Do we want easy, or do we want change?

I recently began following UpWorthy on Facebook and Twitter, after a few inspiring and uplifting posts made me smile and feel hopeful. Of course, I’m now beginning to regret that decision. It seems that UpWorthy content breaks down into two categories: inspirational stories of hope and human goodness (4%), and controversial, sensationalized, shock-factor yellow journalism that aims to incite “righteous outrage” and social media bickering, with the occasional surprise PTSD trigger (96%). (And don’t even get me started on their shameless self-promotion with their pop up ads on every video with”Opt Out, I already follow Upworthy!” links that don’t work.)

Nonetheless, I occasionally allow myself to be drawn in by a title or tag line, hoping for something that will inspire me or that, at the very least, thoughtfully raises awareness on an important issue. I’m usually disappointed. But if I could just stop at disappointment and ignore the Facebook comments section, I’d probably be much better off. But then, we wouldn’t get long rant blog posts like this one, would we?

This morning, I allowed myself to become enraged by the social media commentary on this post. And probably not for the reason you’d expect. Not for the ignorance and misconceptions about eating disorders that it promotes. Not for the trolls who posted things like “she’s hot” or “I’d do her” or “go eat a hamburger” or “still too fat” or “fat people are gross”. (There are trolls lurking under a lot of bridges and in every comment war…it’s best not to feed them.)

No, the people I’m addressing are those “well-intentioned”, sincere wannabe-do-gooders who posted things like this:

These women are scary looking. They look like the prisoner’s released from Dachau and Auschwitz-Birkenau after WWII. Why would that emaciation be considered attractive in any way?

Disgaree, because this is a matter of perception. For me, as a size 2 or XS (I am a petite person), it always seems like they make only big clothes. I think there should be clothes for all sizes. period.

I think with near 80% of our country overweight, we should be addressing the obesity crisis, not anorexia. People love to “feed off “model thin which amounts to a genetic lottery (rare) Criticizing others who are thin is the same as criticizing those who are fat. Find a healthy outlook.

May we please stop this whole “Marilyn Monroe was a size 14 ” myth? By today’s measurements, she would have been a size 6 today. They have vanity-sized sizes so much since her day because women have gotten so much larger (in other words, today’s size 14 is much much larger than a 1950s size 14).

I could go on, but I won’t, because reading those posts is making me angry again.

I posted a comment of my own there too. (And to save you the torture of wading through hundred of poorly spelled comments that are all a variation of everything I’ve already shown you, I’m posting it here.)

I put a lot of thought into it. I proofread it. And, like the idealist I am, I expected it to make some sort of difference in the conversation.

Could we just stop with the body shaming? Does it really matter whether you’re a size 16 or 00? Does all of Facebook need to know your jeans size or your weight or your measurements? Do we need to know how you compare to Monroe? Does that really tell us anything about who you are?

What’s actually important in life?
Your body?
Or the thing that lives inside it? Your mind? Your soul?

It’s about time we start valuing people for the very real, beautiful, immaterial things about them. It’s time to stop making “you’re so pretty” the first compliment a little girl hears. It’s time to start noticing women (and men) for what they do and what they think instead of what they look like. Could we just take a moment to recognize the brilliant beauty of who we are underneath the skin and the sizing and the standards?

All of human history to look at–the legacies of Madame Curie, and Mother Theresa, and Rosa Parks and Susan B. Anthony and Maya Angelou and Helen Keller and Jane Goodall and Anne Frank and Corie Ten Boom and Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the thousands of other women who have and still do change the world–and you’d rather talk about dress sizes?

And yes, obese is unhealthy. Anorexic is unhealthy. They are equally unhealthy, and they both stem from other problems. And maybe if we made it less shameful to admit our problems and get help, we could start a movement for healing. And maybe if we could learn to accept diversity in beauty, we could recognize that, as long as the person is happy, healthy, and able to pursue the life he or she wants, their body size (that number you guys keep posting here) doesn’t matter at all.

Maybe we should take the numbers off sizing and find a different system, so our math-obsessed industrial culture will stop calculating the equation to perfection. We don’t read very well anymore, it seems…so how about we go for adjective sizing instead?

I checked back thirty minutes later. The video post has 6.2 thousand likes and 1.6 thousand comments. Want to take a guess at how many of those respond to my comment? Or at least take a more thoughtful turn in the conversation?

If you guessed none, then go have a cookie. Or a celery stick maybe, because all Americans are too fat already, right?

You see, here’s the real problem: WE DON’T WANT TO CHANGE. We just want to complain.

It’s much easier to blame society for the images it feeds young women than to admit the role we have played in selling that culture. It is easier to complain about the clothing industry than to force change by changing what we buy. It’s so much easier to make this a discussion about fat-vs.-thin than to brainstorm solutions to change our relationships with food and exercise and body image. It’s so much easier to fat-shame or thin-shame than to acknowledge that eating disorders are REAL mental health issues that have underlying psychological and emotional aspects. It’s easier to post our own weight and body measurements and claim that we are “perfectly healthy”as self-assurance that we are alright than to admit that we, too, have a messed up relationship with the person in the mirror, and it’s only the approval of and comparison to cyber-strangers that is keeping us from flying over the edge.

It’s easier to post arbitrary and contradictory statistics about obesity and average weights and sizes than it is to do real research and put real thought into a discussion about what needs to happen for us to create positive change.

And maybe it’s time to follow in the steps of those great, outstanding women (and men) who changed the world–the ones we ignore in our conversations about beauty and culture and human worth–and stop doing what is easy so we can start doing what is necessary.


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