BODY SHAMING, AND WHAT THE WOMAN IN THE PHOTO CAN TEACH US

WomanGraphicFaceBluesI’ve been an emotional wreck all morning, running the full gamut from outrage to pity through everything in between. You all know the Dani Mathers story – she took a photo of a naked woman at the gym and posted it on Snapchat, with a disparaging comment along the lines of, if I can’t unsee this, you can’t. It was a revolting thing to do on multiple levels, violating someone who never dreamed another woman could do such a thing in a vulnerable, trusting environment. Most of us who use the steam rooms, saunas, and showers at public facilities might feel self conscious, but if we imagined that others even thought about us in these terms, I for one would wear full body armor in a locker room. This is sad, and has far-reaching implications beyond the furor of social media reaction, which has come down hard on Mathers. If the woman in the photo comes forward and lays a charge, the Playboy bunny (is that what she is?) could go to jail.

My initial response to a FaceBook post was to comment that if I were the woman in the photo, I wouldn’t come forward. I’d want to wait for it to all blow over, for Mathers’ new found notoriety/celebrity to fade, and for people to forget. But I’ll bet all the women at that gym checked out the photo in a flurry of panic in case it was of them, and some will recognize her. I’m pretty sure the gym knows who she is, especially after launching a police investigation. And although there may be an outpouring of support, the pleasure she gets from her exercise routine, the joy that comes with showering after a good workout, might be altered for a long time to come. What I’d be left with is a residue of shame that a woman found my body so repulsive that she thought it worthy of humiliation. That’s the dirty oil slick that Mathers has left in her wake, and that is not okay. What she did touches every one of us, because most of us are not Playthings, not athletes, not perfect.

Let me get more personal here. I’m getting older, and my body is changing. It’s harder to keep in shape, and although I don’t feel old, my body reminds me that it needs extra care, things like rest, sleep, you know, extra fatty acids to soothe the weird, unexpected twinges that manifest out of the blue. But I recently redefined the gutsy girl concept for myself, and I’d be doing my soul a disservice if I didn’t revisit my gut response to how I’d react if I was the woman in the photo.

I hope I would come forward. I hope I would make it my mission in life to say yes, that’s me and yes, that was a terrible violation of my privacy, and yes, it was a poisonous thing to do to me. Yes, that’s my body. And you know, it’s been with me all the way through, and it’s with me still. It’s what will see me through to the end, and I couldn’t be more proud of it. Move on, there is no shame here.

That said, I’m not the woman in the photograph. My heart goes out to her, I have her back, so do the rest of us, and maybe, just maybe, if there’s an up side to any of this, it can be found in the belief we must nurture that we are all beautiful.

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