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Selena Gomez and the relentless pillorying of body shaming

Why have we not yet learned to refrain from unsolicited comments?

Selena Gomez and the relentless pillorying of body shaming Why have we not yet learned to refrain from unsolicited comments?

«I am not a model, never will be. They can go away if they don’t like it». When Selena Gomez felt compelled to justify her softer curves last February to defend herself against the unrelenting judgement of those who accused her of gaining weight, she perhaps hoped it would be the last time. The haters would get the message and learn to keep quiet and avoid unsolicited comments and opinions. After all, she had tried to be as sincere as possible. She said that due to her illness, Lupus, and the kidney transplant she underwent a few years ago, she has to take medication and as a result her body stores a lot of fluid and swells. She had specified that she does not model and does not have to fit into a certain size, and then reminded that health matters more than being thin, that «I don’t believe in shaming people for their body or anything». This was not even the first time she had done this, and believing that it would not happen again, she was well aware that she was deluding herself. She was also pretending as she tried to convince herself and others that negative judgements did not hurt her.

In a new episode of the documentary series Dear... on Apple TV, she spoke about mental health and her body and weight fluctuations due to lupus. She addressed how people looked for any excuse to bring her down and shame her for her weight gain. In particular, Selena admitted that she faked it when she downplayed the impact of these cruel judgments:

«I lied. I would go online and I would post a picture of myself and I would say, "It doesn't matter. I'm not accepting what you're saying." All the while, being in the room posting and crying my eyes out because nobody deserves to hear those things. Though I was posting these things saying it doesn't bother me, because I didn't want it to bother other people who are experiencing the same thing, getting shamed for what they look like, who they are, who they love… I just think it's so unfair. I don't think that anybody deserves to feel less than».

Selena's admission follows body shaming from Madonna, who was insulted for her swollen face after plastic surgery, and Lizzo, who was guilty of wearing a bikini on holiday. On this occasion, the singer, who advocates for the uniqueness of bodies and the right not to be discriminated against on the basis of appearance, reiterated that people should focus on the fact that she is an artist and does not have to submit to an arbitrary aesthetic canon and that her body is also art, so she can do what she wants with it. She concluded by suggesting that social media and commenting should be chargeable so that we understand how much time we waste behind these things. It is hard to say whether paying a fee for every sentence clicked on while hiding behind a keyboard would be a solution.

The problem of body shaming in general, especially towards women (who, although there is also a male counterpart, are statistically more prone to this phenomenon), is complex and has been rooted in society for centuries. As Maura Gancitano explains very well in Specchio delle mie brame. La prigione della bellezza very well, it is related to the fact that women (and thus their bodies) have always been objects rather than subjects and therefore we have always felt entitled to analyse and judge them. Over time, the situation has shifted and now "our society also pushes us towards self-objectification: we have an omnocentric view of the body, which means we always see ourselves from the outside and become the worst judges of ourselves, which affects our lives, what we do or do not do." And we might add that we vent on social media and beyond about those who do not live up to the standards we often set for ourselves, chasing after them and punishing ourselves when we feel we fall short of them. And the rivers of ink wasted in recent years on acceptance and body shaming count for little if every time we see someone with a superfluous pound, an imperfect nose or a wrinkle, we are unable to at least muster the empathy and common sense to keep unsolicited judgements to ourselves.