From Slut-Shaming to Weight-Shaming: Let's Just Stop, Okay? Michelle Konstantinovsky

What do you guys think? Karl Lagerfeld and Rush Limbaugh: long-lost BFFs?

I mean sure, on the surface, the stone-faced German fashion designer and the impassioned conservative commentator have nothing in common. But I can totally see them hitting it off, can’t you? Just imagine those two kooky kids swapping secrets, shopping for smart accessories (Chanel, natch), and playfully calling women fat sluts.

All kidding aside, how disgusting has it been lately to watch a parade of public figures thoughtlessly, callously berate female after female? Not that this wave of woman-focused hate speak is anything new, of course. But from Lagerfeld’s totally uncalled for comments about Adele’s body to Limbaugh’s deplorable declaration that Georgetown student Sandra Fluke is nothing but a birth-control-toting hussy, weight-shaming and slut-shaming suddenly seem to be the go-to quick fixes for instant publicity. And it seriously has to stop.

I’d never even heard the term “slut-shaming” until I attended the SPARK Summit in 2010. Dedicated to ending the sexualization of young girls in the media, SPARK brings together some of the brightest, badass women on the planet (like Women’s Media Center co-founder and feminist royalty, Gloria Steinem). It was at their annual conference that I learned there was a term for attacking women based on their (real or supposed) promiscuity or acknowledgment of sexual thoughts and feelings.

Weight-shaming is pretty self-explanatory and maybe even more prevalent. I mean, have you been to a supermarket checkout? Glance up at any celebrity tabloid the next time you’re waiting in line and see for yourself how ubiquitous the message of body shame is. Kirstie Alley gained five pounds? Quick, grab a zoom lens and plaster the invasive photos on the cover! Victoria Beckham‘s looking thinner than ever? Better come up with a catchy headline to stir up rumors and scandal!

Even the happiest place on Earth is trying to jump on the weight-shame bandwagon. Who in their right minds thought a Walt Disney World exhibit about healthy lifestyles could benefit from monstrous cartoon representations of obesity called “Lead Bottom” and “The Glutton”? The characters were intended to act as cautionary reminders for kids to stay fit and trim, or risk transforming into grotesque caricatures, perfectly suited for public mockery.

Or how about Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, the organization that put out super helpful (i.e. horrendous) anti-obesity TV ads and billboards featuring guilty-looking kids and messages like, “It’s hard to be a little girl if you’re not.”

And lest you think shaming is always at the hands of fame-seeking males or big, faceless corporations, think again. There’s plenty of woman-on-woman smack-talk going around as well (look, we’ve all seen Mean Girls, right?).

Just this morning, I saw evidence of this in a popular women’s magazine that shall remain nameless (mostly because I’m too embarrassed to admit I read it. But it’s only on the elliptical machine at the gym, I swear!). An article on assertiveness opened with something along the lines of, “You know those women who are so confident and in control? Now you can be better than those bitches!” So is this what we can look forward to now? Bitch-shaming is the new black?

I realize that the public annihilation of females is nothing new. But all of this shaming has consequences. Besides making legions of women and girls feel bad about their bodies and what they choose to do with them, these messages promote insecurities that can now be broadcast to the masses, thanks to Internet magic. The latest trend seems to be teenage girls posting YouTube videos, asking millions (yes, millions) of online spectators whether or not they’re pretty. It’s a serious problem with serious repercussions, and it’s got to stop.

So in the spirit of HelloGiggles’ snark-free positivity, let’s all take it upon ourselves to stop the shaming, and maybe even celebrate why women of all shapes, sizes, sexual preferences, colors, heights, religions, zodiac signs—whatever!—are awesome.

Images via Jezebel and NY Daily News.

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  1. [...] of all, I get that weight-shaming is ugly, and you shouldn’t do it. I am not expecting anyone not to react when they are being called [...]

  2. I love this article, and I love that trolls here are being 99% ignored in favor of real discussion, I think it says a lot about the HG community. While there is much to discuss in re: Fluke/Limbaugh and the politics of the day, regardless of which side you are on I think an easy takeaway is: Can’t we be nice to each other? Name calling and hyberbole don’t help anyone.

  3. Rush Limbaugh’s comments disgusted me, and I don’t agree with people directly attacking people who are overweight either; However maintaining a healthy weight is a health concern, just like smoking is. Attacking the symptom of extreme obesity is not the solution as it is a symptom like lung cancer is to smokers, and will cause emotional distress in a situation that already has issues. The money spent on the ads should have been directed towards exercise and healthy eating which are the causes.

  4. Yeah, lets pretend that being fat is absolutly ok, its beautiful and we all should stop calling fat people fat, because it hurts them.. I mean the word fat, not that they are actually fat.. oh, its getting confusing, isnt it.. Adele is FAT

  5. Great article! Sorry to see some of the comments getting so political….regardless of your position on birth control, Rush was WAY out of line as usual. And his apology was BS. Keep up the good work and <3 for all ladies of all sizes out there!

  6. Not defending what he said about Ms. Fluke in any sense, but in the spirit of your article, I would point out that possibly the most “weight shamed” person I know if is…Rush Limbaugh. Rarely do you ever hear a criticism of him without the word “fat” or some variation thereof.

  7. There are many things to say about the article, but I will comment on just one of them, quote:

    “…SPARK brings together some of the brightest, badass women on the planet (like Women’s Media Center co-founder and feminist royalty, Gloria Steinem).”

    This is just another example of the women on the left getting undue rewards for being extremists of the 60′s, to wit: “Overthrowing capitalism is too small for us. We must overthrow the whole F*#@+*g patriarchy!” ~ Steinem

    It isn’t about women, its about anti-capitalism. There are women in the business world who practice such principles found in business… they are of no consequence however, since, [quoting from my book] these feminists consider heterosexual relations (a male and female marriage) rape:

    ====QUOTE
    Feminist author Ti-Grace Atkinson shows her true autonomy when stating, “the institution of sexual intercourse is anti-feminist.” Marilyn French, feminist author calls all men rapists: “All men are rapists and that’s all they are. They rape us with their eyes, their laws, and their codes.” Let us allow Gloria Steinen, feminist extraordinaire, to set the stage with the following praises about her contemporary, Andrea Dworkin, “In every century, there are a handful of writers who help the human race to evolve. Andrea is one of them.” Why preface Andrea Dworkin? Because she has this to say about men in general: “Heterosexual intercourse is the pure, formalized expression of contempt for women’s bodies.”
    (http://www.scribd.com/doc/34407868/Gnostic-Feminism-Empowered-to-Fail)
    =====UNQUOTE

    But these are heroes of the left?! Good job. I think with blanket praise of the “Steinems” in the post above is ample proof that the author knows nothing about modern feministisms ideaology… nor have they read any Christina Hoff Sommers, Tammy Bruce, Suzanne Venker, Phyllis Schlafly, Marybeth Hicks, Kate O’Beirne, and the like.

  8. according to the CDC for 2011 about 17% or 12.5 million children in the U.S. are considered obese, which means that their weight for body height ratio (BMI) is above the 95% percentile. More children then ever are being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, which up until the 2000′s was considered “adult onset diabetes”. heart disease and diabetes are leading causes of death in the U.S. Now I dont promote body “slandering” but what the disney and the georgia campaign are trying to do is bring awareness to what is a huge and still growing problem. yes body HEALTH should be the main objective, but people dont realize they may have a problem. sometimes a tougher approach is needed.

    • Has that approach been working? How about targeting parenting groups instead of calling kids fat? Also, it’s pretty widely accepted that BMI is a flawed system that doesn’t tell the whole story of health. It also doesn’t help that government educational spending cuts affect the ability for schools to maintain effective physical education programs… there are certainly more affective ways to go about it than saying, “yo, kid, you’re fat, you should work on it.” It’s like the age-old, give a man a fish/teach him to fish. Teaching the skills necessary for kids to learn about healthy habits is generally a better approach than causing psychological issues on top of the physical health issues. Eating fatty/high caloric foods produces chemicals in the body that react like seratonin- make someone despressed that has an eating disorder, and you’re only adding to the problem.

  9. Here Here

  10. I wish Hello Giggles didn’t publish this ! I like the points about Adele, but as for the Georgetown issue, I honestly don’t need the political and ideological drama drawn out on this site which I thought was the place I could go to avoid it!

  11. michelle should rename her article “Ahhh..look at the shiny thing..”
    It was Limbaugh’s remarks that helped carry forth the idea that his issue was about women. In fact, this is about religious freedom and the taking of that freedom by an overreaching government.
    Should we really accept that we are responsible for the recreational activities of others? If so, I need a Harley to help me relieve stress.
    But, let’s keep focusing on the distraction instead of the issue…

    Niiiiiice journalism there…

    Michelle will fit in well with the mainsteam media.

    • What in the world are you talking about. This is not actually about rush limbaugh at all.. it’s one of many examples of people calling others names. If that’s what you believe this article’s about, then you fit right in with the rest of the world that makes gross generalizations and the population that reads what it wants from the media and not what’s really there.

  12. Love this article! Thanks for posting!!
    So true on so many levels!

  13. Wow. all the feminazis in on place! how convenient. Look folks. people are going to do as they like with or without your input or approval.
    You can throw hissy fits about the catholic church but if you keep forcing them to do things against their will, they’re going to retaliate.
    If you keep forcing other people to pay for you to be a SLUT (yes sandra fluke, you’re a slut. 3,000? really??? make tapes. support your habit) then folks will eventually simply stop having anything to do with ya.

    If you want the public out of your reproductive business, then take your hand out of the publics’ pockets. Stop taking the publics’ money.

    It’s that simple.

  14. For those who want cheap birth control, all you have to do is go to the nearest Planned Parenthood. It doesn’t cost 3000 over 3 years. Many times it’s free or they ask you to donate what you can. First, they assess you and give you a free pap test if you haven’t had one. Then they hand you three to four months worth of pills at a time. you can come back for more and the next year get another free pap test. All is good. Sandra Fluke knows this. She is a 30 year old activist who is fighting for a non issue. Might I suggest she defend the Muslim women of The USA and elsewhere MURDERED because of honor killings. The UN estimates 5000 women are murdered every year throughout the world due to honor killings. Remember in Buffalo ,…???? TV executive, Muzzammil “Mo” Hassan , decapitated his wife, Aasiya Zubair. He killed her because she became “too westernized”.
    In Arizona, Muslim dad Faleh Almaleki ran over his daughter, Noor Almaleki for becoming too westernized. After her father ran her over with his car, he backed up his vehicle and ran her over again
    Remember a few years ago when a Muslim father shot his two daughters for dating Mexican Americans? Remember hearing the 911 tapes of one daughter crying for help? Remember her words. “My father shot me and my sister. Help us. We are dying! My father killed us!”
    Things like this are happening all over the world. Where is the outrage??!! Why are we all caught up in a non-issue?? Sandra is playing a political game nothing more. Her outrage is fake. She knows she can get birth control for free at Planned Parenthood.
    Instead of focusing on this fake issue, why don’t we cry out for our Muslim sisters who are treated no better than dogs many times and are killed because some man or female elder thinks that young women dishonored the faith or their families? Or are we cowards and would rather cry about this non- issue? Taking about this non-issue is much safer. We don’t have to stick our neck out on this one. If we did to protest honor killings, our head might get cut off. Why don’t American women have courage to defend Muslim women?

    • I really ctareaippe the comment by “Lucas”- she starts out by proclaiming that women have a right to dress as slutty as they want and shouldn’t have to worry about bad things happening to them, then goes on to shill for a company that she works for that offers a product which will allow instant communication with friends and family to help keep women safe (I’m not sure how that’s different from a cell phone.)I thought women shouldn’t have to worry about being unsafe! Which, in the case of clothing, apparently means that they must pretend that such a risk doesn’t exist. How is carrying around some safety product any different? – Lyssa

      Anonymous | 3/22/2012 08:03 pm
  15. Thank you for posting this article full of relevant examples of how women and girls are being negatively affected by media and unrealistic societal expectations.

    I invite everyone to watch Miss Representation (www.missrepresentation.org), a documentary about how the media’s misrepresentations of women have led to the underrepresentation of women in positions of power and influence.

    And all of ‘that’ leads to what is so smartly articulated in this article. We all have the power to make changes, and not let this negative cycle continue to worsen.

  16. thank you so much for posting this. its truly an important topic that gets overlooked so much. when it comes to weight, it shouldn’t be about how you LOOK, it should be how you FEEL and if you are healthy. that is what matters, plenty of people out there are healthy and happy of all shapes and sizes and those are the things that should be focused on. as far as rush, he is not a woman and doesnt have to worry about getting pregnant and he can sleep with whomever whenever. we are women, and what we do with our body is our business. i am so tired of men trying to tell us what to do.

  17. Pssh, stop being so fat and slutty. (I’m TOTALLY just kidding, I love this article!)

  18. I’ve listened to Rush Limbaugh for years and unfortunately for Rush, it takes a while to know that his schtick is absurdity. He doesn’t actually believe what he said, it was a hyperbole. I listened most of last week and was never personally insulted as a woman. Instead, I was reminded that as a woman, I’ll never ask for a handout from the government, my school, my employer or anyone else. I am not entitled to anything I haven’t earned on my own accord. I feel that the debate about birth control coverage is actually taking a lot of independence from women. If birth control is a priority for me, I’ll get it myself, thank you very much! :)

    I agree with a lot of this article because bashing people because of how they look or what they think is degrading to everyone, no matter gender. That is why I like HelloGiggles; it’s empowering women not pandering to us like so many political issues do.

  19. The women’s magazine in question was Cosmo, wasn’t it?

  20. Where exactly is the line drawn between healthy concern and image-shaming? Well…I suppose it’s obvious where that line lies yet I’m still so torn between how to feel about the anti-obesity ads. Frankly, obesity is a problem in this country and while it’s good not to be ashamed about your appearance, I feel sometimes that criticizers of the anti-obesity ads are unintentionally promoting unhealthy habits by saying that one shouldn’t worry about their body, one should be proud about their body, etc etc. How is one suppose to get the message across that, yeah it’s okay to feel good about your body and you should never be ashamed about your looks but no it’s not okay to unnecessarily overeat, especially when you’re so young and even more so when you’re older and are more in control of your diet? I don’t promote being thin…some people don’t have it in their genetic code to be thin, which is fine. It’s all about being healthy, eating when you’re supposed to, not when you feel like it, and staying in shape, whatever that shape may be. If one knows the risks, knows what it does to their body, and consciously decides not to do anything about it, that is a different story. Unfortunately, it seems that the knowledge about what happens to you when you overeat isn’t as widespread as it should be, especially with parents and so on and so forth.

    • *woops! doesn’t have its risks

    • It’s a tough discussion certainly. But I think the point that lies at the heart of this article is that we should not be forced to feel like a single word—especially a derogatory or hurtful one—could define us. So often, however, it is the case that instead of knowing people we resolve to judge. With a single word or statement “she’s fat” we’ve reduced the woman to nothing more than the sum of her cells.

      I don’t think anyone logical would argue that being at the extreme ends of the health/size spectrum has its risks, but I know that as someone who has been physically active for my entire life I still feel “fat” because the misconception of what “healthy” is is oft altered. My physical size is an aggregation of my bone structure, muscle mass, and a healthy protective layer of fat, and I would be quick to argue that my health is also above average. But would weight reflect that? Would someone who saw me standing next to someone 2 dress sizes smaller than I am think I could possibly be healthier than she? I think that’s where the issues lie.

      And because it’s all so personal, because the circumstances are not printed in black and white, but because it’s far easier to categorize shades of grey, we continue this way.

      I don’t forsee a global change in the least but I know that I can do what’s in my power to change the way I talk to myself, and others, and I think that’s the point being made here. There is a difference between teaching and shaming. And when we do call upon ourselves and take a position of great responsibility to put out a message to such a large audience, that it should be done with care.

      This is by no means a disagreement with what you had to say, just further pontificiation.

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