Body shaming, the practice of humiliating or discriminating people (mainly women) because of their appearance, is strongly rooted in the modern pop culture, which is powered by permanent (over)production of social media content. Obviously, the scale of this phenomenon is getting especially visible in the celebrity context – when an unretouched photo or a movie leaks to the Internet. Rihanna’s case has brought this topic up twice over the last few weeks, The Internet has split into the ‘shamers’ and the protectors and the comments from both parties show only how far we have come in the sexualisation of woman’s body.
The Grand Kadooment is a public holiday in Barbados and at the same time the finale of Crop Over festival. Its tradition began at the end of the 17th century to celebrate the end of sugar cane harvest. Rihanna, the most famous “Daughter of Barbados”, joined the crowd again this year and created a world-wide sensation with a series of pictures in a colourful costume, heavily laden with jewellery and feathers. And Rihanna herself is enough to make the Internet go crazy. With over 53 millions followers on Instagram, the singer became the main subject of the body shaming discussion again.
Similar ‚scandal’ broke out at the end of May when Barstool Sports website published an article bearing a rather disgusting heading ‘Is Rihanna Going to Make Being Fat the Hot New Trend?’. The unscrupulous author wonders if we are witnessing a developing trend of “women with Hindenburg [airship] curves” and stresses that the singer’s new look can lead to the situation when ‘the hottest chicks would look like people from Wall-E’.
The article, probably calculated to generate a large number of clicks, was widely criticized and quickly removed, but not by the fact that it was misogynist and humiliating – it simply was „not funny enough” for the general editor.
In this era of gossip madness, even web portals that clearly oppose calling Rihanna “fat” and try to defend her get involved in extremely sexualizing discourse. As Highsnobiety portal points out, a woman’s body should never be a subject of mass discussion. However, ambiguous and racial terms (thick, thicc) are used even here, to positively assess the singer’s shape, though. There, the author, full of good intentions, presents a series of RiRi pictures in a mesmerizing outfit, analyzing her curves from different angles: „(…) we show pictures of her body in close proximity – YOU DECIDE [if she’s thick]”.
Photo coverage from the Festival could have been a great opportunity to say something about the fascinating culture of Barbados, or the strong sense of local patriotism frequently demonstrated by Rihanna. Meanwhile, the only true reason for writing dozens of articles is … the body. Nasty comments on the image of Beyonce after she got pregnant, or Kim Kardashian for the same reason, or Lady Gaga after performing at the Super Bowl is no exception here – bodies of celebrities seem to be a „common good”, which can be evaluated by anyone.
Jennifer Aniston, fed up with such a situation, posted an open letter addressed to tabloids last year, where she emphasized how dehumanizing headlines, focusing on „famous belly”, destroy women’s subjectivity. – „Is she pregnant? Is she eating too much? Has she let herself go? Is her marriage on the rocks because the camera detects some physical ‚imperfection?” – could be read. For the insanity, associated with morbid fascination with the female body, Aniston blames precisely the paparazzi hunting for „hot news” and places where the content is published. In a recent interview published in Vogue, Aniston has been asked whether something had changed in her perspective a year after her appeal. – Not really (…). If you’re going to walk out and have your nipples showing, or your belly is a little bloated, or you’re not at the weight you want to be — you are perfect no matter what you are and no matter where you are. ” – she explains.
Information about this interview was published by a Polish gossip site, giving women the right to be who they want to be (and the way they want to be). Although, author’s had some doubts concerning the part about visible nipples, but that would still be acceptable.
However, right below the text there was a link to another story, titled: Angelina Jolie caught without a bra! That’s how she paraded [emphasis – ed.] in front of the crowd.
Language, being a tool of modern culture, plays a key role in our understanding of what is beautiful (thus slim means acceptable) and what is ugly (thick, unacceptable). If we do not want the next generation of girls and women to live in guilt because of what they look like, let’s pay attention to how we comment on the reality surrounding us and, therefore, what kind of beauty standards we pass on. Only then there is a chance, that in the foreseeable future such billboards will not push anyone into complexes caused by the unrealistic image of the female body.