Shame Shame Shame

#shame body positivity body shaming mom shaming social media support women Apr 02, 2021

Shame is an emotion we have all felt in one way or another. Whether it be from our parents as children when we did something wrong, or when we are called out by a stranger for something we did unintentionally. It ranges, it changes from person to person. We can act as though it doesn’t affect us, but in an age of social media and stereotypes and labels, we have all felt it and maybe even caused it in one way or another. It has become a disease that riddles the world we live in. You don’t have to be a public figure to feel this, sometimes it can be present in your own home by the people you love the most. My generation was the first to experience cyber bullying and shaming. As the internet and social media soared, as smart phones and tablets and computers were purchased off of the shelves, bullies were given a new outlet to create havoc and terror to those around them without showing their faces. They could be anonymous, they could be outspoken, and they could be the cause for someones anxiety and depression.

While technology is a “gift” to man, to some it’s a curse.

It’s time to break down these barriers and have a real discussion about the pain each of us have caused from the safety behind our screens. We are all guilty, we have all done it, and it’s time to take responsibility and accountability moving forward. Lets dive in. 

I was watching an episode of Red Table Talk with Jada Pinkett Smith on this issue the other day, and she was joined by Jessica Alba and Ashley Graham. They uncovered the world of “mommy shaming” and talked about how, especially as public figures, you just can’t win. For most of us, the spotlight is foreign to us. But as explained above, in an age of social media, most of our lives are captured on camera for everyone to see, inviting shamers into our lives whether we mean to or not. I think one of the biggest issues when it comes to motherhood is breast feeding. Both Alba and Graham can attest to this, saying that regardless of their methods, they would always receive backlash from people on the internet for the way they feed their children. If you breast feed in public, you need to cover up, you shouldn’t be doing that in public. If you feed your child with a bottle, breast is best and you’re not giving your child the best nutrition. I think the worst part though is that these are mostly women doing the shaming. As if we don’t have enough obstacles as women in a mans world, we are now judged and shamed from other women for how we rear and feed our children. My question is, what is the end goal here? Who are you helping and how are you benefitting other women by shaming them? How is it benefitting the person doing the shaming? I think the main issue is the way we deliver our comments to others. A lot of the time, as someone who tries to see the good in people, I think people are genuinely trying to be helpful, or try to give them some perspective. However, this could be categorized as “unsolicited advice,” but I will touch on that shortly. Regardless of the motives behind comments, it simply comes down to the fact that it is not our place, or anyone else’s, to tell you or judge you on the ways you are raising or feeding your child. I want to share some comments that I have personally experienced, and I know other mothers have experienced while raising children. To some, these don’t seem so bad compared to a lot of the other comments people get when it comes to body shaming or life shaming. Something I want to express though is that when comments are made towards the mother or even the child, you are unknowingly telling that woman that she is a bad mother. That she is not enough. You are telling their child that their mother isn’t enough, or that they themselves aren’t enough. So keep that in mind as I share these. 

“You’re feeding him here? Now? Can’t it wait?”

“You’re feeding him that?”

“You shouldn’t gain more than 24 pounds during your entire pregnancy.”

“Why are you bottle feeding him, your boobs are producing just fine?”

“Can you get him to stop crying?”

“You’re vaccinating him? I wouldn’t do that, you’re going to give him autism.”

“You’re a stay at home mom, shouldn’t the house be more clean?”

“You didn’t have an epidural the first time, why couldn’t you handle it the second time?”

“You shouldn’t be co-sleeping with your baby.”

“He needs to be circumsized.”

“Don’t circumsize him, that’s cruel.”

“If he’s not speaking by time he’s two he will need speech therapy.”

“Stop giving him a pacifier he’s going to have buck teeth.”

“You need to cut his hair, he’s going to grow up to be a sissy.”

“Boys don’t have long hair, people are going to think he’s a girl.”

Get the picture yet? And this isn’t even half of the comments I’ve gotten. A lot of the times I just brush these things off, they aren’t worth getting worked up for. But some are deeply personal, beliefs and opinions that I have that mean something to me. My sons hair for example. I chose not to cut it because it’s not my hair, it’s his, and putting my own style on him without his permission isn’t fair to him. You may say “Oh but Kirstie, he’s only two, he can’t speak for himself.” Oh trust me he can. In so many words to say “I want my hair cut?” No, however it is my firm belief that children have a lot of their rights taken away from them simply because they can’t formulate words that we understand to get their point or opinion across. And I mean this in the sense of personal style, hair or body alterations (i.e. circumcision, piercings even nail polish.) As far as health and self care, it is my responsibility as a parent to take care of these things for him until he is old enough to do it himself. This means regular bathing, clothing him appropriately for the weather, doctors visits and proper nutrition. I consider this to be what’s best for my child. He is a happy, healthy, active two year old that has so much spunk and zest for life. There are other women, other mothers that parent differently, and their kids are also healthy, active, and love life. It is not my place to tell them what they could be doing differently based on my opinions or the way that I raise my child. And of course there will be parents that I disagree with, but I don’t know their beliefs or traditions or what they have gone through to decide what’s best for their child. I simply see what they are doing differently than me, and that is not enough to pass judgement or make criticisms against them. A popular quote I’ve been seeing recently is:

“Stay in your own lane, there is no traffic.”

Why create a proverbial traffic jam when you can just relish the moments you have in your own lane of life? As far as unsolicited advice goes, honestly I’ve learned to let it go. I think often women seek community and share their own personal struggle with the intent to connect and advise. I know that I have done this, even when as a new mother I absolutely hated it. Kids are hard man, and being a parent is hard, and when someone has a little more experience than me and is willing to share their perspective and reach out and connect, shit I’ll take it. As hard as it is to let go of my ego and think that I can do it all on my own, there is truth in “it takes a village,” and having other women in your village willing to stand by you and share their “sage” advice, or even just show support is so important. 

Another popular example of shame is “body shaming.” We’ve all seen it in the tabloids, we experience it on social media directly or indirectly and we’ve experienced it in person whether we were aware at the time or not. You can be in perfect health, eat all the right things, work out regularly and still feel the backlash of what the media and others deem the “perfect body.” You can be skinny and “need to gain weight,” curvy and “need to lose a few pounds,” fit and be “too muscular.” Just like mothers, there seems to be no winning. What it really comes down to, when we are shamed for the body we were born into, we are told that regardless of any changes made we are not enough.

Well I’m here to ask, not enough for who? 

I’ve been in several relationships where I was shamed for the body I was born into, especially after I had my son when I was sixteen. Boys that age didn’t understand the miracle that is a woman’s body. They didn’t understand that cellulite and stretch marks are common for women, whether they have given birth or not. Regardless, I got made fun of for the stretch marks that gave me my son. I had moments right where I was about to sleep with someone and they took one look at my body and said no. I also had people take advantage of my body because apparently having a baby out of wedlock meant I was “easy.” My identity, to me, became what my body looked like. I still struggle with this to this day because my body has never, and will never, be the same again. When I was struggling with addiction I had a guy approach me that I had gone to high school with tell me I looked so good, I had really thinned out. He didn’t know that I couldn’t remember the last time I had eaten, or that every time I used I puked up anything I had eaten. That thin body was a living, walking portrayal of my drug abuse, and he was unknowingly praising my addiction for making me more appealing to him. I then had guys comment on how I had lost my ass, that I was too skinny and didn’t have enough meat on my bones to be sexy to them anymore. Do you see what I mean? I couldn’t win no matter what I did! But what I also didn’t realize then is I was trying to fit into a box for them, instead of embracing the gift that I had been given, which was a healthy, mobile body that could carry and birth children, chase after them, and do all sorts of magnificent things. I went through so many periods of self loathing and self hatred. When I got sober and started putting weight back on and I longed for a body that looked like what it had before.

I actually wanted the body that could have killed me instead of the thicker version of me that announced my health and recovery.

The body that was healthy enough to give me my second son. I think we will always have moments of doubt, moments of sheer loathing for our bodies. Honestly I do. I can preach about body positivity and tell you how beautiful you are and shout at the top of my lungs that I love my body! But I’m still getting there, I’m not totally in love with my body yet. I know I can do better, I know I can make better food choices, exercise more etc., and I will get there eventually. What I will say though, regardless of how you feel about your body right now, nobody, and I mean NOBODY, has the right to tell you what their “opinion” is of your body. Your body is your right, your body is your home. They have no right to criticize what you’ve worked so hard for. Because baby, we’ve made it through a global pandemic, we had to face ourselves and our mental health in a deeper way than we have ever had to. We’ve had to recover from trauma, isolation, discrimination, hate and more. The female body has been struck down, rebuilt, and idolized by those that oppress us. And you’re going to let them tell you your ass is too fat? I don’t think so. You’re too muscular? Bitch you’re stronger than they will ever be. Shake that ass and walk away, they don’t deserve your time, your energy and more than anything they don’t deserve YOUR body. 

People who shame others are just people who are insecure and need an outlet to let go of their pain.

They are projecting their own lack of self worth on you. That’s not a burden you need to take or carry. People who feel the need to shame you for the way you raise your kids don’t know your child, they don’t know what they need, you do. They don’t know the struggles you have been through as a mother, they don’t know the life you lead or the goals you have. Don’t let other people’s opinion of your life dampen the love and goals that you have manifested and created for yourself. Creating boundaries with the people you love, and for yourself are also important. If you find yourself scrolling through social media and feeling the negative impact of societies proverbial boxes, it may be time to set down your phone and do something that brings you joy and feeds your soul. Setting yourself up for success in your relationships and having open and clear communication about what topics are sensitive to you, and what comments hurt your feelings is also key. You are the master of your life, it’s not an easy task separating yourself from the world and letting it get you down sometimes. But creating healthy boundaries, knowing your own power and knowing the power you have with others is key to a fuller, less shame filled life. You’ve got this. 

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