I’ve been thinking a lot this past week with the recent news with Dr. Ford and the #MeToo movement. What is the connection between sexual harassment/sexual assault and body image? Her testimony gave me a visceral reaction and I want to use my platform to speak out. We can’t stay silent about this any longer. I don’t have the answers today. I don’t have 5 tips to share with you. I just want to lay this on the table and have a conversation to get us thinking about how to help other girls and women…and ourselves.
I’ve had plenty of unwanted advances, comments, groping, etc from men over the years. My body has been the center of conversation more times than I can count. As a kid growing up, I was bullied because of my weight. It was never by other girls. It was always by boys. Why were they so obsessed over my body? Why were they SO offended that I was fat? Why did that bother THEM so much?
A lot of my body image issues came from being bullied and being singled out in front of all these people. While all the attention was on me, it made me feel invisible. Like I didn’t matter. I felt worthless. It made me feel separated from my body. I hated it my body for that. I hated that it made me unpopular. I hated it because none of the boys talked about how hot I was. There was a lot of talk about sex and “hot girls” on my school bus. This was MIDDLE SCHOOL for goodness sake! I would feel jealous hearing the boys talk about how hot so-and-so is. Again, I felt invisible and I had my body to blame for it. Or so I thought…
As I started thinking about #MeToo and how it’s related to my body image relationship as a child, I realized how closely connected it all is. The way that I saw my body is because of boys and how they treated me. I made the connection that my body is disgusting because none of the boys like me like the way they talk about the “hot girls.”
My body image and validation was coming from the way boys (and later men) treated me. I think a lot of us as women have done this without realizing or recognizing it. This is the culture that we’ve been living in and not many people have questioned it. The #MeToo Movement is bringing a lot of this out into the light for the first time.
We shrug these comments off and just say this is the way it is, boys will by boys, etc. As a society, we tend to only associate sexual “trauma” as rape. That is clear in the comments surrounding Dr. Ford’s testimony. So many disgusting comments like “She wasn’t raped. She was groped. Get over it.” I imagine that comment would be different if a man was held down by two other men who attempted to rape him. They ask why women haven’t come forward or why it’s taken XX years. Because of comments like this! Because the survivor is the one who is crucified for “ruining the life of a good man.”
As I got older and shed my awkwardness and became a woman, (a curvy woman at that!) I started getting more attention. Different attention. This time it was quite the opposite. I got so many comments from older men when I was only 16/17. GROSS!
As much as it was disgusting (and quite frankly illegal), there was a sick part of me that enjoyed that type of attention. I got my validation from men. That’s how I knew I was pretty. That’s how I knew my body must be good enough. I went many years carrying around the message that my body was disgusting because the boys told me so. This was quite the opposite of what I was used to. I was getting what I thought was positive attention because my body was now seen as desirable. Talk about a conflicting message in my 17 year old brain!!!
What has me so angry lately is that all of this behavior is stuff we’ve just accepted as normal. We have been living by these unspoken/unwritten “rules” that this is just what women have to deal with because we are women. I’m here on the podcast today to call bullshit on this. We don’t have to live like this anymore. We need to call these assholes out.
What is the Connection Between the #MeToo Movement and Body Image?
So back to my original question. The way that we view our body and the #MeToo movement is so closely connected. We as women have been taught that we are here to be sexual objects for men. We should be thankful for getting hit on…but yet the line between a compliment and sexual harassment is blurred and in most cases non-existent. That way of thinking was solidified for me early on because of the attention I got about my body.
This is an epidemic right now. I had a lot to unpack in this episode and get off my chest. I can say it better than I can write it, so I encourage you to go listen to the episode. I’m going to summarize some of the key points here.
- Body image isn’t about pleasing men.
- Have we remained silent about our #MeToo stories because we think our bodies ARE for the enjoyment of men?
- Have we kept our stories private because we are ashamed of our body? Do we think people will tell us to be thankful for that attention to compensate for our less than perfect body?
- Are we ashamed to speak out because part of us liked the attention but were not sure what to do when it turned devious?
- If we had higher confidence and a positive body image, would the #MeToo movement be this large?
- If we instilled into our daughter’s that they are worth more than being just a pretty face and hot body would the #metoo movement be this insidious?
- If we taught boys that women are equal, would the movement be this big?
- How do we embrace our femininity and sexiness?
- Dressing up, wearing makeup, getting our hair done, and wanting to look irresistible isn’t about men or impressing someone else.
- We can be feminine, sexy, strong, powerful, and have a voice.
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