The fashion industry has been under the microscope for the last few years, with critics saying that they’re not doing enough to deal with the issues around body image in the media. This is particularly true when it comes to the bikini section of the market – where advertisers almost always use super-thin, toned models to sell their products
Some argue that having ‘aspirational’ body standards is not necessarily a bad thing, while others think that super-think bikini models project a body image which is impossible to live up to, and is ultimately psychologically harmful to women across the world.
One person who is definitely in the latter camp is Shelley Proebstel, who was visiting Mount Maunganui Beach with her friend on January 12, when she was apparently the recipient of some very unwanted attention from a group of mean-spirited men.
When the men laughed at her physique, Shelley had a couple of options: Be shamed into covering up, continue with her day emotionally unscathed, or turn the horrible incident into a positive.
The New Zealand blogger opted for the latter, much to the delight of her online followers.
Wow! What an overwhelming response there has been to my post about wearing my bikini on Mount Maunganui Beach!! …
On her blog and Facebook page, Bald and Beautiful, she posted a picture of herself in a bikini, big stomach and all, writing:
“To the guys who pointed and laughed when I took my sarong off today at Mt Maunganui Beach, bearing my soul (my bikini body) to the world, I just want to say (excuse my language but) F*CK YOU.”
Shelley went onto document all the nasty consequences of body shaming people. Particularly, she spoke as to how it can affect women.
“It’s because of d*ckheads like you that people are so incredibly insecure about their body image.
“It’s because of people like you that women especially don’t feel safe or confident or comfortable to go out in society in something like a bikini, or a crop top, or a short dress, or with their midriff showing.”
“It’s because of people like you that people starve themselves and make themselves sick in an attempt to maintain a ‘model-like figure’.”
“It’s because of people like you that people wear long sleeves all year round because they are scared to show their arms.
“It’s because of people like you that people become anorexic, obese, bulimic, self harm, commit suicide…I could go on. No, you are not responsible for the entirety… But YES, you have to take some responsibility.”
That last comment was certainly controversial, but it’s clear that Shelley feels passionately about the subject, along with her followers who were very supportive.
“So next time you see someone like me on the beach in a bikini or in a situation similar, before you laugh and point, take a moment to think about the damage you may just do. Because not every person, young or old, male or female, will have learnt to have the thick skin, or the resilience, or the self confidence, that I do to brush it off.”
She also spoke of how she nearly gave in to the social pressure:
“I won’t lie, there was a split second that I almost quickly covered up again, and then I reminded myself of all I have learnt on this journey, and I held my head high and stuck my belly out and wore that bikini with pride.”
The post resonated with a number of her fans and has since garnered hundreds of likes on Facebook, as well as a deluge of supportive comments for the blogger’s desire to speak out and normalize all body types.
On the other hand, there were some who accused Shelley of promoting an unhealthy lifestyle, having assumed the blogger was not healthy due to her weight.
She explained that she does yoga, walks long distances with her dogs, does dance classes and works out in the gym three times a week.
It’s really unpleasant when strangers make others feel unwelcome just because of the way they look. I hope it doesn’t happen again.