It takes a clear head and a strong voice to make sense of all the media noise about obesity, sizeism, bullying and the whole snakepit of body-image issues that women are exposed to.
Stella Boonshoft has that clarity.
The New York student triggered a tsunami-sized public debate last week by simply posting a photo of herself in a bikini on her Body Love blog. And demanding to be heard.
From there, a chance encounter with photographer Brandon Stanton resulted in more of Stella’s photos and opinions getting a wider audience on Brandon’s wonderful Humans of New York website.
The rest is internet viral history — over 2.5 million views, 300,000 “likes” and 30,000+ comments … all since Thursday. (Those numbers will skyrocket this week.)
Stella is currently working with Brandon to build out her blog into a bigger and better forum for body-love issues. Bookmark it and check back often.
In the meantime, below are two separate posts that appeared on Stella and Brandon’s sites — extremely powerful, defiant and worth sharing everywhere:
Text accompanying Stella’s original photo (top):
WARNING: Picture might be considered obscene because subject is not thin. And we all know that only skinny people can show their stomachs and celebrate themselves.
Well I’m not going to stand for that. This is my body. Not yours. MINE. Meaning the choices I make about it, are none of your f****** business. Meaning my size, IS NONE OF YOUR F****** BUSINESS.
If my big belly and fat arms and stretch marks and thick thighs offend you, then that’s okay. I’m not going to hide my body and my being to benefit your delicate sensitivities.
This picture is for the strange man at my nanny’s church who told me my belly was too big when I was five.
This picture is for my horseback riding trainer telling me I was too fat when I was nine.
This picture is for the girl from summer camp who told me I’d be really pretty if I just lost a few pounds.
This picture is for all the f****** stupid advertising agents who are selling us cream to get rid of our stretch marks, a perfectly normal thing most people have (I got mine during puberty).
This picture is for the boy at the party who told me I looked like a beached whale.
This picture is for Emily from middle school, who bullied me incessantly, made mocking videos about me, sent me nasty emails, and called me “lard”. She made me feel like I didn’t deserve to exist. Just because I happened to be bigger than her. I was 12. And she continued to bully me via social media into high school.
MOST OF ALL, this picture is for me. For the girl who hated her body so much she took extreme measures to try to change it. Who cried for hours over the fact she would never be thin. Who was teased and tormented and hurt just for being who she was.
I’m so over that.
THIS IS MY BODY, DEAL WITH IT.
From Brandon’s site, a second post in which Stella explains her background:
I struggled with body image my whole life. As a young teen, I was diagnosed with polycystic ovarian syndrome. PCOS makes it incredibly hard to lose weight, and spikes up your insulin levels which can lead to diabetes and other complications.
I felt like I was just getting bigger and bigger and could do nothing to stop it. I was so awkward and uncomfortable with what I looked like that I began to self-medicate in the way most teenagers do, except it was to a scary excess. Finally, my parents intervened and when I was 15 I got the help I needed. The past 2 and a half years have essentially been a struggle to come to terms with who I am and live life in a constructive, not destructive manner.
A couple of weeks ago, I started a blog, just as a way to get out my thoughts and feelings. I found the body acceptance movement online, and it was like my eyes were open for the first time. I realized that my size or weight is not something to be ashamed of, it is a part of me.
Health and weight are not synonymous, and I know that to be healthy means to manage my sobriety and PCOS the best that I can. I may not ever be thin, but that’s okay. It’s all about progress, not perfection.
So I posted a picture of myself in my underwear with a message to all the people who’d ever bullied me about what I looked like. Amazingly, in less than a week, it got over 50,000 likes and reblogs. It’s upwards of 80,000 now, and the response has been 90% positive, I would say.
Two friends of mine, Savanna and Lucy, are in the process of planning a documentary on sizeism and its effect on young girls. My dream is to go back to my middle school, where all my body image issues began, and work with young girls on the issues of self-esteem, body image, sizeism, and bullying. I want to give these girls something I never knew, which was that your body does not define who you are as a person.
To people who judge people on their size, weight, pants size or health – shame on you. No one is the authority on beauty, and everyone has a different road to trudge to happy destiny.