How do we Love Lovely?
Lovely is the daughter that looks up into your eyes and asks you quizzically, “Why did that little girl call me fat, Mommy? Am I really fat?”
Lovely is the friend who subtly nudges you at dinner and asks, “Hey, can we talk for a few minutes after dinner? I’m feeling weak, losing weight, and I’m kind of scared about what is happening to my body. I heard Jody telling another mom that she thinks I’m anorexic.”
Lovely is the young woman in your workplace who, obviously, has had plastic surgery, and she keeps to herself. You’ve considered asking her to join you for lunch, but there’s this voice whispering in your head, “Is she fake?” and so you leave it alone.
You leave her alone. We leave her alone.
We don’t really mean to leave her alone. We want to Love Lovely. But we struggle.
As women, we body shame women excessively, but we do not want to. All the way down into my gut, I believe that women want to see each other as individuals. We do not want to body shame each other. We want to extend our love with the words we speak, and we want to invite women into community. We want the #sisterhood to be a safe place for diversity and transparency.
We want to love each other in spite of and because of. We want to love each other in spite of our very unique bodies. We want to love each other because of our very similar (female) bodies.
So, let us start Loving Lovely by acknowledging one of the many Body Shaming tools we use that hurts the #sisterhood. By acknowledging these tools, we give them less power. As we start trampling the lies that Body Shame spreads, we clear out space for new roots to take hold, spreading wide and deep underground. We give Body Truth a place to take root — for us and for generations to come.
The first Body Shaming tool we acknowledge is Skinny Shame.
Yep, that is a real thing.
And I’ll be the first one in the room to confess, I have been skinny shaming women my whole life.
As a recovering perfectionist who has struggled from a slew of eating disorders, I can say that I have worked most of my adolescent and adult life to be thin. It wasn’t until I started Recovery with Lynn Hoffmann that I could start seeing my obsession with being thin as heavy baggage that I carried with me everywhere — to every savory meal at the dinner table, to every outdoor run in the neighborhood, to every public function that required public display and public conversation.
When I came across women — guests at our dinner table, friends running the streets near my house, or acquaintances from school functions and workplace parties — I assessed the skinny ones harshly.
I wondered, “What is she doing that I am not?”
“Why is she wearing that, just to show off how thin she is?”
“She is so thin. Uggh. I hope she doesn’t come over here so I have to talk to her.”
I don’t think I’m alone on this. But this one is hard.
Do women really feel belittled when they are called a slew of names that magnify their thin frames?
Skin and Bones
Bag ‘o Bones
My husband, wise in his years, often reminds me it’s not what I say that communicates my heart. It’s how I say it. He probably reminds me weekly: It’s about your delivery, babe.
So, yes, when we talk harshly about women behind their backs or to their faces, this name calling is shaming. If the skinny shame names are said in that mean-girl voice that most of us learned by way of middle school or high school hallway talk, it is harmful. To the woman who is the target.
And it is extremely hurtful for the woman who is carrying the judgment in her heart.
I know. I am her. I don’t want to be her anymore.
So, here are a few questions for us. Answering them, as a joint community of women who want to move beyond Body Shaming women, will help us heal if we’re willing to change.
- As a Jesus-loving woman, has Skinny Shaming women ever affected who you invite into your community? Has it affected who you are willing to be vulnerable with?
- As Christian women, we are often labeled as judgmental, rule-following conservatives. Do you think women outside of our faith fear being judged and shamed for their appearance?
- Can God-fearing women sincerely claim a desire for authentic female community if we Skinny Shame women, even silently in the quiet of our unspoken thoughts?
These questions are tough, but I think it’s completely healthy to think through how we mistakenly see women for what they are instead of who they are.
Jesus shows us how to love women for who they are, not “what” the culture deemed as acceptable. In the new Testament, Jesus loved women well.
Jesus did not allow the first century Jewish culture to dictate how he loved women. Similarly, we should not allow a culture (that skinny shames women) to dictate how we love women He has deliberately placed in our lives.
Jesus, the author of all truth, shows us how to see the female body without judgment, full of grace. So, shouldn’t we aim to judge less and give grace more?
Body Shame weakens its powerful grasp on all women when we choose to celebrate the beauty inherent in every female body.
This message does not pierce the heart of all women. I know there are women reading, this very moment, and they are saying internally, “I don’t struggle with this. I don’t shame women for what they look like. My momma taught me better than that.”
If that is you, I ask you to come alongside those of us whose hearts are pierced. Join with us and help us see. Encourage us, walk alongside us, and lead with us. For such a time as this.
What a sweet place it is to sit in the presence of our Father and delight in these bodies with which He has gifted us. All shapes. All races. All sizes.
Our bodies carry us forward out into the world for good to serve as sisters, friends, daughters, mothers, teachers, and wives. All of us stand strong. We are change-makers.
Loving Lovely is our call.