This just in: Someone else’s body is their business, and theirs alone. That's not the only reason not to comment on someone else's body, of course, but it is pretty fundamental to being body image positive — and besides, zeroing in on someone's appearance is so overdone at this point. Why would you focus on someone's physical appearance when there are so many other things to talk about, like their favorite New York Times article or the softly-lit display case of Powerpuff Girls dolls looming in the corner?
Unfortunately, that's not how most people are raised. Society puts such an emphasis on appearance that yes, some might actually pass over a Powerpuff Girls collectibles display in favor of commenting on someone's cellulite or otherwise judging people's bodies. This doesn’t mean everyone is a horribly shallow mean girl at heart; rather, it’s indicative of a culture that emphasizes appearance to the point of directly equating it to someone’s worth as a human being.
Others have spoken at length about the importance of body positivity, body image positivity, and body confidence, so I won’t go into much detail here; suffice it to say that society treats those who deviate from the ideal of "toned, skinny white person" with far less respect and basic decency than those who happen to fit that category, and it’s far past time to put an end to it. It should also be noted that although women's bodies are subject to particular scrutiny, men face their share of body shaming as well.
With that in mind, let's take a look at five reasons not to comment on someone else's appearance below.
1. Their Body Isn’t Your Business
Think about how obnoxious it is to have anyone, be it an acquaintance, friend, or stranger, walk up to you and tell you to do your makeup more naturally. It's irritating AF, right? How you do your makeup is your business, and nobody has any right to tell you to do it differently.
You can tell where I'm going with this — on a much more personal scale, someone's body is their business, and nobody else has any right to tell them what to do with it.
2. You Don’t Know Their Background
It should go without saying, but unless you're telepathic (which, let's face it, is unlikely), you don't know someone's life history. Appearance is regulated by all sorts of factors, most of which can only be known by the person who's body it is. It's not anyone's place to judge someone else for it.
3. It Can Quickly Become Concern Trolling
When you hear the phrase "healthy body," what do you think of? You probably automatically pulled up a mental image of a toned, stick-thin movie star, or maybe an Olympic athlete. Either way, these "ideals" aren't the only representations of fitness, nor should they be — everyone's body is different, and as such, healthiness looks different from person to person as well.
Body shaming is often couched in "concern," because society teaches us to associate deviations from the ideal with weakness or unhealthiness — even though those associations are completely arbitrary. Basically, think about why you're commenting on someone's appearance: Is it because you're legitimately worried that their life is currently threatened, or is it because you're judging them for deviating from a societal ideal? If it's the latter, you might not even realize that's what you're doing until you really stop to think about it. In a culture of body shaming, these comments are sickeningly common — but they don't have to be. We can consciously choose not to make them and break the cycle.
4. It Perpetuates An Emphasis On Appearance
It's no secret that our culture prizes beauty according to whatever the current definition is at the time. Unfortunately, this obsession with appearance can have a hugely negative impact on someone's mental health. When you make a comment about someone else's body, you're just perpetuating a culture that equates physical attractiveness with their worth as a person; in contrast, passing it up in favor of other subjects helps to shift the conversation to other things.
5. There Are So Many Other Things To Focus On
Appearance may be the first thing we see, but it's hardly anyone's defining attribute. Furthermore, bodies change constantly. People can gain weight, lose weight, spend time in the sun, color their hair, get a piercing, get a tattoo — the list goes on and on. Why spend so much time emphasizing something so malleable when you can focus on, well, literally anything else?
Images: Andrew Zaeh for Bustle; Giphy (5)