Putting body shaming on blast

Jillian Spaulding


At first glance, Shelby Johnson is your average 23-year-old discovering herself and trying to launch a photography career on Instagram to follow her passion. However, what makes her stand out is not her photography, but a viral tweet featuring horrific texts from her boyfriend of two months. These texts border on abusive behavior as he body shames her for having the start of a “beer gut,” while she tries to defend that she is only 120 pounds ­— the same as when they met. Of course this treatment is inexcusable, but the question is not why did he say such degrading things, but why did Shelby post it online and wait a week to break up with him?

Upon reading these tweets, I was disgusted to hear a man speak to a woman he supposedly cared about with words such as: “Also the main issue is your gut might stick out more than mine, and that’s just weird.” This quote, taken from Johnson’s tweets, does not disclose her boyfriend’s name, but does show his behavior. 

However, it strikes me as odd that a woman would post these demeaning texts and photos of her body to defend herself. In my opinion, her need to broadcast this is a sad example of how people use social media today for validation, but it also illustrates the rise against the patriarchy. 

“While I think it was wrong for him to say something like that, I also think it’s strange that she posted it to start some issue, though I believe it is fully her right. It’s wrong and a concern that she only broke up with him due to social pressure, but that validation we all want is relatable,” reflects second-year Evan Arns. Many students agree with Arns about this. We are trying to digest how we use social media as a crutch to vent out our feelings, and seek some approval from the masses. Social media is screaming into the abyss, hoping to hear something back that tells us we are not alone.

Patriarchal beauty standards are nothing new, as we look all the way back to Hawthorne’s “The Birthmark,” in which Alymer stops at nothing to make his wife Georgiana truly perfect by removing a small birthmark on her cheek. Through her death, it is seen that these values can never be reached, just as Shelby will never be able to satisfy society’s idealized women, as she has struggled with her weight and body dysmorphia for years. She is now reaching a healthy weight according to her doctors. Shelby, with the help of social media and the support and urging of the crowd, was able to rise beyond these horrific texts and in this stand against has been able to make a name for herself. 

In my opinion, anyone who believes a person can take a hurtful experience and spin it to their benefit has not been truly humiliated. At first, I was horrified to read these text messages until I took a hard look at the way I, a woman, am viewed, advertised to, and spoken about in our culture. This speech is everywhere, shaming women and men alike left and right. She is “thick” or he is “scrawny” are words we use to say they are not enough to be deemed attractive. Speaking out against how many people believe they can talk to women as though their bodies are anything other than their own business is something that needs to be corrected sooner rather than later. I commend Shelby’s courage and the dialogue about body shaming that it has ignited. If more young women were willing to stand up and speak out against the microaggressions aimed towards our physical appearances, there would be less young girls  crying their eyes out at night or going to bed starving, all to fit unrealistic body standards.