Body Shaming: The Statistics and Effects
Summer is coming – and you know what that means. Yup, the magazines filled with juxtaposed articles on “how to get the perfect beach body” alongside “love yourself” are a-coming. Body shaming examples are growing by the day and – even though everyone agrees it’s wrong – for some reason, the need to be cruel about others is just as enticing as ever. The results? One in eight adults have suicidal thoughts or feelings, due to how they feel about their body.
The latest body shaming statistics show that roughly one in five people felt “disgusted” by their body over the past year. In teenagers, this number rises to 31% of individuals feeling shame, when it comes to their body image. This is absolutely heartbreaking. But, of course, it doesn’t just come down to the fat/thin debate. Currently, bodyshaming runs the full gamut and nobody is immune.
What is Body Shaming?
The body shaming definition surrounds humiliating an individual due to how their body looks. It doesn’t just cover somebody’s weight. Indeed, it includes everything about a person that makes them individual. Whether that is something you’re born with, like a birthmark, or something environmental, like a scar. Similarly, bone structure, stretchmarks and even the kind of hair you have or like to style it into, all fall under this umbrella term.
As such, bullying and body shaming go hand-in-hand – and many of us remember these feelings from growing up. As a teenager, it’s hard enough trying to cope with, well, being a teenager – but, as soon as someone is cruel to us… Well, it can make us feel just as small and insignifcant as we did back then.
You’d think that actually aging and experiencing a little of the world would improve the mentality of bullies over time. Sadly, it appears that some bullies simply never grew up. Instead, they became empowered by the anonymity that being online offers them.
This act of shaming others for their body leads to severe mental health disorders – and many of these link directly to the victims self-worth. These days, cyberbulling and body shaming seem to go hand-in-hand – because the anonymity of the internet provides a sense of deindivudation. In other words, people lose their sense of conscience and morality, because they believe they will be lost in a sea of faces. As such, they feel that they can be as cruel as they like.
Naturally, in a world where everything is now online, this is the heart of the problem.
Lack of consequences from general nasty-mindedness gives people false confidence. This, along with a sense of entitlement and a belief that all opinions are equal to facts, leads to people to (forgive my Northern Britishness) spouting their mouth off where it doesn’t belong.
To anyone who is currently dealing with this, I have to say – you’re bloody beautiful. Young, old, male, female or anywhere in between. You are what makes you wonderful and bizarre in the best way. And you might feel awkward or straggly, or any one of the range of depersonalising emotions that have you feeling as though your body and mind don’t align. And that’s completely OK. But don’t let anyone else make you feel like you aren’t amazing in your own uniquely odd, specifically-beautiful way.
How Does Body Shaming Affect Mental Health?
It’s important to note that the results of body shaming can be serious. Even as you get older and more confident in your body, there’s a lasting effect to having people comment on your body, regularly. Sadly, there are many with feelings of suicidal ideation (wanting to self-harm and commit suicide), as well as increasing anxiety.
The results of body shaming stem from not wanting to wear a bikini at the beach, because you have concerns about what it looks like. All the way through to developing full-blown social phobia. Of course, this is not to mention that eating disorders and body shaming are so closely linked that they’re practically being hosted by Anne Robinson.
As well as the issues that come with body shaming immediately, there are those illnesses which appear over time, too. Those with body dysmorphia, for example, note that they have been subject to bullying and body shaming in their past. There are also problems ranging from OCD (for example, needing to change clothes frequently), PTSD (from severe bullying), and even issues such as dermatillomania (compulsively picking at the skin).
Examples of Body Shaming
I want to be crystal clear when I say this – a person who is obese, according to the Body Mass Index (BMI.), can come under a wide range of different body shapes and types. There are Olympians who are, technically, morbidly obese. There are people who look perfectly healthy who have a wide range of different health needs. And there are people who have dangerously low levels of fat that fall into the “healthy” range.
How you look is absolutely no indication of how healthy you are.
However, these are some of the most frequent reasons why people are suffering from body shaming online. This doesn’t cover all of them – but showcases how there will always be someone who isn’t happy with how you look. Of course, all of these are equally wrong.
People with High Body Fat
Easily the most common one we see – particularly as it’s the go-to for any magazine trying to highlight body shaming. Those with a high percentage of body fat will often fall victim to some of the most intense body shaming on social media.
Go to any influencer’s account who doesn’t fall under the “curvy – but in all the right places” trope and you’ll see bile and hatred in the comments. Of course, this is usually followed by poor pseudo-science about health and wellbeing. Exhausting.
People Who Are (or Aren’t) Muscular
Instagram and body shaming are like two peas in a pod and even the healthiest of us aren’t immune. Women often deal with the brunt of this, being told that “real” women look a certain way. However, both men and women struggle with body image issues as a result of body shaming. And both sets of comments are as full of quack science as the other.
For women, it’s being told that they’re “too muscular”. And, for some reason, being told that they’re not attractive to men when they look this way. For men, it’s being told they’re not muscular enough. Or, that they’re not strong enough. Of course, bodybuilders are built to look the most visually appealing to spectators. Their look has nothing to do with their strength.
Indeed, the strongest men have the thickest “trunks”. This is because their core muscles are well-developed, in order to protect the organs and spine from damage during heavy lifting. The balance across the entirety of the body is what adds to their strength – rather than detracting from it.
One of the worst examples of this, I think we can all agree, is the media’s response to Brendan Fraser’s changes through the years. Best known for playing Rick O’Connell in The Mummy series, this dude got torn apart by the media at the time. And sometimes still gets idiots picking him apart. The thing is, behind-the-scenes, Fraser was dealing with sexual assault and physical problems. Yet, even if he hadn’t been struggling with these things, body shaming would still be an asshole thing to do.
People Who Have Low Body Fat
Of course, the media and body shaming also tie together. Oftentimes, when we see an article on body shaming, the writer compares fat-shaming this with another, skinny body type. Sadly, this usually falls under those whose body fat percentage is lower than the standard. Of course, this in itself is body shaming.
While we should always support those who have eating disorders, many people have a low body fat percentage who are perfectly healthy. For this reason, body shaming thin people is just as ludicrous as body shaming heavier people.
Of course, many people in the comments will pretend that their desire to be outspoken comes from “concern”. Frankly, these beliefs never truly come from a genuine perspective. Indeed, I would argue that this comes people weaponising health as a means to belittle someone. Not to mention it’s monumentally ableist.
What to Say to Someone Who is Body Shaming?
It is undoubtedly hard to face up to anyone who is bullying. But, if you notice someone body shaming another, or are suffering with a bully who is body shaming you, there are steps you can take. If it’s online, and you feel safe to do so, call out the perpetrator. One of the best ways to stamp out body shaming is to make it clear that this kind of bullying and language will not be tolerated. However, to be clear, you should never body shame in retaliation to body-shaming.
For example, there are certain ministers who are clearly monsters. Their policies are awful and they lead to the deaths of hundreds of thousands. But, in anger, it does a disservice to those who died or are dying, to simply go for the low-hanging fruit that is how they look. It actually detracts from your own argument and allows the meaning behind your anger to become lost in anger. Even if the response is a really, really good one.
Instead, we rise to the top. Nobody needs to be mean when calling out body shaming. A simple statement, such as “what you are saying comes across as rude” may often be enough to make someone think twice. Another option is to simply ignore the person who is body shaming. Especially if the person is extremely aggressive. Frankly, nothing you can say will help them to feel better about whatever is causing their anger issues, anyway.
The best thing you can do, however, is to fight back with positivity.
If you see someone being bullied, then tell that person they look amazing, today. If you’re struggling yourself, remember that you’re awesome. That one silly person’s opinions aren’t enough to drag you down. And that’s precisely why they have to work so hard, with such petty tactics, to bring you down. It’s a shame, really. If only they were nicer, eh?