Whether it’s found in the comment section of Instagram or a mean-spirited blog post, body shaming is rife on the Internet.
Just this year, successful women like Giuliana Rancic, Kelly Clarkson and Pink have all publicly spoken about the cruel jibes that are constantly hurled their way by keyboard warriors who criticise them for being ‘too fat’ or ‘too skinny’.
Websites and other online platforms often struggle to find ways to overcome this kind of bullying, so it’s quite surprising to see a high-profile publisher taking a stand against body shaming.
Former reality TV star-turned-businesswoman Lauren Conrad has announced her lifestyle website will be banishing a number of what she calls “body shaming” words — like “thin” and “skinny” from future articles.(Post continues after gallery.)
In her monthly “Letter From Lauren” post, the 29 year old explained the rationale behind this measure.
“When we’ve talked about getting in shape in the past, words like ‘skinny,’ ‘slim,’ and ‘thin’ have often come up. Starting this month, we’ll be banning any body shaming terms from the site, and replacing them with words like ‘fit’, ‘toned,’ and ‘healthy’. We try do to this for the most part anyway, but now we’re making it official!” Conrad writes.
“The word skinny will now be reserved for skinny jeans. My editorial team and I had a long talk about it, and we want to make sure that the focus is on being fit as opposed to a number on the scale. Every body is created differently — and healthy bodies come in all shapes and sizes.”
By acknowledging the power of language in perpetuating negative attitudes about women and their bodies, Conrad has taken a positive first step on behalf of her readers — and many of them have responded positively.
She also hits the nail on the head by referring to the tendency to equate size with health, when it's almost impossible to determine how healthy and fit someone is just by looking at their body. Fitness looks different on everyone, so "thin" shouldn't necessarily be the objective of an active lifestyle — "healthy" is more helpful.
However, while Conrad's intentions are admirable and clearly well-meaning, eliminating words that simply describe a certain type of body could achieve the exact opposite of what she's hoping for. (Post continues after video.)
"I think she is missing the point. Descriptors of size such as 'slim', 'thin', 'fat', etc. are not body-shaming in and of themselves at all — they are simply adjectives," explains Dr Olivia Patrick, clinical psychologist and founder of Shape Your Mind.
"It's the way in which we use them that can be body-shaming, and actually, by banning these words from her site, Lauren is inadvertently doing exactly what she is trying to avoid."
The fact is, some women's bodies are best described as 'slim', or 'thin', or 'skinny' —just as some women are 'curvy' or 'heavy'. (Post continues after gallery.)