When Women Body Shame Their Sisters

by Samantha Bacchus McLeod

We can discuss the history and cause of what it means to body shame another. We can speculate on the many reasons why some women will attempt to ridicule and belittle other women in their pursuit of body-shaming.

Or, we can reflect on our very first experience and how we processed that moment, and set the course of our actions for the rest of our lives.

The loss of childhood seems to be the start of shame

It was a hot summer day in August just before my thirteenth birthday. I was still a child, full of innocence about my body. I trusted it to climb trees and swim in rivers, to run as fast as my legs could carry me. I knew this body got hungry and was sated with food. I knew I had to bathe it when it was time to start the day, and time to go to bed. Those were the purest and cleanest days of my life. The days before I went from self-trust to learning about self-disgust.

Introduction to becoming a woman

I was wearing yellow shorts that day, as I helped my sister hang the washing on the clothesline. A group of women and girls chillin on their stoop were laughing while pointing at me. I, being a silly child, laughed along with them.

When they paused for breath between their laughter, one girl said, “You’ve messed your pants.”

I ran inside to check myself. The bright red terrified me so I did what every child will do, screamed for my mother.

It was a traumatic experience. Along with the why, how and when, came the instructions to “stop playing outdoors”, “be careful of dirty uncles”, and how to dispose (and hide deeply out of sight) all evidence of this life blood flowing from my body.

My feminist self was born that day. Although I was a rebel prior to that incident – I fought the norms of “girl chores” and “boy chores” – I was still a kid. After that menstrual-ative moment I suddenly identified as a girl.

Over the next decade nothing anyone said bothered me, I was me and proud of it.

Fast forward to my mid-twenties trapped in a bad marriage, self-esteem taking some blows and absolutely not prepared for the next incident of body shaming.

On a camping trip to Kelowna with a few other couples, I was basking in the sun, feeling a moment of peace. Two of the women on the trip decided to educate me on cellulite. Mine. Not in a nice way.

I quickly became a vegetarian believing if I cut off vital proteins from my diet I would get “skinny”. I also joined a gym to lose weight faster (I was 135 pounds at the time, at 5 feet 3 inches).

I remained a vegetarian for many years.

I learned about food and how it works in my body, I learned about proper nutrition and variety. I re-introduced meat and seafood once I had built a healthy relationship with my ever-growing knowledge of food.

The gym

That changed my life forever. As I gained muscles, I got fitter and faster and stronger, so did my mind. Today I will fall of the gym-wagon and get back on in my own time. Working out is the only diet I know.


Food is my friend, my medicine, my power. Certain foods can also be is a poison for some of us.  When I encounter food that is not my friend I cut it out (eventually and reluctantly) like I do people that are not kind, to me or others.

Body shaming goes hand in hand with ignorance.

I am going to be 50 years old this year (yay, thank you!)

A few weeks ago, I experienced a situation that cut me off at the knees. With all I have learned and all I know, you would think I would be prepared for this, but alas I wasn’t. I guess I had become too comfortable in my world with my feminists’ friends. I woke up.

This is a situation that happened with a woman in her late 80s. As we walked up to the door to greet her, she said directly to me, “Look at you! You look pregnant, are you pregnant?”

I was perturbed by that as I had not changed my size in the last week (see picture), nor was I particularly bloated that day. Where was this coming from? Hmm.

As we proceeded to the car, I found myself checking my belly and tugging at my hoodie. 

Once seated at the restaurant table –  I had donned my wind jacket up to hide my “pregnancy” – I found myself unable to eat, or face the others at the table.

I was body-shamed, I fell for it like I was 13 all over again. Damn, that shit got some power.

The cruelty to our own sisters is astonishing.

We women know ourselves well, and some of us will use our own vulnerabilities to hurt our kind. Women, growing old who will never know the power of sisterhood. These women who have never learned how to embrace women as their strength, comrades-in-arms. These women, I feel such sadness for their loss.

It is not too late in any one of our lives, to find our sisters and embrace their strengths, to share our fortitude with each other.

For the record, let me say this…

Your body is the only thing you really possess, the only part of you that is totally under your control. When someone, anyone, decides to critique your body without your permission…shut that shit down immediately.

Let them know that your body is not a topic that is open for their discussion.

When a woman can embrace women as her allies, as her strength, her friends, as the people in the same struggle she is going through she would have no cause to shame other women.

If you find yourself shaming others for being a certain size “too small or too big, too dark or too fair, too whatever”, head over to caloriebee and give this article a read.

“At the root of all of us are our deepest fears and insecurities. When people are not happy with themselves…” caloriebee.

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