The Ritual of Female Body Shaming

Why do women hate themselves? I’ve asked myself this question many times over the years. This is because it doesn’t seem to matter how old I am I still find myself enduring what I’m going to call personal body shaming. 

From my experience women are masters at public shaming their own body. Exhibit A – two weeks ago I was at a fancy event or at least fancy to me. It was the most dressed up I had been since 2019 and I was feeling very “extra.” I was wearing a new outfit and had used a lash boosting mascara. Two things that don’t happen very often in my world.

As I was visiting with a group of women, some whom I’ve just met, the ritual of public body shaming began. One by one women started talking about their back fat, their stomach pudge and how hard it was to get into their formal wear. Ugh. 

It’s not like I don’t have various “pudges.” There was certainly a lot I could have added to the conversation in that regard but dang it I was feeling good and all the women looked lovely. So why did we have to go down that rabbit hole?

Exhibit B was last week. I was at a pool getting ready to swim laps when several women began the same diatribe. It was all about fat thighs, saggy bottoms and even elbows. Really elbows? Is nothing free from scrutiny and shame? It was all so ludicrous. We were all about to swim laps with our powerful legs and strong arms and yet minutes before we hit the water we had to engage in a self-shaming circle.

None of this is breaking news to me. It’s been a part of my life since forever. As I aged, I had hoped it would lessen as women matured beyond talking about their lack of a thigh gap. But it doesn’t seem to be happening. 

As I swam, I pondered why women engage in public body shaming. I realized that it’s almost a form of greeting and even acts as a conversation starter. I guess talking about your arm jiggles is an excellent ice breaker. 

It also, I think, stems from being raised to be humble. In fact, most women suck at accepting a compliment. If someone tells me I look nice I immediately say thank you and then insult myself. As in, “Oh, thank you so much but you should see me when I’m not wearing Spanx.”

This immediately threw me into a panic. Had I raised my daughter to be me? I want her to be able to accept a compliment with a simple thank you and to not think that shaming her own body is an acceptable form of female communication.

I quickly got her on a Facetime call and grilled her about body shaming. Her curt reply was, “No Mom I don’t willingly insult myself in a group setting.”

I then asked her how she accepted a compliment. This confused her even more and she said, “Umm, I say thank you.”

“So, just a gracious thank you and then you move on? There’s no thank you with a disparaging comment about yourself attached?”

“Nope, just a thank you.”

A breathed a sigh of relief. I then asked her if she thought her generation would be the one to transcend this ritual. She laughed and said, “Have you been on social media lately?”

Ugh. She was right. But I took solace in the fact that I know a lot of very smart young women and I’m letting myself believe that things might change.