When I wrote, “All About That Bass May Actually Be Delivering Harmful Messages,” I had no idea the piece would generate such a reaction. The amount of feedback received, both positive and negative, was certainly humbling. As hundreds of comments and emails continuously trickled into my inbox and mini-feed, I watched a conversation unfold.
As I usually report on food trends and write cookie recipes, I was a bit unaccustomed to such a reaction. I had a lot of people thank me for the piece, and I was instantly humbled. I also got a fair amount of not-so-friendly feedback: people labeling me things like a stupid, skinny, rich, white bitch and making all sorts of assumptions about just who the hell I think I am.
Ignoring the fact that a lot of these comments were totally irrelevant to what I wrote about and many of them false (major LOL at me being called rich), at first, they really hit me hard. All these strangers around the world making assumptions about me as a human being and my “real” intentions for writing the piece.
Nearly six weeks later, the discussion is still going on. And so, I thought I’d jump back in, clear a few things up, and highlight a few important points brought about by some of those who joined the conversation.
If you want to catch up and read my original (controversial) story, click here. Then read the stuff below.
First, I want to reiterate that the main message I wished to deliver was not to hate on Meghan Trainor (like I said, I applaud the way she celebrates her body and encourages some others to do the same), nor to suggest that this song is the only piece of harmful material in the media, nor to suggest that any sort of shaming or discrimination is more or less harmful than another.
I was simply hoping to share my belief that in today’s world, many of us spend far too much time and energy viewing the body as a malleable object, one that should be worked upon to fit ideals of sexuality or attractiveness.
I also wished to remind others that the media is bombarding us with mixed messages of an unattainable perfection that is always changing and perpetually just out of reach, conveniently leaving a gap for a new product, diet or fitness trend to buy into in order to help us all look our best just in time for whatever holiday or season is next.
Bottom line: we’re surrounded with a lot of noise, and much of it sends pressure for how we should look and act.
And it’s not just women! Many commenters made note of the objectification of women, but I also wanted to acknowledge that men are dealt just as many images of ripped models and hipsters in skinny jeans with “sexy scruff” and chiseled jawlines. There’s always something new and hot, and always something we should strive for. It’s exhausting, and can trigger a spectrum of self-esteem and body image issues even to those who try to ignore it.
For example, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t still get self-conscious of my appearance, or if I told you I didn’t get irritated when a mall cop asked to see my ID last Saturday because she thought I was under 18 and illegally at the mall without a chaperone.
But for some reason, as I stuffed my driver’s license back into my wallet and stomped away, I had an epiphany. I could be annoyed that this mall cop assumed I looked like a teenager, or I could not let it bother me. Just like I could let the negative comments on the article bother me, or I could focus on all the positive ones, and how amazing it was that the piece got people talking about issues that are far too often tabooed today. After all, a second main point I’d intended to make in that article is that we can feel good about ourselves without shaming other people, and the amount of name-calling between strangers in the comments proved that this is a lot easier said than done.
But then I realized all the positives amidst all of the arguing and the name-calling. I was inspired as people openly shared their feelings, supported one another, and even stood up for each other. It This was a reminder that a positive, happy community is possible, and a lot of good can come from it.
We each must start, however, by nurturing ourselves. As I mentioned before, we are constantly bombarded with infinite messages from media and other humans we interact with. And I was reminded by this entire experience that it’s up to each of us to turn down the noise, whether it be from a Top 40 song, a billboard, an airbrushed ad, or a snarky comment from a stranger on an online article.
It’s easy to forget, but the world of eating, exercising, hair, clothes, nails, shoes, what we do, how we look, and how we act are nowadays grossly over-complicated. But they needn’t be.
Let’s focus on eating and exercising for physical and mental nourishment, and not being slaves of a world of “should” for aesthetic reasons. And let’s work on doing things to make ourselves happy, and easing up on comparisons between ourselves, others, and what we see in the media.
Let’s spend our energy fulfilling ourselves, and encouraging others to do the same, without shaming one another. And perhaps most importantly, we should all try to treat ourselves with the kindness, compassion and gentleness with with we would treat a best friend. And this entire experience has reminded me of these things, and taught me how hard it can be.
I ended my original piece by suggesting we move the topic off the subject of how females bodies look, and onto something more productive. Well, maybe it was something we needed to talk about. So let’s keep talking: about how to treat ourselves well, and create a more positive environment for others to do the same.