Warning! Rant to follow.
As I work on a blog about women, beauty and being comfortable with our body, a friend sent me a link to a relevant story making news internationally. Apparently, mean girls can take naked photographs of you at the gym and post them publically on the internet for the world to see.
Playboy Playmate, Dani Mathers, who I’d never heard of before, was at the gym and posted a nude picture with a snide comment about a woman she thought was overweight. (Note: the link above will take you to a news clip, not the photograph.) I was torn about writing this post because I thought it might be a reason people stop going to the gym. I’m more irate about the invasion of privacy than the body shaming. The fact that one human being would do this to another is egregiously disturbing.
I’d like to think Mathers somehow lost sight of what she was doing. I worry that with the internet a mistake, albeit an awful one, can be an error someone can never recover from. I know Mathers is not the victim or the person I should be worried about, but it makes me want to be careful with my words so as not to stoop to Mathers level in any way. I think of the words of George W. Bush last week at the Dallas Police Memorial Service, “Too often we judge other groups by their worst example while judging ourselves by our best intentions.” I never thought I’d choose to quote Bush, and I truly like to believe that I would never do what Mathers has done. I don’t think most of us would. Still, the words are a good reminder as I embark on a rant about body shaming.
This is not the first time I’ve seen body shaming. I’ve had friends on Facebook (people that I like for real in life) post random pictures of a stranger and poke fun of her poor choice of clothing for her body type. It was the first time I considered unfriending a person, but ultimately, I don’t put enough stock in Facebook. Body shaming reflects poor character and actual lack of self-esteem on the part of the shamer. More often than not in life I’ve learned that mean people don’t like themselves much. That’s not an excuse to be mean. It doesn’t make that behavior okay, but it can make me feel better at the end of the day if I ever have to interact with someone who behaves cruelly.
Based off pictures, I’m guessing that Mathers has had some work done on certain parts of her body. I’m torn on this issue, mostly because unnecessary surgery terrifies me. But I’m not against plastic surgery. If you are okay with the process, and it really makes you feel better, and you can afford it, and you trust the doctor, I’m not going to knock it. I’ve seen plastic surgery provide women real confidence and that makes me happy for them. I’ve also seen it not work and then reduce confidence. I’ve seen how much women torment themselves over what they see as a flaw in their body, so if we have a medical procedure that can make someone feel better, I sometimes think that is a miracle. But what has always concerned me about plastic surgery is that at the route, it seems to state that there is something about your body that you dislike so much that you have to change it with surgery (never an easy, risk-free process). Mathers basically body shamed herself, assuming she has had surgery. She didn’t think her own body was good enough at one point in time.
So if you’ve ever felt shamed by her, recognize that she was so unhappy with her body she let someone cut her open to make changes. I just wish people could like and be happy with the body they have. I’m working on this myself. It’s hard when we are bombarded with images that suggest we are “supposed” to look like Mathers. But if to look like her you had to be the kind of person that would post a private picture of an unsuspecting naked woman on the internet, would it be worth it? Physical beauty truly is only skin deep.
At the end of your day if you can say you were kind to someone, made someone laugh, encouraged someone, helped someone solve a problem, came to someone’s aid, or inspired someone you should feel good about yourself. All that matters so much more than how you look. And if you did one of those things, I guarantee you, you looked pretty good to the person you helped.
Nicole Henry from Hebron, Connecticut took this upsetting case of body-shaming and has been inspiring women with her Facebook post in a two-piece bathing suit. You don’t have to post a picture of yourself anywhere to counter-act Mathers message. Maybe today, maybe every day this week, you can find a moment in your day to make someone feel better about themselves. You can spread a positive message. And I’m confident it will be more powerful than the negative one Mathers started.
The naked woman from the gym is strong. She is working out. I hope she doesn’t stop. She made a choice to do something healthy for her body. Be inspired by her. Go for a walk. Go to the gym. Move because it makes you feel good. Move because it’s good for your heart, your joints, your spine, your sanity. Move because it heals you; not because you feel you have to look like an unachievable ideal of a woman that doesn’t really exist.
Move today. Move with a friend. And tell them something great. Tell yourself something great. Be inspired by Nicole Henry, not Dani Mathers.