The War on Snarking; or, Why You Shouldn’t Give a Damn
Ladies and gentlemen, it’s that time again – wherein I go on about body image. Yes, again.
You might’ve spotted a bit of a furore in the papers lately, because Lady Gaga has gained some weight. She’s apparently gained 25lbs, in a move which has shocked people-who-should-have-more-important-things-to-think-about across the globe. Now, this is Lady Gaga we’re talking about. Here’s the woman herself in a 2009 music video:
I’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for Gaga – I think she makes compulsive watching, and she’s mad as a box of frogs, which is something I – for some reason – rather identify with. Plus, the whole ‘Born This Way’ idea – I love that. Because I love pretty much anything that promotes loving yourself. It’s my kryptonite.
Now, let’s talk about this 25lbs. Here she is a few days ago, in a photo she released a few days ago in response to people who are calling her “fat” now:
I’d like us all to take a moment to put this into some perspective. This, apparently, is fat. This, apparently, is 25lbs too heavy. Amazingly, this is the supposedly disgusting result of being happy, and eating actual food.
‘Scuse me while I go throw up in sheer horror.
This sort of thing makes me so depressed, I just want to throw blankets over all my mirrors and live in the dark.
I only have a very limited experience of this whole ‘public eye’ thing, from my recent foray into some of the UK papers for my weight loss – in a story which, I think, kind of missed the point. I made the news for losing weight, in an article that really was just about weight loss – the complete opposite of everything this blog sets out to be about. That said, though, I’m grateful for the opportunity to get out there – because if one more person clicks through to the blog, and manages to take anything positive away from it, then I’m happy. So that’s not a big issue. I’ll take the hit on that one.
Now, I’m pretty familiar with the internet. And having seen people from Beyonce to Rihanna to various Victoria’s Secret models called fat, ugly, or whatever in comment boxes across this crazy land, I knew that when these articles went out, the worst thing I could possibly do would be to read the comments. ‘Cause let me say this as loudly, and as clearly, as I possibly can – I am still overweight. I’ve never made any secret of the fact that I still have a way to go. I’ve got a big ass, I have stretch marks, I have some cellulite – I am nowhere even close to “perfect”. And honestly, I couldn’t care less. I’m happy with myself – because I look considerably better than I did at 290lbs, I’m healthy, and – screw it – I have bits about me that are pretty damn good.
That said, if you could see my hair today, you’d probably question that last bit. Whatever.
Anyway, as a great poet once said, “haters gon’ hate”, and hate they did. I didn’t break and read the comments, but other people did – and I’ve been asked my thoughts on them a few times since. Or, not so much asked my thoughts, as asked if I’m okay with it – which leads me to conclude that some of them will have been pretty damn grim. I’ve been read a few ‘choice’ ones, and as I’m near enough made of teflon at this point, I wasn’t so much offended as just… Surprised. Almost impressed that I’d had enough impact to make someone take the time to put it into writing – whether good, or bad.
And when I say I wasn’t offended – I don’t mean it doesn’t hurt a little when you read something like that. No matter what point you get to in the quest for positive body image, you still get a bit of a sting from it. But the difference is knowing whether to care. Whether to take it seriously, dwell on it, grow a complex and end up obsessed with it, or whether to throw two fingers up to it and tell the little voices in your head to shut the hell up. Fortunately, I’ve got the international language of ‘meh’ nailed, so when I say it doesn’t bother me – it really doesn’t. I’ve made that decision not to care, so it’s not me we need to worry about here.
The people we do need to worry about are everywhere. Girls, boys, young, old – everyone’s got something they don’t like about themselves. And if we keep talking crap about each other, we’re going to end up with eating disorders – including obesity – and other body issues tearing us all apart. I’ve used these statistics to illustrate this point before, but I think they bear repeating:
- 60% of adults are ashamed of the way they look.
- 70% of adult women and 40% of adult men have felt pressure from television and magazines to have the perfect body.
- 34% of adolescent boys and 49% of adolescent girls have been on a diet to change their body shape or weight.
- 42% of girls and young women feel that the most negative part about being female is the pressure to look attractive.
- One third of men would sacrifice a year of their life to have the perfect body.
This is depressing – and it’s something we could all stop, if we made the conscious decision to.
I said in an interview last week with Adrian Goldberg on BBC WM – who, I might add, asked some great questions, and you can listen to the full interview here – that part of the thing I’d had to do to be able to take control of my weight, and my own attitude to my body, was to just step back from the snarking culture. I’ve touched on this before – right around the time when, by some miracle, Kate Upton was being described as ‘fat’ much like Gaga above. It’s how I ended up considering myself a feminist.
When we get into the habit of using that self-defence mechanism of ‘she looks fat, her hair is awful, she’s got a zit’ we’re only really damaging our own sense of self-esteem – because it’s only fair to have the underlying assumption in the back of your mind that the people around you are doing exactly the same thing about your flaws. Whereas not doing it? I’ve been trying to keep out of this snarky business for a while now – and I can safely say that I spend most of my time assuming that I look amazing and everyone else is in awe of me, because I’m so focused on being amazed by the gorgeousness of the people I see every day.
It’s a mindset adjustment, and one that is pretty much at odds with the diet industry, the celeb culture, and the weight loss world that I’m getting into – because all these things function on the premise that we’re all conscious of our own, and other people’s flaws. If we were all happy with ourselves, these things wouldn’t exist.
Step back from that. Join me in not giving a damn about what you look like, or what anyone else looks like, and things will be better for everyone. Join me in giving someone else a compliment each and every day, and you’ll feel better about yourself too. Join me in stopping the ridiculous war of bitching and snarking, and let’s focus on being healthy and happy.
Who’s with me? *waves flag*