Ana Veciana-Suarez

Social media has amplified fat-shaming, but women are fighting back

In this April 13, 2016 file photo, Jennifer Aniston arrives at the Los Angeles premiere of "Mother's Day." Aniston says shes not pregnant and shes fed up with predatory tabloid culture that defines women by their looks and maternal status.
In this April 13, 2016 file photo, Jennifer Aniston arrives at the Los Angeles premiere of "Mother's Day." Aniston says shes not pregnant and shes fed up with predatory tabloid culture that defines women by their looks and maternal status. Invision/AP

Picture this absurdity:

You’re running through your Fort Lauderdale neighborhood, keeping your strict four-times-a-week training schedule for the New York City Marathon. It’s hot. It’s humid. You’re sweating. Your heart is pumping. You’re pushing yourself to the max.

Then some stranger stops you to tell you to get a new sports bra.

Do you punch him? Do you ignore him? Do you write about it on social media?

Michelle Kirk, 30, posted about just such an encounter on Facebook.

"He was like ‘your boobs are sagging,’ and then he tried to explain the health aspect of it," Kirk told Miami Herald reporter Emily Cochrane. "He was like, ‘They’re already heading south. I don’t think you want that.’"

Kirk’s message, along with a photo of her flipping the bird, has gone viral. And there’s a good reason for that. Women are fed up with the body shaming, a ridiculous campaign that makes us feel less than simply because we aren’t "perfect."

"You are the reason why women have insecurities," Kirk wrote to the "nasty old man" who, at the very least, lacks both tact and common sense.

She said she didn’t give the man a piece of her mind when he confronted her because she had her 18-month-old daughter in a stroller with her. No worries. A message tends to be amplified on social media.

Unfortunately, though, that power goes both ways. And yes, while there’s always been plenty of catty remarks to go around in a world obsessed with physical appearance, social media has elevated the tsk-tsking and finger-wagging to unprecedented nasty heights. Too often it’s women doing it to each other.

Earlier this month a Playboy model fat-shamed an unsuspecting woman on Snapchat when she posted a photo of the woman naked in the gym along with a photo of her own face with her hand over her mouth and the caption: "If I can't unsee this then you can't either!" After she sparked a huge backlash, Dani Mathers, who was Playmate of the Year 2015, apologized publicly.

Actress Jennifer Aniston, no stranger to the travails of being in the public eye, wrote an essay for HuffPost last week taking tabloid culture to task after ridiculous speculation about her being pregnant — or fat. "The objectification and scrutiny we put women through is absurd and disturbing," she wrote. "The way I am portrayed by the media is simply a reflection of how we see and portray women in general, measured against some warped standard of beauty."

So true. It breaks my heart to hear pre-teen girls discuss dieting when their weight is not the issue, but their perception of their bodies is. Then again, what can we expect when we’re surrounded by the unrealistic (and probably airbrushed) photos of models so thin — or so buxom — that the rest of us of average weight and bra size are left to wonder about what’s normal.

Aniston adds that girls are not considered pretty "unless they’re incredibly thin, that they’re not worthy of our attention unless they look like a supermodel or an actress on the cover of a magazine…" Which most of us don’t, and should care less about.

But of course we don’t need tabloids to twist the idea that beauty exists in every body regardless of shape. We don’t need Snapchat to dehumanize each other, either. We do a pretty good job of cutting each other down the old-fashioned way. Kirk’s encounter on her run certainly proves that.

Ana Veciana-Suarez: 305-376-3633, aveciana-suarez@miamiherald.com, @AnaVeciana

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