Bullying, Body Shaming, and the Unbearable Powerlessness of Douchbaggery

You know those people who think it’s fun to cross the street r e a l l y s l o w l y, smirking at you the whole time because they got one over on you? They had power over you for one minute? They forced you to wait? I used to get annoyed with them. And then one day I realized that the reason they enjoy that moment of power is because they feel so powerless in the rest of their life. For whatever reason, they feel so powerless as they move through life that they relish that moment in the crosswalk, forcing someone to wait for them, forcing someone else’s life to revolve around theirs for a moment.

It’s sad. Sad that our culture fosters that sense of powerlessness in so many.

I don’t get annoyed by it any more. I sit and wait, because once that moment is past, I will continue on my way, continue my way through this life of blessings. I go home to a safe and comfortable home, a husband who adores me, healthy strong children, good food to eat and the freedom to shape my life the way I want it. I go to a job that I love, that allows me to grow and learn every day, that appreciates my skills and allows me to foster my interests. I’m surrounded by positive, intelligent people who enrich my life every day. I have power in this life, the power to really affect my world in a positive way, not just for myself, but for the people around me. So waiting a few extra seconds for someone to cross the street isn’t worth getting annoyed over. Let them have that moment. It may be all they have.

This is what bullying is, my friends. A sense of such deep powerlessness, such an absolute inability to exert control over one’s own life, that the only way to feel powerful is to force someone else’s life to revolve around yours for a moment.

Bullying takes the form of body shaming, especially directed at women, every day and in every way. We are bombarded relentlessly with messages that our bodies aren’t good enough, that we aren’t ‘real women’ if our bodies don’t conform to culturally acceptable standards, that in order to be desirable we must change things about our bodies, that our natural shapes are unnatural and flawed. This is the message portrayed by the media because, as I said in my interview with Radical Hateloss, “I don’t think our culture wants any of us to be happy with ourselves, ever. When we’re happy with ourselves we stop buying useless crap, and start thinking critically about cultural values and expectations. No one gets rich off people who think critically.” The torch is then picked up and carried by people who’ve bought into the cultural mythology of ‘appropriate femininity’ (or masculinity, because men are targeted by these same cultural influences), by people who are, in essence, tools of the system. The sense of powerlessness they feel over their own lives gives the act of shaming other people’s bodies the false appeal of power. For one brief shining moment, not only is another person’s life forced to revolve around theirs, but their behavior is actually reinforced by cultural conditioning. Oh, it feels so good.

I’ve been the target of regular body shaming for many years. As a child, I was too fat and too tall. As a teen and adult, I was too fat, too tall, too broad shouldered, and too flat chested. Not appropriately feminine. Add in a strong jawline and a short haircut, and you can imagine the insults leveled at me over the years. Now that I’m not fat any more, I’m too lean and too muscular. My shoulders are still too broad, my jaw still too angular, my hair still too short, my boobs still too small. I’m not a real woman (never mind the two babies I grew in my uterus, delivered through my vagina, and nourished with my breasts). These are not new insults to me. My body has ALWAYS been deemed unacceptable by the system, and by the tools of the system. They are like a broken record.

I suspect most women reading this are nodding their heads, because no matter WHAT your body is shaped like, you’ve been told it’s unacceptable. Am I right?

Body shaming is our culture’s way of stripping us of our power. When it’s practiced by other people, it’s their way of feeling powerful for one brief moment. But it’s not real power.

Real power is the ability to affect your OWN life in positive ways. Real power has nothing to do with other people. The person making me wait while they’re crossing the street doesn’t have real power. They aren’t making their own life better. Real power is the realization that you’re just fine the way you are, that you’re not flawed, that you don’t need to change, that you can direct your OWN path and define your OWN identity. That you can make your own life better. You can. You have that power.

And for the bullies, the body shamers, the tools of the system. They get their one fleeting moment of false ‘power’. And the targets? We go back, after that one brief moment, to the people who love us, to the things we choose to do that make our lives meaningful, to the richness of the good works we create in the world. To a life of value. With the knowledge that we possess the power to make our own lives better. That’s the real power. And you have it, and no one can take it away.

26 thoughts on “Bullying, Body Shaming, and the Unbearable Powerlessness of Douchbaggery

  1. LOVE it – THANK YOU. I have just recently found your blog – and my life has changed for the better. I had already lost the weight I needed to before I found you, but have found the maintenance of the weight loss to be just as hard if not harder than the weight loss journey – and it is for sure more of a mind trip! There are so many forces working against women – so many people telling us how we are supposed to look…and I was having a hard time accepting that my body did not turn out the way I thought it would after losing weight (that silly loose skin on my belly!!) – but thanks to you I have realized that I’m healthy and happy and I am teaching my daughter to love her body and how to nourish it in a healthy way and that is WAY more important than having a 6 pack!

    • It is. I’ve had the six pack and it’s not what it’s cracked up to be. Loving my body just the way it is is better, a million times better.

  2. You have proven again why you are such an inspiration. I think that I know what this is in reference to (woo done it?) and hers was a nasty post. I just don’t get it. I may not agree with everything that you say, but you’ve never been divisive about it, either. I thought that it’s always been clear that your position is “this is what works for me, maybe it will work for you.” You’ve been diplomatic. Juxtapose that with others who are “my way or the highway” and you come across as uber-classy. I appreciate your style and the way that you carry yourself. I love how you’re built and I used to have really short hair and am tall, too 🙂 Keep up the good work and the great writing.

  3. To men a man is but a mind. Who cares
    What face he carries or what form he wears?
    But woman’s body is the woman. O,
    Stay thou, my sweetheart, and do never go,
    —Jogo Tyree (Written ’round about 1900.)

    Things haven’t changed much in the last hundreds years or so, apparently.

  4. Great blog (you had me at ‘don’t be afraid of barbells’) and great post. To work a job that feels more like a hobby must be incredible.

    For what it’s worth, I think you look bloody amazing.

  5. Amber, I am just stunned and amazed by all the crazy that has been thrown at you. You are a beautiful woman. I for one find it (the hate posts by youknowwhoo) all so tiring and childish.
    Can’t we just all move and eat and just be who we are? 🙂
    love deb

    • Thanks Debbie! I’m not surprised. It’s not like it’s new! Get some new material, people! 😛

  6. Wow I just love your posts. They are inspiring, uplifting and encouraging. Thank you for being you!!

  7. No one has ever really said anything to my face that made me feel shame about my body…all of the bullying has always come from my own head. I am sure if I put bikini pictures on facebook, I’d probably get a ton of mean comments from outsiders, but I don’t really feel the need to go there.

    • Where do you think that voice in your head came from, Heather? Do you think you were born with it? You weren’t, it’s been drilled into you by our culture from the time you were a small child. No one needs to overtly shame you if you’re shaming yourself. Your body ISN’T worthy of shame though. It is absolutely valuable and loveable just the way it is, and you deserve to feel happy with it.

      One of my most vivid memories of middle school was the day the boy I had a crush on actually noticed I was alive and said something to me. He said ‘You’re a girl? I thought you were a dude!’ And he laughed and walked away.

      I’m used to having my appearance criticized.This isn’t the first time someone’s said these *exact same things* about me. One of the REASONS I put bikini pictures online is so other women can see that I’m able to maintain my self esteem even when my appearance is criticized, because my self esteem comes from within. I do not need outward validation to feel like a valuable human being, and no one else does either.

      🙂

  8. I realised this year that if I am to succeed in my efforts to reshape myself, I’ve got to forget what everyone thinks. I posted pictures of myself weighing in at 110kgs on my blog. No one laughed. No one was nasty. The interesting thing was that I was almost derailled by a blindside of criticism from one professional who was supposed to be helping me on my journey. What I realised was that my journey is my journey, not hers, not anyone else’s. What you have written makes a lot of sense and it resonates. Thank you.

  9. I recently discovered your blog and FB page, and I am so pleased to come across it. I’ve been on my journey for 4 yrs, I’ve had great success, but have reached a point where I think my body is happy where it is, but my head won’t let it be. I’ve been working on Body Composition, changing it and while it’s a slow process, it’s the nutrition and my self talk that I struggle with the most. I refuse to restrict my nutrition to something unattainable as I feel it will lead me to failure in the long run. Yet my head tells me that the parts of me that most likely can’t be changed in a healthy way are not acceptable on me. Reading through your blog, photos and such has inspired me to work harder on accepting myself as I am. Embrace what can’t be changed and just be fit and healthy, which is truly what I want. I continue to feel like I’m unfinished when the reality is that I just need to accept my good fit healthy self, embrace it and focus on that. Thank you for throwing yourself out there, honestly and boldly, enduring the nasty people who attack you, for you are making a difference in others lives and their thinking.

  10. Thank you so much for doing what you do! I really needed to hear this today. I am having major marital problems right now because of my weight. I am in the middle of my weight loss journey and doing very well but it doesn’t seem to be fast enough for him. I am so tired of feeling like I am nothing more than something to look at. I am worth more than that. So, I continue on my journey and continue being happy with what I’m doing. Your posts continue to inspire me. Thanks again.

  11. Thank you for posting this.

    FYI, I landed on your page via the paleodrama tumblr. I’m glad I found your page before I got nauseated from the misogyny and closed the tab. I’m a man, and I wish everyone would read this. I will repost to my facebook.

    Thanks again.

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