January 6th, 2013

Bad Attitudes on Body Image in Media and our own words

I think this is a pretty well known issue, Lucia Lorenzi in her "Body Shaming," post has a perfect example of this.  Sometimes such examples are rather obvious, but often such concepts are not so obvious.  Even naturists educated about issues of body shame can make the same mistakes.

First Lucia is absolutely right when she says:
    But there’s something more insidious going on. It’s not just that we, as a society, as producers and consumers of media, and as networks of individuals, are shaming those bodies which are not perfectly toned and fabulously styled: we are waging war on ALL bodies. We are attempting to erase the body (the sensuous, moving, functioning, glorious body) from existence.
The thing is, we are a whole person.  We are both our body and mind - they are inextricably linked.  Our personal self esteem can be linked to how we perceive our own body.  Having a strong body image can improve your personal self confidence.

So while we should strive to get the media and society to stop treating nudism as a joke, we should also more closely examine our own lexicon.  Years ago I saw a story about how some social worker was helping young girls who had been ridiculed for not having "perfect" bodies.  Getting picked on for how your body looks is horrible, it can really bring down your self confidence.  So the worker told these girls a familiar refrain:
    Its not what is on the outside that is important, its what is on the inside.
That message, while true that you as a person should be considered important for your mind, is CONFIRMING the idea that the outside is bad, not worth your time.  It does nothing to change the default social attitude about the "perfect" body.  It may give some temporary relief but its a poison pill.

We need to push a more whole positive person message.  You are great the way you are, body and mind.  That those social perceptions are wrong and need to be changed.

So think about this, how many other things do we say that seem innocuous, but are actually toxic?  Don't be so quick to offer a reassuring message when you have not actually thought about real meaning.