Body shaming

The action or practice of humiliating someone by making mocking or critical comments about their body shape or size

I don’t follow celebrities on social media, I don’t watch reality TV shows like the Kardashians, and Big Brother but recently it was in the news about the singer Rihanna being body shamed in an article published by sports blog Barstool blogs titled “Is Rihanna Going To Make Being Fat the Hot New Trend?”, this article received a lot of criticism and has since been deleted from their website. What right has anyone to comment on someone’s weight in a negative way?  It hasn’t gone noticed that Rihanna appears to have put on weight but is it right for the public to comment on it in such a negative way?

The short answer is no but the reality is we have all done, maybe not in such a public way but we have made comments about peoples weight be a gain or loss, I know I have. That’s all without knowing that person’s story, have the changes in a persons weight illness or medication related or maybe they are just happy and comfortable with themselves and it is the rest of us that have the problem.

Rihanna isn’t the only celebrity to have been a victim of this body shaming trend, performing at the Super Bowl Lady Gaga wore a top that showed her midriff which according to some critics was not toned enough to have been put on display. Looking at the pictures I wouldn’t say she was fat at all but by celebrity standards you could be considered obese.

Both stars in these examples have hit back, in an Instagram post Lady Gaga is captioned  promoting the need to be happy with your body by saying;

‘…I’m proud of my body and you should be proud of yours too,” 

Lady Gaga is no stranger to promoting a positive body image, in 2012 she posted pictures of herself in her underwear without the glamour of makeup after being body shamed about putting on 25 pounds.

We are always seeing stars bringing out exercise videos and showing how they went from looking like an unhealthy version of themselves to a svelte figures with toned abs and arms and how they are now so much happier. Yes be healthy but being skinny doesn’t necessarily mean you are happy. Tess Holliday an American plus sized model promotes her shape and size, though plus sized in terms of her cholesterol etc she is healthy. Yet her image doesn’t conform to the rules so she has received some criticism.

body positivity

People like Lady Gaga and Tess Holliday are focusing more on the need for people to happy with themselves but also highlighting the dangers of body shaming people and how trying to conform to what society deems to be an ideal body shape. Not all of us have the same body shape, I am just about a size 8 occasionally flirting with a size 10 but have been told that I am finally looking like I have some curves and look better for it.

Snow white PosterYou would think that by now society would have learnt that there is no ideal body shape, publications have been criticised for their heavy handed use of Photoshop. Lets not forget how the marketing team messed up with the advertising for the animated Snow White film, Red Shoes & the 7 Dwarfs with the line ‘“What if Snow White was no longer beautiful and the 7 Dwarfs not so short?”  As you can imagine this didn’t go down to well. The advertisers have since apologised but come on in the world we now live in why would you want to give the impression to kids that being short and overweight is unattractive?

You don’t even have to be a celebrity to be body shamed, you could be going about your business unbeknown to you that someone is surreptitiously taking your picture to plaster all over social media. This is what Dani Mathers did, her post didn’t receive the reaction she was expecting resulting her in going to court. She had the choice of a prison sentence or community service, she opted for the community service. The victim has chosen to remain anonymous whilst Dani Mathers has been on TV to cry and apologise for her actions, I personally don’t have any sympathy for her she knew what she was doing she’s is just upset that others didn’t agree with her post and got dragged over the coals for it.

Eating disorders

According to the eating disorder website BEAT based on a study they commissioned PwC in February 2015 to carry out they estimated that 725,000 people in the UK are affected by an eating disorder.

“725,000 people in the UK are affected by an eating disorder

11% of those affected by an eating disorder are male”

You hear the horror stories and the lengths models will go to, to maintain or lose weight such as eating tissue but France have now put their foot down banning the use of excessively thin models. It doesn’t promote a healthy image nor a realistic one. “Models will need to provide a doctor’s certificate attesting to their overall physical health, with special regard to their body mass index (BMI) – a measure of weight in relation to height”

Employers who choose to ignore this ruling could face fines of up to 75,000 euros and up to 6 months in jail

I spoken a lot of the whole body shaming from a female perspective but no one is safe from this abuse, male celebrities have been ridiculed from once having the body that their female followers dream off to now having what is considered a ‘dad body’, the expanding waist and belly. Though usually associated with females, eating disorders affect both male and females

I would rather be happy and healthy than be concerned about what someone irrelevant person thinks about how I look, for some this is easier said than done and there are a lot of other issues that can relate to a persons weight gain / loss.

I’m content for now just pass me the plate of samosa’s, and leave me to it.


Funding for Autism; is it enough?

Since my brother has been diagnosed with ASD; Autism Spectrum Disorder I have noticed a positive change in his personality and his outlook on things in general. He doesn’t say much about University expect it is going well but since telling his university lecturers about his diagnoses I’m not sure if they now have a better understanding of how to teach my brother or how they explain things to him but he seems much happier with his course these days. I’ve also noticed him interacting more on the family group whatsapp messages. To some these things may sound insignificant but for my brother these changes are big steps for him.

Although there is no definite cause of ASD there has been research and studies reporting factors that could contribute to the development of ASD, this could be receiving high doses of  high levels of “male” hormones in the womb to taking antibiotics during pregnancy. During my brothers assessment our mum mentioned she took antibiotics during her pregnancy with my brother for a tooth infection. Aside from the antibiotics she had a normal pregnancy. Were the antibiotics a contributing factor or could it have been something else?

According to an article I recently read on the BBC news website in the UK the cost of lifetime support for a person with ASD is approximately £1.5 million, costs that are much higher than care for a person with heart disease, stroke and cancer combined,  yet only £6.60 person is spent on research. whether a cure can or cannot be found research is important to further understand ASD, both from a person with ASD and a non ASD perspective.

In total autism costs the UK £32 billion per year, looking at things from a financial view point it can seen how early diagnosis, intervention and care can help reduce these costs. Knowing this information yet essential support is still being cut.

In June, the mental health charity Young Minds released the findings of a series of Freedom of Information requests, which showed that 77% of NHS clinical commissioning groups (now responsible for designing local health services in England) had frozen or cut their Camhs budgets between 2013-14 and 2014-15.

If my brother had been diagnosed earlier who is to say how different his school experiences would have been. Although he was entitled to additional support for his dyslexia I don’t believe the school fully understood that the support my brother needed wasn’t just with education but with also trying to understand social dynamics. Teenage years are a confusing, scary time for those of us considered normal, imagine how a person with ASD would feel? The question is should schools be required to provide adequate support for young people with a form of mental illness or whether teachers should be able to recognise certain traits of ASD or any other forms of mental illness?

If budgets continue to be cut the only ones missing out will be those who most need the support.

Just how private are our private lives?


I have my Facebook privacy settings on, I have a public WordPress and LinkedIn profile. I have chosen these settings for my various social profiles because there are some things I am happy to share with everyone, other pieces of information I want only a select few to see.

However if you are a US citizen, try all you like to keep your private life private but be warned you are being watched.

Recently news broke about PRISM, a surveillance program run by the US government intelligence organisation NSA (National Security Agency). It was brought to the public attention by whistle blower Edward Snowden that NSA were secretly tracking and storing US citizens online activity, conversations etc.

Before we get all panicky about this, we could try and look at this from a different perspective.

From a marketing angle our online activities from our shopping habits to the movies we download and webpages we view are monitored. Then we are targeted with offers and similar adverts that may interest us based on our online behaviour.  Facebook try to target specific users with adverts they think are of interest to them based on their Facebook activity.

This brings us onto our social media accounts, where do we think all our data is stored and who else has access to them? As secure as we try and make ourselves online somewhere our private information, information we have willingly parted with, is stored on a giant server.

Every time we sign an agreement with companies we are allowing them access to personal information such as bank account details, date of birth, address, all of which is stored and despite all the high level security in the world is still susceptible to being accessed by those with less than savoury intentions.

Even down to the good old store loyalty cards. Stores are tracking the way we shop, things we are most likely to frequently buy so they can target us with money off coupons making us think we are getting a good deal, but are we really?

Some of the examples used are harmless marketing traits to target us the consumer, most of the time we have knowingly parted with personal details. Problems arise when we are being tracked / watched unknowingly, as in the case of the PRISM scandal. Tracking telephone conversations is usually associated with criminals, not those who are considered to law abiding citizens.

Despite being painted in a negative light the PRISM program does not believe they have done anything wrong, that their tracking is safe and they have not endangered anyone. That a PRISM report states they have followed the three simple rules of safe tracking.

  1. Safe tracking is anonymous.
  2. Safe tracking is transparent, informing users of what is and isn’t private.
  3. Safe tracking respects your privacy, protecting your personal content, connections and conversations.

Safe or not, it is the fact that this type of surveillance was taking place without the US public knowing. This isn’t the same as a mobile company tracking your phone usage, this is the government monitoring the average Joe’s conversation.

It could be argued that the government surveillance program is to protect the country’s citizens and preventing any future terrorist attacks. But has it reached a point that even its own government no longer have trust in its own people that they have taken such measures?

If this type of program exists in USA, how long before news emerges of similar programs existing in other countries, say the UK?

Social media alliances

QR-Code-Social-Networking-guys-shaking-handsI’m beginning to think that the social media world is a bit like cars. Remember when cars had their own unique appearance?  Today, there are some subtle differences in shape and design but overall many cars do look physically similar. Many moons ago I used to work for the automotive company Ford. Though the body of some cars were Ford the engines were from another manufacturer. At that time Ford also owned Jaguar Land Rover.

I think a similar thing is happening in the online world. We have seen how Google+ has been given a makeover so (in my opinion) it looks similar to Pinterest.  The key social media players all have ‘like’ and ‘share’ buttons. To the dismay of some of its users, Facebook is constantly tweaking its look to keep it ‘fresh’. Yet still Mr Zuckerburg doesn’t quite understand the phrase, ‘If it isn’t broke….’

Then we have the ‘hook ups’. Facebook has partnered with Instagram. This week we’ve heard that Yahoo has bought Tumblr. You can connect Stumbleupon with Twitter.  Google+ is a force of its own; it may have a social site to play with but has also launched its futuristic glass and have a well-known search engine so are in no shortage of money. This leaves LinkedIn and Pinterest, could these two have a future alliance? Most likely not as both social sites have a different target audience, you’re not likely to find an image of a black forest gateau on LinkedIn any time soon. Then again, in the changing world of social media anything is possible.

With a ‘hook up’ comes great responsibility, OK a bit over dramatic but when two companies merge so do the problems that one or both companies bring with them. Take for example when News Corp. bought MySpace in 2005 (for roughly half what Yahoo paid for Tumblr). MySpace brought with it a few embarrassing issues which eventually led to News Corp selling MySpace in 2011 at a loss. Tumblr is no stranger to the good, bad and pornographic images that can be found on its site. Yahoo wants to focus on the advertising opportunities of Tumblr but does it really think it will be able to distance itself from a  battle between Tumblr’s users who want the site ‘cleaned’ up and those who want the site to remain as it is? As the parent company, Yahoo may have to wade in and tackle this issue whether they like it or not.

It would seem to stay ahead of the game social networking sites are branching outside of their bubbles to seek or take the knowledge from those who are willing to part with it, in some cases for a price, and use it to their advantage.  Will it all end in tears before bedtime, who knows? As long as mergers continue to line the pockets of the Mark Zuckerburg’s and Marissa Mayer’s of the online world the only people that will have to deal with the subsequent consequences are the users.

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When social media is no longer social

I’ve talked about the role Social Media plays in our lives, how in some cases it is affecting our ability to effectively communicate with one another both physically and verbally .

I’ve talked about the ‘trolls’ who take to the social networks to verbally abuse other users.

I want to discuss the role social media has played in the Steubenville case. Social media is no longer simply an environment where users can share their thoughts and opinions, it is becoming a communicating tool with its own language, breeding a culture that is not entirely healthy. Is it all down to Social media? I would say no, human nature and the attitudes each user brings to their network is also a reflection on the unsavoury culture that has been gradually getting worse and becoming a serious cause for concern. Social media has been used to victimise, taunt and humiliate users in the way of trolls. Groups have been setup up to help users protect themselves but until now legal action had not always been taken. Not necessarily because a crime had not been committed but because those posting the hate filled messages were hiding behind their profiles and pseudonyms with social networking sites reluctant to pass on user details to the relevant authorities.

Then the Steubenville case reared its ugly head. Through the use of social media, in particular YouTube and Twitter, a young survivor who had already been violated physically and emotionally had to suffer further when it was discovered her ordeal had been documented by her abusers through YouTube. I’ve used the word survivor instead of victim here as I believe the young female in question has had to stand strong against those who used her body for their own satisfaction whilst she lay unconscious. While others stood by and did nothing. Then to have her community turn against her and show their support for the straight A grade, football stars, details we are constantly reminded of. These so called intelligent ‘A grade football stars’ failed to realise that once anything is uploaded onto the internet, no matter how many times you delete it, it is out there permanently. Yet these bright sparks and those who were aware of these boys had done, still thought they would get away with it.

Following the conviction of the two rapists, supporters of the ‘football stars’ took it upon themselves to show their disagreement of the verdict by sending threatening messages to the survivor via Twitter and Facebook. This time those who sent the messages were found and charged. Following this example social accounts of those who have also harassed the survivor have either been deleted or made private.

As the Steubenville case ends in a conviction news of another case involving high school football stars emerges in Torrignton, with the young survivors (sadly there is more than one survivor in this case) also being bullied online. In both these cases social media is not the only cause of concern. There is a social breakdown and disturbing culture of who is placed on a pedestal and protected regardless of their behaviour. Something both these communities will have to address especially now their towns have been thrust into the global spotlight.

So should social media also be held accountable for the Steubenville video being uploaded in the first place? The survivor was unconscious and heavily intoxicated at the time, with no memory of what had happened. There were witnesses who chose to remain quiet. The other piece of evidence which none of those involved could deny was on YouTube.  That video showed the victim, the rapists and the face of their friend who found it all too hilarious.

We have the Steubenville cases where an investigation took place and those involved were charged because there was evidence a crime had been committed with the perpetrators on show and identifiable. The video alone did not lead to the conviction but no doubt will have contributed.

Users sharing data documenting a violent act, abuse of others is not isolated to the USA. In January 2013 a video of a girl punching a boy much bigger than herself was filmed and uploaded, the only reason the boy involved did not hit back was because he said himself in the video that he did not hit girls. The police and school became involved. Due to the negative and in some cases threatening messages the girls family received in response to the video forced them to go into hiding. Though the act was criminal and wrong, was it right for user’s to behave this way?

In both incidents the main culprits had nowhere to hide, their faces were out there on the internet to be identified.

In the examples I have used the users’ of social media in my opinion have crossed legal and moral boundaries that are and have become harmful to others. Those involved showed no fear, they were not concerned about concealing their identity and hiding behind a profile. Their only concern was the fact they got caught.This says to me that users are developing a level of arrogance, thinking that out of a billion users sharing information what are the odds of their video, their pictures, their messages from going viral and becoming a global focal point? Bet the Steubenville trio (I’m including their  hyena friend) didn’t think they would get caught and receive a different kind of attention?

It does make you think how many other videos like these are out there, how many other survivors have suffered and are still suffering in silence?

Is the damage already done with no way back?

So many questions with not enough answers.