I asked Rebecca Flynn to be our guest blogger this week, Rebecca is a mum and activist for women causes in Ireland.  Thanks Rebecca!

Diet. Weight loss. Fat. Waist. Healthy. Energy. Low GI. Eating. Exercising. Lifestyle. Supplements. Training. Wellness. Muffin top. Nutrition. Diabetes. Fitspiration. Slimming. Gym. Measurements. Low­Carb. Calories. Slender. Evidence. Abs. Mortality. Beautiful. Bad habits. Scales. Thigh gap. Obesity epidemic. Physique. Regime. Lazy. Restricted. Trans fats. Bikini­ready. Motivation. Holiday weight. Discipline. 30 Days. Research. Gains. Pear­shaped. Intake. Heart disease. Dietician. Metabolism. Hormones. Cholesterol. Cellulite. Salad. Stretch marks. Dehydrated. Sugarfree. Love handles. Balance. Muscle. BMI. Real women. Gluten. Hypertension. Struggle. Cardio. Attitude. Success. Thin. Effective. Achievement. Happier. A new you. Athletic. Danger. Self­control. Balance. Pre­baby body. Plus­size. Worryingly thin. Curves. Allergy. Skin type. Shape. Beach body. Shed. Bloating. Contouring.

Can we stop? Can we… just… bloody well stop? Please?!!

Shame

Photo Credit: Frederic Poirot

I should start with myself because I’m no angel here, I’ve bought into the beauty industrial complex too. I see the brutality and harm caused by impossible body standards but I’m still, on some level, trying to attain them or, at least, frequently displeased with my own body and image. The irony is not lost on me that I preach self­love but can’t seem to move away from societal pressure myself. That said, I can discuss and pontificate on my own body as much as I wish to, but I will never comment on yours, nor should I ever. We should all be examining how we feel about/react to/approach discussion/comment on other people’s bodies. If someone has a body or image that is distasteful to you, it’s time to check your privilege and your prejudices, because how on earth does it negatively affect you or your life? It simply does not. If it bothers you, you are being an asshole. And don’t pretend it’s about health concerns either, because, oh hi, that is super patronising and also, what do you r​eally​know about what is “healthy”? Maybe just put up and shut up, and take some time to learn to be more tolerant.

We live in a society where we have been force­fed the message that what we look like defines our worth and just how messed up is that? We have been told time and again as women that nothing, no single thing, is more important about us.

All I see and all I hear are words, words, words, as women we are inundated with shaming words ­ see my intro to this piece for a minor taste of what is being piled on us daily. Words to make us feel guilty or not good enough. It is infuriating and sometimes I wish I could go back to the days of being blissfully blind to it, but if I did, I’d be going back to the days where its influence was so fierce that I truly believed I wasn’t, and never would be, good enough. The knowledge that we live in a patriarchal, capitalist and media dominated culture which profits massively from women doubting their bodies/looks is something worth understanding and, even though it enrages me on a daily basis, I wouldn’t dare go back to my blinkered days. We are being poisoned daily by corporations, media, advertising and, sometimes, even by friends and family telling us that beauty (generally an unrealistic ideal standard of it!) is the be­all and

end­all and without it, you have no value. It is a form of oppression and one we must rail against for ourselves and for future generations.

So now I have woken up to this. What to do? Well on a personal level, I’m trying to find a way to love myself in a world that wants to stop me from doing that. On a more broad level, I think it’s really important that the conversation fundamentally changes. We must stop talking about other people’s bodies and image entirely, the more airtime we give to it (including the increase in body positivity talk to some degree) the more importance we’re placing on appearance, and we’ll just keep making it about that. If an individual wants to discuss their health and well­being in relation to their body, that is completely fine, here is my soapbox and mic, it’s all yours, I would love nothing more than to hear you out. It’s also okay to want to feel good, healthy and attractive, that is 100% your prerogative, but no­one else gets to tell you that you have to be, do or change anything, that’s for you and you alone. The rest of us need to stop. Another person’s body is not a discussion topic. Stop it. Right now.

How you can make positive changes.

Language matters. If you bump into a friend you can say to them “It’s so nice to see you” instead of “You’re looking well” or “you look fantastic!” If you simply must say something about their appearance then “You look happy” or “You look so healthy” can work if applicable.

If someone complains to you about their appearance it is worth assuring them that that is not how you see them, and, if you have time, a discussion on the bullshit standards we are held to is no harm either!

Compliments not related to appearance are wonderful, and easy when you give it just the teeniest bit of consideration. I bet you don’t know a single person whom you couldn’t find something non­image related to flatter them about. “You take incredible photos.” “Can you recommend a good book, you’re such an avid reader.” “You make the most delicious brownies I’ve ever tasted, do you have a recipe?” “You have such talent on the guitar.”

Don’t run your own body/looks down. We all have our internal dialogue and I know it’s impossible to shut that down, but what we put out there can perpetuate a toxic message.

Remember that children are sponges, if they are being told they’re beautiful or handsome all the time and hearing their parents talking about diets or being critical of their own appearance, it all sends a very strong message about how much value society places on image. Be extra mindful when around kids! Talk to them about their hobbies, interests, friends, talents, personality traits and kindness instead.

If someone says something insensitive or rude to you about how you look it is worth pointing out that it was insensitive, rude AND unnecessary: “That is really hurtful, I dont know why you felt the need to say that but please don’t do it again.” Most people (bar sociopaths) will be tripping over their words with embarrassment if you do this and it is mighty satisfying. Shine a light on that prejudice!