimes those closest to them who cause them to feel less than good about themselves. Sadly it isn't only friends, but also includes grandparents, teachers, and employers.

Women insult each other digitally.

And technology now affords us the luxury of being heard, or shamed, globally. 

In June 2014, on her twelfth wedding anniversary, Galit Breen, a Minnesota mommy blogger and mother of three, decided to write a listicle for the Huffington Post titled “12 Secrets Happily Married Women Know.” Along with the article, she included a few photos of herself on her wedding day. Galit had never before publicly posted the photos of her younger, heavier self. But she felt that these wedding day shots portrayed her happiness, the glowing bride and groom, so she sent them along to her editor.

Galit knew “never to read the comments,” but she checked in on HuffPo’s Facebook page anyway to see the reaction her words of wisdom were getting. Once she did, she couldn’t look away, refreshing the page over and over.

“One thing you didn’t learn is ‘don’t marry a heifer,’” lobbed one critic.

“WE GET IT!” commented another. “Huffnpuff…you love fat women…we get it…enough is enough.”

"People weren’t commenting about marriage or weddings or my article or my writing,” Galit continues, “What they were commenting on is how fat I looked in my wedding dress…When I read those words, I was really devastated. I only showed them to my husband, because I was also ashamed and embarrassed. But because I didn’t tell anyone, I was also very much alone. I cut myself off from both my online and in-person support systems. I couldn’t get past the shame of it, the embarrassment. I think I was depressed. It took me a few months to pull myself out."

Eventually, Galit realized she had a choice: "Keep on being depressed, or find a way to speak up." That fall she penned a response piece titled "It Happened to Me: I Wrote an Article about Marriage, and All Anyone Noticed Is That I'm Fat," which went viral quickly. Galit Breen was soon featured on The Today Show and in Time magazine for her courage and tenacity in facing fat shaming head on. 

Ending body bashing

In the midst of the empowerment messages spread by the #MeToo movement, it's disappointing to discover that our closest friends and family are using their words to make other women feel badly about themselves. Although some people may do this intentionally, there are those that might be unaware of how their words are impacting others. 

5 ways to be self-aware of online body shaming

1. If you wouldn't say it offline, it doesn't belong online. Being called fat or chunky is never polite.

2. There's a difference between clever and cruel. Jokes (especially those concerning body types) can be misconstrued on social media. 

3. If your friend (or family member) is asking for an opinion about their appearance, especially if it's on social media, be mindful with your comments.

4. Remind yourself there are filters, Photoshop, and more on social media. People refer to Facebook as "Fakebook" for a reason. Not everything or everyone is what they appear to be. Stop believing in perfection. Talk to your teens about this, too.

5. Everyone is unique. From our personalities to our bodies, we have one commonality: Words can hurt, especially when they are aimed at us from ones we love. Let's use our keystrokes with care and be upstanders when we witness digital discourse.

The Body Shamed survey concluded that the mocking Americans endure over their weight or appearance mainly comes from the people in their personal lives. Isn't it time we end the body bashing?

Facebook image: riggleton/Shutterstock