By now you've probably seen the viral BuzzFeed post on Lindsay Bottos, a 21-year-old college student who decided to turn the hate mail she receives on her personal Tumblr into an art project by superimposing some of the nasty messages she received over photos of herself she's taken. “The messages I’ve received are definitely indicative of a greater problem of online bullying and the anonymity of the internet,” she told BuzzFeed. “In my personal experience from what I’ve seen on Tumblr, the majority of the people who get messages like this are girls and women. It’s hard to say, but it seems like a lot of girl-on-girl hate.”
It's hard to say definitively if it is girl-on-girl hate, but it's certainly not limited to the depths of Tumblr. Perhaps it's the anonymity of the Internet, maybe it's heightened insecurity, maybe it's boredom, but Internet bullying and body snarking seems to have hit a new low.
Most of the editors at Shape have an example of some kind of body shaming or snarking situation they've experienced. For example, one editor was recently told that her thighs look like "string cheese" and that she looks anorexic. And dear readers, you're not off the hook. Any given day, we receive numerous comments on our Facebook and Twitter feeds from readers trashing the photos of models, celebrities, and editors we post as too thin, too fat, ugly, or that they're attention-seeking, that they're trashy, or worse. Our male counterparts at Men's Fitness have more of the same stories: One reader recently commented on a picture of Beyoncé that they posted to Facebook that she looks like "garbage." Classy.
Look, no one is perfect, and I'm including myself in this category. In fact, I'll share with you an example of how NOT perfect I am. I recently had the chance to interview someone who was pitched to me as being "curvy." When I met her, the first thought that came to mind was, What could she—a size 0, maybe a size 2—possibly have to tell me (a most decidedly not size 2) about being curvy?
Ugh. Not one of my finer moments. But here's the thing: No matter who you are, it's hard to step outside yourself and examine a situation critically and from a different perspective. It is beyond hard to realize that you're part of the problem. I don't like to think of myself as someone who shames others for how they look. As someone who's struggled with my weight for most of my life, I know how bad it feels to read about or hear the mean comments made about your looks. So admitting that maybe, just maybe, sometimes I am that person? It's hard. Putting it down in writing with my byline up there at the top of this post? Harder. However, as author Cheryl Strayed says, "Finding out that you're part of the problem is hard, but it's also good news. You are, after all, the only person you can change."
So! Let's talk about how things can change. I can only speak for myself, but here's what I'm going to do. I'm going to start by trying to be a little bit kinder this year, both to myself and to those around me. I'm going to try and remember that body snarking is never okay—not IRL and not on the Internet and not even when it's about someone I don't like or someone who's "asking for it" or someone who "deserves" it. It's not okay. Full stop.
Writer Glenn Marla once said something that I love. "There is no wrong way to have a body." There is no wrong way to have a body. Isn't that a great quote? [Click here to tweet this inspirational message.] My body isn't wrong. Your body isn't wrong. Kate Hudson's body, Beyoncé's body, Kim Kardashian's body—they're not wrong. Text it to yourself, write it down on a Post-It, write it on your bathroom mirror, whatever. Keep saying it over and over until you believe it—that's what I'm going to try and do. I know nothing happens overnight. But maybe it's a start.