SisterHub Founder Helen Rutherford-Gregory talks about the damage fat shaming yourself on social media can do to your friends who read it.
On 24th June SisterHub will be joined by Emi Howe who will speak to us about her project Bod Equality. Emi Howe is expert in the field of diverse body image. She hosts workshops and events through her initiative - BodEquality, acting as an educator from a grass roots level up to corporate change-makers, offering Diversity in Branding Consultations:
‘My work focusses on factors influencing the body disconnect, and why 90% of women and growing numbers of men are unhappy with their bodies. From social media to internet shopping, weight-loss challenges to legislation, my research takes in the academic world, the current market, cultural trends and personal shifts. I have a particular interest in what brands might sell at a subconscious level and how that can be harnessed into healthier messaging and added value for the customer.’
Many of you who know me will know that I'm a massive believer in this concept. I recently took part in a photo shoot for a local gym. All about diversity and different body types. I'm proud of who I am, plus size, fat, curvy, however you want to describe me. It was scary to have my picture taken and confidence is a fragile thing. It becomes more fragile the further out on that limb you go.
So many times recently I've been scrolling through social media and spotted someone fat shaming themselves. Someone posting a picture of themselves two years ago, maybe a size 14 and they're now a size 10, laughing and mocking their old selves for being 'huge'. Pregnant women describing themselves as hippos and gross fat whales. Men describing themselves in an awful way because they've gained a little weight.
This self shaming isn't just SELF shaming, it impacts on others who read it. The worst thing about social media is that you're always totally unprepared for it when it hits, like being smacked around the chops with one of those awful videos of animal abuse or violence in a war zone that keep you awake at night. The comments about how disgusting my friend thinks they are because they've gained a stone, (when I know I'm way more overweight than that) don't just make me feel sad that my friends aren't confident in themselves, they drop messages into my consciousness that I'm not good enough and that I maybe don't own the right to my confidence.
It takes a few minutes to gather myself after this. To shake the feeling that these friends might look at me with the same level of disgust that they feel when looking at themselves. I do gather myself though, despite it becoming harder each time. I've also unfollowed repeat offenders as a means of self protection.
Fat shaming is everywhere. I've been screamed at from cars, like a drive by shooting, screaming at you as you stand alone, waiting for a lift, damaging your armour. I've been slowly looked up and down by women in bathrooms. I've been laughed at and ignored. I've had to work twice as hard to get noticed as my slimmer counterparts and I've been pointed and sniggered at by groups in bars on nights out when I've made that extra effort to look beautiful.
The thing I have to remember though, each and every time, is that this is a commentary on their own self confidence. They lack this one beautiful thing I can hold precious and near and despite mine being patched and scarred and knitted together with my own pain and tears, it isn't just a shield, it's a spring board I bounce off and it enables me to enjoy my life regardless of what's thrown at me, because I know I'm fucking ace at repairing it when it's shot. That spring board means I jump higher than those people carrying the weight of their own self hatred.
My confidence is my beautiful patchwork quilt, others have added to it, my Sisters, my family, my husband, my friends. They see me as golden. They see me. They see everything I am and that is exactly what I am. I'm everything, not just a body shape. I'm a sum of my parts, all of them, even the beautifully wobbly ones.
So please, think twice next time you're about to post a picture of a lovely cake you're about to eat and call yourself a fat pig, even if it's a joke, it can wound some people. Think about the younger girls who haven't even a shred of yarn to start knitting their quilt of armour next time you share a picture of a celebrity who has gained weight and call them gross. Think about the women who are shutting themselves away from the world because of their own personal shame. Be positive.