Mel Rymill was just your average new mother—until she blew up on social media last November for posting a confident underwear selfie via Facebook.
Along with her selfie, Rymill shared a story of her decision to get a personal trainer strictly to build core strength, then her trainer made verbal assumptions that she was only there to get back to her “pre-baby weight.” In Rymill’s social media post, she discussed how new mothers have an unrealistic amount pressure to look a certain way shortly after having a child.
Mainstream media quickly got ahold of her post and wrote articles that labeled her as an inspiration and supported her “braveness” of expressing confidence in her body.
There is no denying what Rymill wrote was empowering, but I question why several media outlets picked up her post as a newsworthy statement of braveness. From a media consumer standpoint, I think there is nothing wrong with celebrating women who are body positive, but to go as far as referring to them as brave or make them up to be a hero is a bit excessive. To portray Rymill’s post as an act of bravery alienates the normalization of women posting body-positive content on social media.
VICE published an op-ed piece last January expressing similar opinions of the use of the word “bravery” by relating the issue back to celebrities and their defense mechanism against body-shamers.
The author, Kat George, discussed Zendaya’s Instagram post from last October when she called out Modeliste magazine for manipulating her figure with Photoshop as an example of media and fans using the term “bravery” in the wrong context. George said Zendaya’s actions were commendable but not “outspoken bravery” like media outlets described.
George’s VICE article said, “Attributing ‘brave’ to women who stand up for themselves for not fitting cookie-cutter, white washed, heteronormative beauty standards is the most reductive thing we can do for body positivity. Instead of celebrating celebrities for standing up to body shame, we should be encouraging women to ignore those who seek to reduce them by attacking the skin they’re in.”
I agree with George’s commentary in the sense that women should have the ability to speak out about a subject, especially body image, without it being a huge media controversy or act of bravery.
On the other hand, people could argue that expressing body positivity on social media should be considered an act of bravery because women are breaking through societal oppression of being told to think and behave a “lady-like” way.
While I also agree that this is a valid argument, a large amount of society encourages women to be so-called brave on social media but on their own terms. Women are told to express body positivity, but if it is too sexual for their personal taste, it somehow becomes a shameful act.
For example, in recent news, Kim Kardashian posted nudes to her social media platforms March 7th and received major backlash. She was called out by media and other celebrities who critiqued her photos saying things like, “If Kim wants us to see a part of her we’ve never seen, she’s gonna have to swallow the camera.” Because Kim did not post body positive content in a “respectable manner” or the way society wanted her to, she was attacked.
Body shaming is a problem, but women should not feel compelled to speak out against it to prove something. Women should be defined by more than their appearance, and when media outlets celebrate women for body positivity, it is putting an extreme amount of focus on the women’s bodies and not their minds or personalities. People should take into consideration the person as a whole, and not define them by a simple post on social media.