Women Shaming Women: a Lack of Self-Confidence

You ladies really like to criticise one another. Geesh. Slut shaming by guys? Fat-shaming by men? How about women shaming women? What's that old saying? Oh yeah, you are your own worst enemy.

I am prompted to write after reading the following.

HuffPost Parents – Dec 3/2013
Caroline Berg Eriksen, Fitness Blogger, Causes Stir With Selfie 4 Days After Giving Birth by Cavan Sieczkowski
Fitness blogger, soccer wife and new mom Caroline Berg Eriksen has caused a stir online after posting a nearly naked selfie, showing her chiseled stomach, mere days after giving birth.

Eriksen, 26, is the wife of Norwegian Premier League player Lars-Kristian Eriksen and the woman behind the biggest fitness blog in Norway, Fotball Frue. On Nov. 28, just four days after giving birth to her baby girl, Nelia, Eriksen posted an Instagram photo of herself posing in a bra and black underwear. "I feel so empty, and still not… 4 days after birth," she wrote.

The remarks from other women, yes other women not men, is both curious and startling. Caroline Eriksen is a fitness blogger. It is her job to look good. I am certain she works really really hard. But, let’s face it, some of us just have really really good genes and we have to accept the fact, when it comes to genes, it isn’t actually a level playing field. But does Caroline’s pride in her own achievement warrant others blaming her for setting the bar too high?

Moma Mia – Dec 2/2013
This is not a selfie. This is an act of war against women. by Rebecca Sparrow
This whole situation has become ludicrous. The competition for women to give birth and then immediately remove any trace from their bodies that they ever carried a child is OBSCENE. There is no other word for it. Actually, it’s more than obscene – this “Look how hot I still am!” obsession and need for public endorsement is a disservice to all women.

Ms. Sparrow is not a fitness blogger. Ms. Sparrow does not appear to be as fit as Ms. Eriksen. Is the criticism of Ms. Sparrow objective? Is Ms. Sparrow’s obscenity “Look how hot I still am!” a personal interpretation of another woman’s “I’ve worked my butt off and I’m proud of myself”?

 

AdWeek – Mar 12/2014
Unapologetic Fitness Mom Turns Her Polarizing Facebook Photos Into a Movement Maria Kang brushes off critics By David Griner
When Maria Kang posted a picture of herself looking fit and trim while surrounded by her three young sons last year, she became a lightning rod for debate over realistic body images and "fat shaming."

Once again, people (women?) criticised the woman. Ms. King apparently looked too good and her challenge of “no excuses” was met with an avalanche of excuses as to why other women have neither the time nor money to be looking good when other priorities, such as children, are far more important. But was this a question about looking good or being fit?

TIME – Dec 3/2013
Fit Pride Isn’t ‘Hate Speech’ By Maria Kang
Will a “real woman” please stand up? In the age of Photoshop, plastic surgery and celebrity idolatry, it seems women are constantly debating what is considered a “real” woman. And, as I found out recently when I posted a picture of myself looking fit and healthy in workout clothes with my three sons (playfully asking the question “What’s your excuse?”), apparently I don’t count.

But let’s not stop at those seeking to be fit, let’s look at the Royals.

 

Chloe of the Mountain – May 6/2015
How Dare Kate Be Prettier Than Us! by Chloe Jeffreys
We’ve all see it by now, the glorious pictures of the beautiful, dare I say radiant, Duchess of Cambridge standing on the steps of the hospital next to her beaming husband, the future King of England, a mere few hours after giving birth to the angelic Princess Charlotte Elizabeth Diana.

Kate, markedly unlike most of the rest of us, is a glow of post-partum perfection in her little yellow dress, with her long, dark, perfectly coiffed tresses blowing in the breeze.

And what have I been reading all over the internet? Bitterness. Lots and lots of snarky female bitterness… How dare she? … I am appalled at the backlash against her as though she has somehow betrayed our gender by showing up the rest of us.

Where is all this criticism, this hatred coming from? As a man, I don’t look at George Clooney or Brad Pitt, as Chloe Jeffreys suggests, and go off on a rant at how there is something wrong with them so I can rationalise their good looks or their fame or their fortune.

Glamor Magazine – February 2011
Shocking Body-Image News: 97% of Women Will Be Cruel to Their Bodies Today by Shaun Dreisbach
Read these words: “You are a fat, worthless pig.” “You’re too thin. No man is ever going to want you.” “Ugly. Big. Gross.” Horrifying comments on some awful website? The rant of an abusive, controlling boyfriend? No; shockingly, these are the actual words young women are saying to themselves on any typical day. For some, such thoughts are fleeting, but for others, this dialogue plays on a constant, punishing loop, according to a new exclusive Glamour survey of more than 300 women of all sizes. Our research found that, on average, women have 13 negative body thoughts daily—nearly one for every waking hour.

Over and over again, I have heard the accusation made to us guys that we are visual and we have grown up in an era of Playboy and unrealistic expectations. What about Cosmo, Vogue, and one of a number of glamour magazines that are devoured by the fairer sex? Have women along with men been inculcated with unrealistic expectations? And how far do these unrealistic or unhealthy expectations go?

HuffPost Women – Jul 24/2012
Are Women Their Own Worst Critics? by Vivian Diller, Ph.D.
About 15 years ago, Nora Ephron gave a commencement speech at Wellesley in which she said not to "underestimate how much antagonism there is toward women." She warned the graduates that although women may have broken many barriers, there were still many who would like to turn the clock back. Ephron may have been speaking about one sex against another, but it's not only men that are getting in women's way. Women today need to be reminded that unless we view one another with greater compassion, empathy and encouragement, we join the insidious atmosphere created by our youth and beauty-obsessed culture.

Psychology Today – Sep 24/2013

Women Who Hate Other Women: The Psychological Root of Snarky by Seth Meyers and Katie Gilbert
As I overheard a group of women this past week in line at a store verbally tear apart a couple of women within their social circle who happened to be absent, I was taken aback by the vitriol. As I reflected on how women talk about other women, I thought about what I've heard so many women say over the years: "Girls are so much crueler to each other than men." Based on fifteen years of clinical work with women who represent virtually every possible demographic variable (Come on, I trained in New York City), I can assuredly report that the women I've worked with report more critical views of other women than the men do with their own male peers.

Psychology Today – Dec 19/2013
The Broken Link: Women Trusting Women by Pamela Madsen
I think that the Urban Legend that women are harder on each other than men are on each other is true. I don't have a study to back that up. That observation comes from a life time of being female, and being around other women.

my blog: Are girls meaner than boys? – Jan 3/2013
Forty years ago, a man told me that girls are meaner than boys. He explained that if a guy got into an argument with another guy, they would go out back; beat the crap out of each other and it would be finished. If that guy got into an argument with a girl, it would never be over. Ten years later, they could be doing something totally unrelated and that girl would say something like, "Do you remember what you did ten years ago?" In other words, she would never forget; she would hold a grudge forever.

Confidence
As I’ve written elsewhere on my blog, in my experience happy people are kind, generous, and sympathetic if not empathetic. Unhappy people are angry, mean spirited, and critical of anybody other than themselves. I can’t help thinking that the reaction of people to events and other people says a lot about the individual in question.

Women trying to be fit are criticised for looking “too hot”, looking unrealistically good. If they’re being the best they can be and it’s better than you, is your criticism justified or is this a wake-up call to do something about it?

Glamor Magazine – February 2011
Shocking Body-Image News: 97% of Women Will Be Cruel to Their Bodies Today by Shaun Dreisbach
3. Exercise! Survey respondents who worked out regularly tended to report fewer harsh thoughts than those who didn’t. And it’s not just that being physically active improves your shape and health; it actually boosts your mind-set, too. One new study found that women felt better about themselves after exercising even when their bodies didn’t change, suggesting that the feeling of “That was challenging, and I did it!” played a bigger role than weight loss in boosting body image. “Hitting the gym or horseback riding makes me feel like a fitness rock star. It’s the biggest confidence booster for me,” says Margo Short, 22, of Dallas, who counted four negative thoughts—about two-thirds fewer than the average respondent.

The Royals have a baby and they and their baby look better than you and yours. Is this criticism justified or is it indicative of your own insecurities?

my blog: I’m a 62-Year-Old Man and I’m Invisible – Mar 11/2015
Recently I ran across a number of articles about the issue of being a woman over 50 and being invisible in today’s society. What struck me as odd about this was that when I reflected on my own situation, I had to admit that I am, by their definition, invisible. When I walk down the street, people don’t look at me once, never mind twice. I’ve had people offering me senior discounts for years. (Five bucks less at the movies. Woo-hoo!) Being a man, I don’t get catcalled, but heck, I’ve walked around gay sections of the city and couldn’t get picked up if my life depended on it.

I’m not your typically handsome male. George Clooney is getting no competition from me. I’m not young and the heartthrob Ryan Gosling is way out in front. I’m not a ripped hunk like Hugh Jackman à la Wolverine (sexiest man alive People Magazine 2008) or Chris Hemsworth as Thor (sexiest man alive People Magazine 2014). The only accolade I get is when I go home after work and find out I'm the sexiest man in my apartment. (I live alone.)

There are now over seven billion people on the planet and in the grand scheme of things, I am a mere grain of sand on the beach of life. Am I invisible? Those seven billion people are living their own lives and if they ignore me, I’m sure it’s not malicious. They’re busy.

A Theory About Women by Chloe Jeffreys
Ms. Jeffreys presents a very interesting theory about “Competition and the Biology of Women’s Survival”.

Human beings are extremely competitive. As a species we’ve competed against every other organism on the planet, and so far we’re winning. But we’re also in a life and death struggle against each other. While men have been busy competing against other men, wild creatures, and the forces of nature for their survival; women’s competition has had a very narrow focus. Specifically, we compete against other women for what we’ve rightly perceived as our single most valuable resource: MEN.

Throughout history a woman’s ability to get and hold onto a man of substance was (and still by and large is) her best chance for ensuring her survival and the survival of her offspring. One reason women haven’t been as successful in business and politics as men is because women aren’t programmed to compete in the same way men are.

Men are programmed to win; women are programmed to defeat other women.

Psychology Today – Dec 19/2013
The Broken Link: Women Trusting Women by Pamela Madsen
One theory is that we want men to like us—a lot. More than anything we want men to validate our beauty, our desirability, and our brilliance. After all, many women have been taught their entire lives that we are not worth anything unless a man tells us so. We cut our teeth on learning how to flirt and gain the attention and approval of men.

Final Word
Two years ago, I joined a gym. I work out regularly and feel better not just physically but psychologically. Let me be realistic, though. I’m going to be 63 in October. I’m not a hunk. I’m not a studly example of a handsome male. In comparison with the younger, fit, ripped muscular men, I’m sure I’m a bit of a joke. However, I do get marks for showing up regularly and being dedicated. Notice what I said: I feel better psychologically. And that, I think, is the key to success.

Over and over again, I’ve heard that confidence is the most important factor to our own happiness and success. If we feel good about ourselves, we are going to be confident, and confidence is one of, if not the, most attractive feature of people. We gravitate to confidence.

At the gym, there is an advertising poster for a membership drive. It shows the picture of a young woman and a short story. She started off at 240 pounds and has worked her way down to 180 pounds. She admits she is a big woman (BBW?), but says that she has a new attitude about herself which is far more important that getting her weight down to what society deems as the standard. I look at this woman’s picture and it’s my interpretation, but I see confidence and a twinkle in her eye. I see her as an attractive woman.

If I sign up for the marathon, my goal is to complete the race. My goal isn’t to come in first, my goal is to be the best I can be, to finish the race. When I go to the gym, I’m not going to end up looking like Arnold Schwarzenegger or any of the current batch of muscular males. I’m trying to be the best I can be. And I am certainly not measuring myself against George Clooney or Brad Pitt. Some people have better genes, but I’m not holding it against them. I’m only in competition with myself.

Do women shame other women? It would seem that yes, they do. But instead of ridiculing the object of their scorn, they are saying a great deal about their own insecurities. Confident people don’t make fun of other people. (And that is applicable to both women and men.)

References

my blog: BuzzFeed: Women's Ideal Body Types Throughout History – Feb 2/2015
A diverse cast of models shows how the standard of beauty for women has changed dramatically over time.

my blog: Size Zero: What the heck?– Jan 22/2014
Zero? As in nothing, zip, nada? Who makes this s**t up? I don't remember anybody asking me for my opinion. Was I out of the room when the vote was taken?

my blog: Body Image: Being comfortable about yourself – July 19/2013
I do not believe that any one of us truly appreciates the effect society, media, and our peer groups have on us. When I say we are the sum total of our experiences, those include a myriad of outside influences. Whether it is friends or colleagues, TV or the Internet, news or entertainment, we are constantly bombarded by a slew of messages which influence how we think and how we behave.

my blog: An open letter to (older) women about body image– Jan 27/2012
Body image, mental image: I'm not perfect but I'm beautiful anyway. I recently ran across a few articles written by women about the problem (their problem?) of not being the right weight, not being slim enough, maybe not being young enough and certainly not being able to keep up with never mind compete with the air brushed fashion magazine runway models who represent some sort of ideal every female should strive for. As a citizen of the other side of the great sexual divide, I thought to take a moment to add my two cents worth with the hope, accounting for inflation, that $0.02 is not over-evaluating my contribution.

 
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