(WOMENSENEWS) –In our society, girls are told that every indulgence will make them unattractive and unlovable. When I go out to eat with my girlfriends and the dessert comes, there is always someone who says, “Ugh, I can’t eat that. I’m too fat.”
Immediately, another well-meaning friend jumps in with, “You’re not fat, you’re so beautiful!” Or, “You’re not fat; you’re so thin!” This is just one example of how our society supports the notion that fat is bad, especially when it comes to girls and women. Forget the media—the people we surround ourselves with have all been conditioned to believe that being fat is an insult and that you cannot be both fat and beautiful.
This negativity can serve as grounds for a full-blown body-shaming bash. Some girls may be unaffected by such talk, but others who are facing their own body image difficulties may feel self-conscious and start to think twice about what they are eating. Overall, it creates a negative vibe toward food and women’s bodies.
I asked a couple of friends who range between their mid-teens and mid-twenties about when they first felt “hit” with society’s idea of beauty. One person mentioned they first became aware of beauty after dressing up like a Disney princess and being told they didn’t look the part.
Others said they were heavily influenced by looking at magazines lying around their house or at the doctor’s office where they were bombarded with tips on becoming healthier and getting rid of “problem areas” on their bodies. In fact, an article written in Psychology Today called “I See Fat People” reported that nearly one-quarter of nurses admitted to feeling repulsed by their obese patients. More disturbingly, the research also found that defendants in lawsuits who are overweight are more likely to get slapped with a guilty verdict.
But there are also those who are fighting to combat such talk, like recording artist Mary Lambert. Last year, ELLE magazine published an article about her called “The Mary Lambert Guide to Body Acceptance.” More articles like this need to be featured in magazines instead of pieces like “10 Ways to Become Fabulous, Not Fat.”
Lambert also wrote a spoken word poem on the subject of body acceptance called “Body Love.” Lambert says, “I know girls who are trying to fit into the social norm, like squeezing into last year’s prom dress… It’s never easy to accept that our bodies are fallible and flawed, but when do we draw the line?” The poem starts out with her criticizing her body, but then her language changes into lines like, “Take your hands over your bumpy, loved naked body.”
Thinness in girls and women has come to symbolize strength, discipline, hard work and power. To society, fat symbolizes laziness, lack of ambition and lack of self-control, when really all it means is just excess tissue. As girls, we should empower each other, not obsess over our bodies. We should all take a cue from Lambert and stand up to negative fat talk in our daily lives.