Body shaming all too common

March 21, 2017

Actress Emma Watson has journalist Tara Whitsed.

If the recent saga surrounding Emma Watson and her photo shoot with Vanity Fair magazine indicated anything, it was that women continue to be judged by their bodies and what they choose to do with them.

The actress, who was appointed a United Nations Women’s Goodwill Ambassador in 2014, came under social media scrutiny after posing with her breast partially exposed in the magazine’s March cover story.

Watson, the founder of the #HeForShe gender equality campaign, was accused by several critics of abandoning her feminist values by doing so.

Her response was none other than the Emma Watson we know and love.

‘‘Feminism is about giving women choice,’’ she said in a follow-up television interview.

‘‘Feminism is not a stick with which to beat other women. It’s about freedom, it’s about liberation, it’s about equality.

‘‘I really don’t know what my t***s have to do with it.’’

I couldn’t help but resonate with Watson. I couldn’t help but feel her pain and frustration.

Not because I exposed the underside of my breast in a tasteful photo shoot, but because I’ve experienced hundreds of comments regarding the way I look — and I know I’m not alone.

Since childhood, and more predominantly in my teenage years, I have been on an internal journey to accept the way I look.

Body image is something we probably all struggle with at some stage of our lives and, for me, accepting my body hasn’t always been easy.

I was the girl covered in puppy fat, the girl who always wished she had the same body as the ‘‘sporty chicks’’.

I compared myself to others and held a strong desire to be thinner.

But when my childhood chub finally started to shed, I was no longer faced with my own self-scrutiny, rather the criticism of others.

‘‘She mustn’t be eating,’’ people would tell my mother.

‘‘You’re so skinny,’’ others would say.

‘‘Eat a burger.’’

The comments started to roll in, and just like Watson, I didn’t understand what my weight had to do with anything.

When I could no longer escape the constant barrage of negative feedback about something that had merely happened to my body naturally, I started to put weight back on.

I ate my weight in cheesymite scrolls while working at my local bakery and the kilos began to stack on.

I wanted the comments about how thin I was to stop, but what I had forgotten was just how poorly I felt about myself before losing the puppy fat.

By the time I reached university, I hated the way I looked once again.

It took me about a year to get back to where I wanted to be. One year of extremely hard work.

I exercised three to four times each week. I ate well and I felt great.

But once again, the comments started.

And this time they hurt far worse.

‘‘You need to eat something,’’ they would say.

‘‘My God, you’re so thin.’’

It frustrated me — and continues to frustrate me to this day — that people think it is okay to comment on someone’s weight, even if they are thin.

Perhaps these people don’t realise the impact of what they are saying.

I mean, it’s a compliment to call someone thin, right? Wrong. It hurts. It hurts the same as when someone makes any unwelcome comment about someone else’s appearance. What frustrates me even more is that people make these comments without knowing your family history, without knowing how hard you may have worked to maintain a healthy weight for your body type, and without knowing your diet.

It makes the journey of acceptance — of who you are and the way you look — so much more difficult.

But Watson’s recent comments inspired me.

Women are all created differently. We don’t all have an hourglass curvaceous figure, nor can we all achieve a runway model’s slender and leggy body type.

We need to accept each and every body for how they are created and embrace our uniqueness, not make each other feel like we need to look different.

Watson finished up her post-Vanity-Fair scandal interview by saying she was thrilled about how interesting and beautiful the photographs of her were.

That is the sentiment I will take with me — just how interesting and beautiful each and every one of our bodies are.

Tara Whitsed is a journalist with The News.

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