I like to think I've got a pretty good sense of humor. You have to, when you're me -- because I trip over things all the damn time. It's a curse.
So it's somewhat disappointing to me that I can't bring myself to see the funny side of the latest 4chan hoax, the "bikini bridge" -- which has, predictably, managed to take on a life of its own. It's been picked up by major news outlets as the "latest disturbing trend," following 2013 debates on the "thigh gap" -- and I have a real, real problem with this.
The thing about hoaxes is that to be funny, they've got to be a little absurd -- but to my mind, this one's too plausible to be considered any form of entertainment.
I've seen the images used in this hoax on numerous fitspiration boards, pro-anorexia websites and ever-so-depressing Facebook updates -- so, hoax or otherwise, the "bikini bridge" seems like the logical conclusion of a shame culture that's damaging to everyone caught up in it.
The way we talk about our bodies -- the words we use to describe them, the way we refer to them both in our own minds, and to each other -- has a direct impact on our psychological wellbeing. And by creating a term, hoax or otherwise, to describe a part of the body you're only going to have if you're built in a certain way, the people behind the words "bikini bridge" are only giving young women more tools with which to damage themselves.
As a reminder, it's estimated that 20 million women and 10 million men in the U.S. alone will suffer from an eating disorder at some point in their lives. Evidently I missed the point at which this became something to laugh about.
This is no small issue. And it's the direct result of a culture of body shaming which is, quite simply, screwing us up.
Now, this hoax plays directly into that, created with the simple aim of causing a fight. Put simply, it's designed to create shaming on all sides -- from thin-shaming ("only people with eating disorders have that") to fat-shaming ("if you weren't fat, you'd have one").
In other words, it's designed to make everyone hate themselves by snarking on each other. And I am so, so far over it.
So let me say a couple of things, which I hope -- in some way -- might help just a little to counteract the vile world of shaming, which existed long before the "bikini bridge," and is only made worse now those words are out there.
First up: there is no universal perfect body. The ideal body size suggested by the media is achievable for -- wait for it -- around 5 percent of U.S. women, and even then, there will always be imperfections. It's just part of being a living human being. I mean, I lost 130 pounds, and look at me - I'm a million miles from that (NSFW.) But it doesn't matter.
Secondly, when you judge yourself, or other people, according to the ideal -- you're only making your world a worse place.
And I'm not just talking small-scale, here. As the American Psychological Association has shown, women who are high self-objectifiers have a higher risk of depression, eating disorders, and anxiety, as well as reduced ambition and confidence in their ability to make political judgements. In other words, women live less fulfilling, less engaged lives when they consider their body as a key measurement of their self-worth.
That right there is a sad state of affairs. And one we need to change.
Forget thinspiration, forget "real women have curves," and forget any idea that makes it okay to compare one body type to another and declare one better -- because the options, to my mind, are like this.
Either we can choose to engage in a discourse that has us judging ourselves and one another by our weight, our size, our thigh gap, or some other supposed measurement of self-worth -- or, we can choose to be kind, and to be happy, by stepping back from shame culture, and learning to love our bodies for what they are.
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