People feel entitled to share their opinions on any number of social media platforms, which often leads to discussions or friendly arguments. However, perhaps due to the largely anonymous nature of online communication, many fail to consider the weight of their words. It's easy to misjudge the intent of a brief comment regarding a sensitive subject. Most of us have encountered the embarrassment of an outspoken family member's passionate photo comment. Usually these awkward interactions end up being laughed about and forgotten, but sometimes harsh words are internalized and can lead to dangerous consequences. Recently there’ve been admirable and successful campaigns against online harassment. Still, in many instances people can't identify bullies or are afraid to speak up against them.
There’s a photo series that made headlines last week featuring plus-sized models recreating a bikini-clad Sports Illustrated cover. Along with their pictures, the women made a video that exuded self-confidence, intelligence, and natural beauty. It gave me goosebumps. They looked happier and healthier than the bony models that Sports Illustrated chose. Finally, I saw models I could relate to. I’d much prefer to see bathing suits on these girls in advertisements. A billboard for Victoria's Secret featuring average-sized bodies might even make me feel comfortable enough to wear a two-piece bathing suit.
Yet, just when I was feeling a sense of hope, I heard what seemed to be the voice of popular culture. "That's disgusting," said an acquaintance of mine, "what were they thinking?" I felt my cheeks begin to burn. I bit my tongue and said nothing as she continued to describe how horrible she thought the models looked. Why must women waste their energy bashing each other? When I hear comments like these, I remind myself that it's usually an externalization of their own body image and my irritation turns to sadness. I’ve struggled with body image for most of my life and am familiar with the negativity it brings. While it bothers me that such a campaign could bring out the meanness in women, it’s a step toward eliminating such judgment. People needn’t build a wall against bullies. They shouldn't be tolerated, and ignoring them is the first step.