We've talked before about our society's sick pressure on women to be young, thin, tall, and picture-perfect. It causes untold anxiety in teenage girls especially and has driven many to eating disorders and even some to suicide. It's painful. It's lonely. It's so wrong. I've been embarrassed of my body since I was in grade school. I've been bullied, shamed, encouraged to lose weight, told I "would be so pretty if..." An early interest in health and maybe becoming a dietitian morphed into being a pastry chef -- a fat person has more credibility in that role. I don't go to movies or fly or sit in booths, mostly to avoid still more shame for being too large.
But let's get outside of ourselves for a minute. What if you're bald? Maybe you had chemo or a skin disease or maybe you just hated your hair. Can women be comfortable with that, even when society judges you? Perhaps you have a disability or deformity -- even those words judge you as wrong, less, the opposite of normal. How about people of color? Did you like Halle Barry's hair at the Oscars? Or was it too "African" for you, or too informal, or just too different? Seriously, one of the most beautiful women in the world, and people criticize her appearance.
What if you're of a darker ethnic background and suffering poverty? You don't have stylish clothes or miracle makeup or fancy hair products -- does that make you somehow less of a person? It does in a lot of eyes, so many eyes, in fact, that society in general tends to label you as less -- less attractive, less worthwhile, less intelligent, even less entitled to necessities like shelter, food, and toilet facilities. Your self image pales in comparison to society's image of you.
What if, because you were ostracized, you became mentally unstable? What if you lost your job, couldn't afford your meds, and ended up living in a tent behind some shrubs near the freeway? What does society think of you now?
Society is a harsh judge, and any time we accept a social norm on face value, we're more likely than not hurting somebody. We need to become drastically more aware of what denotes value, how we determine who has and who has not, who is worthy of necessities and who is deserving of grace. Until all of us feel acceptance, value, beauty, society serves none of us.
Susie Snortum is passionate about improving society's compassion for meeting basic human needs -- food, shelter, clean water, and dignity.