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.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=7811997 Abigail Eisley

    Great article! it’s so easy to see the negative consequences of blaming women…eating disorders, body issues, unhealthy relationships, etc. Let’s hope everyone does “just stop”!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=197812020 Anna Shoosmith

    Another fab and important article Michelle! Well done :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/lovetobakecake Becki Mancey

    I absolutely LOVE this article!! We need to hear more of this positive, loving, accepting thinking. It’s so easy to take on board the negativity that so many people spout on a regular basis. And sometimes it’s the delivery, not the intention, that needs to be addressed – I saw the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta ads too, and the thing that struck me most was that it could have been done SO much more positively! It’s really important to teach kids (and adults) to be healthy. But doing it by naming and shaming those who appear not to be is simply horrific. There should be more of an emphasis in these campaigns on health and fitness, enjoying life, loving fruit and veg, loving our bodies, whatever – not on how we LOOK. Because that brings us right back to making people feel like crap for who they are. Which is simply unacceptable.

    We all have a story…a background…a life…and it’s our awesome variety that makes this world such a special place. We need to learn to love one another, whatever our ‘shapes, sizes, sexual preferences, colors, heights, religions, zodiac signs’ are…love is THE thing, you know ;-)

    Thank you Michelle xx

    • http://www.facebook.com/CineBex Becca Friedman

      Sing it sistah! A lot of those ads rely on stereotypes. I know plenty of thin individuals that do not work out and subsist off of fast food. Their physical size does not make them any more healthy than someone larger that works out and eats well. Having not yet seen the Atlanta video, I wonder what it would be like to listen to it without seeing the images. For those that have, is it still as offensive? does the audio alone do a better job of making a positive impact? If not, it’s failed twice.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jaci.greggs Jaci ‘Dake’ Greggs

    First of all, I don’t know whether Lagerfield has apologized, but Rush has, in writing over the weekend and live on the air this morning. Why haven’t you mentioned that in this column?

    Secondly, will you also be writing a column about respecting other people’s religions, asking the Sandra Flukes of the world to let Catholics freely practice their religion rather than specifically choose a Catholic institution to try and get the government to force them to provide contraceptives contrary to their beliefs? That’s an essential part to this story and I think it’s a shame you are only showing one side.

    • http://www.facebook.com/lwojo Lori Wojciechowski

      I think you’re missing the larger point here.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=811199909 Samie Cordon

      Did you watch the actual hearing on the issue that she spoke at? She is a member of that Catholic School. While I don’t recall if she said that she was catholic, she did mention that one of her friends who needed the pill was.
      Birth Control should be renamed, because it actually is necessary medication in a host of Uterian and Ovarian diseases and disorders. She even addressed that. Her friend lost an ovary because she has Poly-Cystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), which is becoming increasingly common and she could not get her insurance to cover the treatment. Her friend is a lesbian, so she doesn’t NEED it for sex.
      I have PCOS myself, and, knowing all the risks, I am very glad that my insurance covers birth control. It is the ONLY successful method of medicating PCOS. Which has very nasty side effects if untreated, including early menopause, having to have an ovary removed, and infertility. I have to take it so that I can have kids someday.

      And because you mentioned that she chose Georgetown. Why should she have to choice between a good school and her health?

      Birth control is not only to prevent getting pregnant!

    • http://www.facebook.com/redwag0n Cale Lively

      To all the people who point out Rush apologized, did you read his apology. It was the most backhanded, forced, fake, apology I have read in awhile. If I made statements like that in any work environment I would/should be terminated. It was disgraceful and makes me ashamed to be and American as for the Adele thing Herr Lagerfeld can shove it Adele was right fit, and blew the roof off with her performance. Brains and Talent are and will always be hotter than a fake plastic body.

  • http://www.facebook.com/MissSmileySunflower Stephanie Sunflower Bell

    This is has to be one of the best articles I have ever read. Thank you so much for writing it. It made my day and I’m so happy there are women like you out there. :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/ThinkingThroughChristianity Adam Jones

    Very true; and a good article. Insulting people with hatefulness is completely wrong. It doesn’t matter if you’re making fun of Adele, or Sarah Palin’s daughters, we ought to treat others with love and respect. Also, Adele rocks.

    -www.ThinkingThroughChristianity.com

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1629880826 Shane Mabrey

    What no mention that this goes both ways? Sad. Militant feminism strikes again, lets get on the men hating bandwagon. Women are just as bad and celebrate “sexy” men with sixpack abs. Granted, men get away with being fat alot more than women, but don’t for one second try a sell me a load of crap that it’s all mens fault. We have ALL created this culture and the result? Fat women disgust me and I feel like it’s a choice; put the fork down.
    @Jaci Greggs, no one should be allowed to have any kind of exemption from birth control and contraceptives, this is a public health issue. You wouldn’t let me drink and drive because my religion believes in being completely smashed 24/7 would you? I can’t smoke marijuana even though it is part of my religion and considered sacrament like wine and crackers for Catholics.

    • http://www.facebook.com/jaci.greggs Jaci ‘Dake’ Greggs

      It’s not a “public health” issue. Sandra Fluke could have gone to any other institution in the country that does cover birth control, can go to a local Planned Parenthood and get birth control, can get inexpensive generic birth control from any pharmacy. Birth control is widely available around the country. What public health concern? Sandra Fluke specifically stated she chose to go to Georgetown because she knew they were a Catholic institution and wanted to force them to change their policy, contrary to their religious beliefs and in violation of the First Amendment protecting free practice of religion. That negates the idea that this is a “public health” issue. Of course religious institutions should be allowed to not provide services that violate their beliefs. That’s exactly what the First Amendment guarantees. And really? You’re comparing using contraceptives – either for medical or lifestyle reasons – to drinking and driving? Drinking and driving isn’t illegal because you might kill yourself. Drinking and driving is illegal because you might kill others. How on earth is that in any way similar to using oral birth control?

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=8327016 Veronica Garcia

      Shane you are right about this women bashing not being just a men-on-women thing. I believe the author mentions that we need to stop being mean to each other. Both of you are correct we need to respect and appreciate each other to set the example that we expect respect from everyone.

  • http://www.facebook.com/hm.angowenyet Hm Angowenyet

    Once again a one-sided article regarding conservatives. Where were the outrages when people like bill mahr attacked Sarah Palin. It is interesting to see how republican, conservatives, and even Christians are attack in the media and the press. Yet, never do you hear them make the same comments when the liberals, democrats, or non-christian religions make comment that would make the one’s Rush made seem polite. It is truly sad that you cannot make a just and equal commentary regarding things you seem to be passionate about. As for Rush’s comments he should be apologizing to the slut’s and prostitutes not Sandra Fluke. Sandra is out there to be seen, she is trying to stir trouble. Why else would she have gone to a Jesuit School knowing their position on Birth Control. As for Karl Lagerfeld, he’s a pompus A$$ who thinks his money and position gives him the right to insult others. That is part of the problem with this country. The ultra rich look down on everyone. They only need those who serve them, the rest are just “Useless Eaters” who take up space. America used to be about neighbors and family. Of course that was before we decided that God had no place in our lives. So now we are reaping what we have sown for the past 50 years. You can’t ask people to be nice to one another and expect them to destroy each other Monday thru Friday in the corporate “rat race”.

    • http://www.facebook.com/dconte13 Dayna Conte

      How do you take an article about slut-shaming and weight-shaming and turn it into something political? Because Rush Limbaugh’s name was in it? The article has less to do with the birth control debate and more to do with Rush’s offensive comments. The fact is regardless if you’re conservative or liberal these issues effect you. And God never had any place in American politics and our government. It always gets me when people try to shove that on other issues like we’re living in a present day Sodom, when in fact one of the very pillars of our country is to reject the establishment of a state religion and protect the interests of the individual.

      @Jaci, the first amendment protects an individual’s freedom to practice religion and rejects the idea of a state based religious establishment. The issue here is that denying birth control based on the religious beliefs of an institution is an infringement on someone’s personal rights. A corporation or institution.. they’re not a person, they don’t retain those rights and you shouldn’t have the decision of one higher up or the beliefs of an entire corporation dictate the practices of an individual. Even though I can see that there’s a clear gray area when it comes to religious institutions this kind of legislature could effect all businesses, which could mean that if your boss doesn’t want to pay a lot for a health insurance plan he/she could cut out contraceptives. Women’s health has a direct correlation to access to contraception. Go on WHO and you can access lots of statistical data of developing/third world countries and you can see how big of an impact lack of contraception has on the infant death rate and the death rate of women of child bearing age. The fact is contraceptives are not just a means to preventing pregnancy, they prevent a lot of peripheral health issues and ultimately save lives… So access to them should NEVER be denied.

      And to the guy that seems to think slut shaming and weight shaming is a cultural issue that women as well as men have created: are you aware that the reason many women in developing countries don’t seek out birth control when it is available is because men in that culture have created a stigma that the use of contraception by an unmarried woman is slutty? Did you know that during the Renaissance and Middle Ages women that engaged in any sexual acts prior to marriage were either sent to a brothel or were forced to pay a fee to any potential future husband because they were considered damaged goods? This isn’t an environment women have created, it’s a culture that has developed over the past thousand years due to the inflated egos of men.

    • http://www.facebook.com/spj4you Jennifer Ann

      I agree with you. As a Christian, the media is constantly putting out content that suggests I’m either an idiot, extremist, or naive sap for my beliefs yet no one gets up in arms about it like they do with these issues. Important as they are, it’s a bit unfair that only they are being defended.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=567767924 Matthew Skotnicki

    It is a great article. Having said this, I personally feel that obesity is a problem in our country. I understand there are multiple factors that play into someones weight. My issue is with the people who complain about their weight, and then go eat Fast Food or some other unhealthy choice. As for the rest of what the article addresses (“bitch-shaming” and young girls caring about their appearance) men have the same issues, its just how the two different sex’s brains are hardwired to deal with it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=30001117 Margot Hesel

    Thank you for a much needed articulate piece on this subject!

  • http://www.facebook.com/lewis.henderson Lewis Henderson

    Unfortunately, our society thrives on sensationalism. Rush has made a career out of it, as has countless others out there of every political, religious and philsophical leaning. But he went too far and that’s not easy to do these days. I ask myself, “Where’s the line? How do I know when I step over it and is there more than one line?” Hell yes, we’re all surrounded by lines, lines that were placed there by others who think they know what’s better for us than we do. It’s all bullshit! I respect everyone’s boundry as long as they respect mine. End of discussion. But it’s not because that doesn’t pay the bills for some (too many) in this world. Vocal disrespect for others is a money-maker in America and it’s no longer about freedom of speech, it’s about being noticed and getting rich. Rush might had finally gone too far, but I suspect somehow he’ll live to say soemthing even more offensive, as well will others…so long as it pays the bills.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=12702895 Deanna Dever

    Personally I think Rush should have been fired. I heard his apology and it didn’t sound too sincere to me. He needs to get off the airways–all he does is spew hate all day. (Makes it embarrassing to be a repub)

    The slut/fat shaming issue–sure men say it, but only because we continue to describe ourselves as such, whining to our boyfriends “I’m faaat”. (see scene from “Mean Girls” where Tina Fey lectures everyone in the gym). Girls call their friends “sluts” or “bitches” so guys think it’s ok to use the terms. Girls need to start respecting each other–no more “girl on girl crime”.

    ok I’m done with the Mean Girls references…great movie haha

  • http://www.facebook.com/celinedionisgod Cesar Porro

    This has been one of my favorite articles. And who cares if it’s one sided? We’re on that side anyways, there’s no need to politicize this article.

    • http://www.facebook.com/amlydon Amanda Lydon

      “who cares if it’s one sided? We’re on that side anyways”

      :) :) Completely agree!

  • http://www.facebook.com/ashleymcdo3 Ashley McDonough

    This article is not about men shaming women, the two examples from recent news just happen to be of men. This article is about the trend of both men and women shaming women. For the most part, men don’t write articles in popular women’s magazines; in all likelihood it was a woman who wrote the article she is referencing. This is not about people’s personal beliefs and values. It is simply about being nicer to eachother, and to the women around you who have endured being called fat, slutty, and bitches, often for no valid reason. That’s not to say that men don’t get insulted. This is an article, not a book, there’s no room to write a chapter on each category of society that get insulted.

  • http://www.facebook.com/livi.flynn Livi Flynn

    Listening to Rush Limbaugh made me feel physically ill. He would never have said something so arrogant, ignorant and insulting about a man either..

  • http://www.facebook.com/IceHedge Brad Moore

    Welcome to 20 years ago for me. I remember looking at a monthly tabloid through my innocent-goggles as an infant and thinking how stupid it is to read about some girl who just got fat.

    Same garbage different day today, except people who find these things a good read still exist.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=8327016 Veronica Garcia

    Great article Michelle! I think it is sad that women are being attacked so irrationally by these public figures. On top of this berating, we are being attacked by our elected officials. Senator Glenn Grothman attack on single moms and Representative Darrell Issa’s sham of a hearing on religious freedom and birth control have me furious. What’s worse is that I feel like there is little I can do to change this. I am trying to draft a letter to sent to all my representatives in Congress. I hope I can get our voice out there.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Kendall.De.Jong Kendall De Jong

    Greatly enjoyed and agree with your article. I’m not sure why people are saying this is one-sided as it has nothing to do with politics? There is too much slandering of women (by liberals, conservatives, men and women) that has to do with their physical appearance rather than what they do or stand for. That’s fine if someone doesn’t agree with a woman’s (or man’s) stance on political, social or lifestyle issues, but to start name calling and ridiculing their physical appearance is childish.

    • Anonymous

      I hear you. You know, back where I come from, the men were proud to be men, women were proud to be women, and the sluts were, well, proud to be sluts.Greater love hath no man than he picks up and moves from a reasonably Conservative place to his seeitwe’s Lefty Socialist Workers’ Paradise in the pursuit of a little.Blondes have that effect on us.Don’t they?PS Another reason to hope our new home has embedded comments.

  • http://www.facebook.com/chrystlin.hope1 Chrystlin Hope

    im so glad someone adressed this issue. many women focus on getting men to stop categorizing women, stop judging women and treating them like meat when in fact WOMEN THEMSELVES are most definitely the biggest contributors to this problem. Face to face or behind your back, women are notorious for going out of their way to damage women’s confidence and self love. Im glad someone is pointing out that we need to do more encouraging each other to make ourselves feel better, as opposed to bringing others down to bring ourselves up. We dont realize the damage we actually do to each other, long term. A teacher of mine once pointed out to me that the first thing women do when they walk into a room is compare themselves to the other women, not look at the men, and its so true… and sad… i know this article pointed some things out about my potentially damaging behavior i didnt even realize. hopefully it can do the same for others. kudos for writing this (:

  • http://www.juliagazdag.com Julia Gazdag

    Rush Limbaugh has always been an odious sociopath, and the fact that he even has a voice (or rather, a venue from which to use it), is beyond me. The fact that we still have to deal with any repercussions of a woman being judged for her private sexual life just shows how much further we still need to go from the sexual revolution. And this idea, prevalent among conservatives, that birth control is equal to promiscuity, is frankly incendiary. Legislate a woman’s right to abortion, but don’t give her the tools she needs to avoid potentially being forced to raise a child without the physical and emotional resources it needs? As if a woman was incapable of being on birth control and having one long-term partner. As far as I’m concerned, any public figure who points at another (or non-public figure, really) and tries to berate them for their sexual choices, sexuality, body, or any other private matter, just debases themself instead of their target.

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