For a recent college scholarship application, I was asked to write, “What do you think is the most critical issue women will face in the next 20 years? How do you see it being resolved?” It didn’t take me long to answer that question or essay. The critical issue women will face in the next twenty years is splashed across traditional and social media – EVERYDAY!
It is sad to me that in 2017, the most critical issue women will face in the next 20 years is the incessant problem of body shaming women to diminish their worth, intelligence, power, expertise and success. Political views aside, that most people thought it was okay for anyone to refer to women as pigs, nasty, fat and ugly as okay was so very, very disheartening to me, especially as a young woman.
Locally, two prominent women in the media were shamed by viewers because of their bodies, not their body of work! Meteorologist, Candice King, was told she should not be on the air because she was pregnant; apparently, viewers thought she looked too fat and that is was inappropriate to be on the air at eight months pregnant. Ms. King responded forcefully, “I am 31 weeks pregnant and if you don’t like the way I look, change the channel.” But should she have had to do that? Are women still viewed as a pretty accessory? How can this be? Too many women have fought the fight for C-Suite opportunities and to be viewed equally in all areas of academics, sports and life choices. Are we really still talking about the bodies that have taken women forward?
News anchor Whitney Martin has had the same experience with viewer reviews. She has received emails, texts and voice mail messages about her hair, her dress, her weight. She, too, responded forcefully in a FIT 815 magazine article, “It is our responsibility as broadcasters to deliver the news to our viewers with accuracy and integrity. This responsibility absolutely trumps the relatively minor importance of our appearance.”
I often think of the women suffragists who were beaten, raped and imprisoned so that women could have the right to vote. What would they say if I said, thank you so much for giving your life to this cause, but I must make sure my lipstick looks darn good, and my outfit flattering while I cast that vote. Or how about a conversation with the women who led the feminist movement of the 1960’s? Thank you for opening doors for me, but I better be looking good at all times and meeting that unattainable media expectation of beauty before I walk through that door.
There was a recent social media campaign called #PantyChallenge asking teenage girls to post a photo of their clean panties after wearing them a day. While this sounds graphic and horrific – girls participated. It was a campaign that, according to Metro Magazine, “is a deeply damaging reinforcement of negative perceptions of women’s bodies. It’s a sign that girls don’t have an understanding of their own bodies.”
To move forward, I believe that it will be my responsibility, along with all other young women, to speak-up and say enough. We have to take a stand and say that we will not be evaluated by our hip size, but rather the size of our portfolios. We have to start writing to the media and calling them out when they participate in negative female marketing, we have to take a stand and speak – out on social media and, lastly, we have to elevate each other. I want young women 20 years from now to say my generation did all that we could to stop the body shaming of women. It will be our fight and mission. It is our time to step it up.
Bridget Krysztopa, bFIT founder and blogger