Body Bashing Part Three: Making a Difference

body bashing

The last two blogs discussed girls’ and women’s propensity to body bash ourselves and each other as well as the flip side of bashing, dealing with compliments. Readers were challenged both weeks to make some changes to how we communicate. This last segment on body bashing will address the concerns about mass media in creating negative body images.

Inevitably, a participant in Esteem’s body image training will bring up the role of media in negatively impacting the body image of girls and women. Everyone is quite comfortable blaming the media for eating disorders and our negative body image issues in general, and I agree that the role of media is a powerful one. The documentary Killing Us Softly takes a critical look at the use of women’s bodies in advertising and the negative impact on girls and women. But it is important to understand that the media isn’t something “out there,” or apart from us. It both constructs and responds to ideas circulating in a culture. Sitcoms depicting women characters whose humor is related to despair over their bodies are more popular than sitcoms about smart and funny female friendships for a reason: we live in and continue to create a culture that responds to this obsession with negative female body image.

There are several things we can do to deal with the negative impact of media on our lives:

  1. Let companies know when you don’t like the way they are marketing their product.
  2. Stop watching commercials
  3. Don’t buy products that objectify women’s bodies in their advertising
  4. Increase the media literacy of those around you

But ultimately, the most important thing you can do is change the conversation. In the 1940s and 1950s, domestic violence was a source of humor in sitcoms. It doesn’t fly as humorous anymore because the conversation about violence at home changed. We can all start a practice today that has the power to cause positive change. We may not be able to immediately change the direction of mass media, but each of us is absolutely the only person responsible for what comes out of our mouths. So let’s all start there.

Healthy Minds, Healthy Bodies always concludes with three challenges to the participants. I’m presenting you with the same challenges:

  1. Don’t gossip about other people’s physical appearance, and banish critical thoughts along those lines as well: after all, who cares? You? Is that the best use of your intellect?
  2. Cease and desist all negative self-talk about your own body.
  3. Just say “Thank you” when someone gives you a compliment.

Can you commit to that for 66 days starting today? If so, it could become a lifetime habit. How healthy it would be to turn self-talk from negative to positive.

The next time someone starts critiquing a friend’s hair, clothes, or body, what would it be like to respond with a positive comment about that person instead of joining in on the verbal abuse? Better yet, call it what it is: petty body bashing and a waste of time!

The next time a friend complains about her body, don’t get sucked in. Instead, tell her she’s focused on the wrong thing and compliment her intelligence, her wit, her drive, her loyalty… you get the idea.

And when someone compliments you, pause, take it in, and just say “Thank you.”

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