by: Kara Crawford
At the end of September, Lady Gaga launched a campaign she is calling the “Body Revolution” in response to criticisms which she received for supposedly having “fattenedupandpiledonthepounds”. People are just jerks sometimes. She launched the campaign on part of her social networking site, LittleMonsters.com, saying:
My mother and I created the BORN THIS WAY FOUNDATION for one reason: “to inspire bravery.” This profile is an extension of that dream. Be brave and celebrate with us your “perceived flaws,” as society tells us. May we make our flaws famous, and thus redefine the heinous.
The singer admitted to having gained about 25 pounds recently, but for her that is not a fact of shame. In fact, based on the site and the conversation it is generating, she seems to be a triumph over the fact that she has struggled with “Bulimia and anorexia since I was 15.” In this brief statement, she says a whole lot. Society pressures us to be a certain way, to have a certain body, and we often cave to that pressure. With making a public statement like this about her weight gain, she is saying no more. No more.
As someone who has suffered with body image issues my whole life in one form or another, I really appreciate this effort. In today’s world, we are all brought up with the idea that we’re terribly inadequate. We’re not pretty enough, skinny enough, popular enough, smart enough, curvy enough, the list goes on. In fact, I would wager that no one is perfect by society’s standards.
Whole economies are built around exploiting our insecurities – plastic surgery, designer clothing, weight loss programs, beauty products, and a whole plethora of other industries and services primarily exist on the idea that your body is not up to society’s standards and you therefore must pay the low, low price of your whole life’s savings and all your “problems” will magically disappear. This is not to say that there aren’t any redeeming ways in which these can be used, but to me there’s a fundamental problem when we spend so much time, energy, and resources to “fix” ourselves in often unnecessary and excessive ways.
We see it everywhere. Celebrities like Lady Gaga, Jessica Simpson, and others get torn to shreds by the media when they gain weight. Kids and adults are constantly bullied for being too fat, too short, too young, for not wearing the right clothes or having the right hairstyle, for being too queer, for wanting to wear dresses even though society says they’re a boy and therefore should wear pants, for deciding, as a woman, not to get rid of facial hair resulting from a hormonal imbalance out of reverence and respect for religious principles.
I say enough is enough, and it appears that more and more people are willing to speak out. Public figures and average citizens of all stripes are speaking out, insisting that the body bullying has to stop.
Recently I’ve seen some really inspiring examples of this, and these examples give me hope for the future. Of course there is Lady Gaga speaking out regarding her weight gain and contrasting it with her past body image issues. However, in a confluence of seemingly unrelated events, a similar message is coming from others at the very same time.
Take, for example, Nils Pickert, “thedadwhowearsaskirt”. In the face of the public bullying which he received for “support[ing] this kind of conduct” in his son – wearing dresses and skirts, and the similar bullying which his son received for deciding to express himself outside of the social norms of gender. In a post he wrote speaking out against the bullying which the two of them faced, he joined the Body Revolution in stating the following:
I couldn’t care more about my boy being a happy, self-assured, compassionate person. I couldn’t care less about the choices he makes on the way to becoming that person — as long as they cause no harm to himself or others. The ability to make these choices is his birthright — a right that I should help him to exercise, since I am responsible for his birth.
Or how about Balpreet Kaur, the Sikh woman who was recently cyber-bullied for being true to the practices of her faith tradition? She was anonymously bullied in an online thread because of her appearance, having facial hair due to a hormone imbalance. She, as those previously mentioned, took this moment as a teaching lesson. She did not let the bullying get her down, but rather replied with grace and respect, explaining that in her religion, she is not allowed to alter her body, a gift from God intended to be used as a tool for service to be maintained but not altered:
My hair doesn’t stop me from being normal or doing service so its not a hinderance. I’ve been to the doctor regarding this and its just a side effect of my hormone levels during my teenage years. The hormones have returned to normal but the hair is still there. That’s fine I don’t regret anything nor do i view it as an unfortunate thing.
These voices join the chorus of many who have been working and continue to work to stop body bullying in all its forms. I wouldn’t necessarily propose Lady Gaga as the patron saint of self-confidence, but I think that the steps that these folks are making alongside many, many others who are stepping out in less-public ways is brave and admirable. I hope that these cases might bring more to speak out and join the chorus saying “No more. No more body bullying.”
So I’m ready to say it. I’ve always faced body image issues, with many people telling me what’s supposedly wrong with my body and what I should do to fix it. From a young age I was taught to hate all the things that make me me, from my pale skin to my chubby cheeks, my freckles to my frizzy hair, my full figure to my short stature; but I’ll have no more. I love my body, in all its imperfections, and as long as I’m happy and healthy, what others say about me doesn’t really matter. I commit to loving myself and helping others to love themselves by affirming them for exactly who they are in all their natural beauty.
Who’s with me?
Kara Johansen Crawford is a graduate of DePaul University, with a BA in International Studies and Peace, Justice and Conflict Studies. Kara has been actively involved in activism and community service for much of her life and is particularly passionate about labor justice, queer issues and engaging faith communities on social issues. Kara is currently serving as a Mission Intern with the United Methodist Church at the Centro Popular para América Latina de Comunicación, based in Bogotá, Colombia. Follow Kara on Twitter @revolUMCionaria and on her blog.