The now infamous picture model Dani Mathers posted on Snapchat (naked woman blanked out).
Hands up who had never heard of Dani Mathers, prior to the recent news story about her taking a picture of a naked woman in a gymnasium changing room, then body-shaming said woman to her Snapchat followers?
Hands up who would be more than happy never to hear of her again?!
Okay, so if you've not heard about this story, here's a very quick recap: Dani Mathers, playboy model (2015 Playmate of The Year), was at a branch of LA Fitness, when she took a photo of a naked woman in the changing room and posted it on Snapchat, with the caption: "If I can't unsee this, then you can't either." The model came under a barrage of entirely justified criticism for violating the poor woman's privacy and for shaming her figure and has since claimed that the picture/comment was part of a private conversation and was never supposed to be shared publicly. She's apologised and claimed that she "loves" the female body and knows that body-shaming is wrong. She has insisted that the negative opinion people have formed of her since all this came out "is not the type of person" she is. But that hasn't stopped the police from looking into Mathers' actions and it hasn't placated her critics. She could face criminal charges, she's been suspended from her Playboy duties and has been banned from all branches of LA Fitness. With good reason.
Look, if you're a regular reader of this blog, you might remember that last year, I wrote about wanting to lose half a stone. I reached my initial goal a fortnight or so ago (yes, it took me a year - I really like food...) and I would now like to lose another three or four pounds to reach a really healthy weight at which I'm happy in myself. And for reference, I am a UK size 10. I shouldn't be fretting over my size. But I find myself noticing every spare pound of flesh more than is probably healthy. So, it's fair to say that as someone who is very much aware of her own physical "imperfections," this story hit home. Hard.
Because the poor, unsuspecting woman who became the butt of Dani Mathers' "joke" (no pun intended) was someone just like me. A woman trying to get a little healthier by exercising more. Perhaps someone who's noticed a few extra pounds and has decided to do something about it. We live in a world in which women are expected to look a certain way. Magazines are full of air-brushed models and if a female celebrity dares to be photographed on a beach with cellulite on display, the tabloids will plaster her across their pages, with red rings of shame around her thighs. Surely, the take-home message women get from all that is that we're supposed to make more of an effort to conform to a societal standard of beauty? We're supposed to be slim, toned and gorgeous, or we're somehow not good enough.
And yet, we find ourselves in a situation where a woman has gone to the gym - a place people go to get healthy, perhaps lose weight and tone up - and instead of being praised for it, a slimmer, apparently more conventionally "attractive" woman is tearing into her for it.
How are women supposed to win?!
It's hard enough to be a woman in a world in which "beauty" has such strict meaning. We almost come to expect - in a horrible way - the press to rip female celebrities to shreds, if they're not conforming to the standards imposed on them. We don't like it (because it's gross, duh), but we're so used to it that it's reaching a point where it loses its shock value. But when the shaming of women comes directly from other women, we really do have a massive problem.
What bothers me is that Dani Mathers, whilst in the hugely privileged position of supposedly having the standard of beauty women are apparently meant to aspire to, is in a career that is known for being ruthless. Models are worked hard to stay in shape. They can't afford to gain weight, or let their looks fade in any way. So Dani Mathers should know better than most, how it is to feel pressure to look good. Ridiculing someone who is only trying to better herself - whether for health or beauty reasons - is therefore all the more shameful.
When I write something serious, sometimes I need a gif that makes me giggle.
I have a problem.
Another thing I find particularly hard to swallow is the idea that Ms Mathers seemed to think that her actions were somehow forgivable if she claimed that the photo and the disgusting caption that went with it were supposed to be part of a private conversation that the rest of the world never saw? How does that work?! Is body-shaming another human acceptable if only your close friends know about it?!
In a strange way, her insistence that the photo and comment were meant to be private almost makes this whole thing worse. I mean, here we have a woman in a position of influence, who probably has a few female fans looking up to her and undoubtedly will therefore be spouting the kind of "everyone is beautiful" rhetoric that we all should be able to believe (because it's bloody true!), whilst in private, she's breaking the law and violating strangers in order to mock and shame them for not being slim or beautiful enough. That's the kind of two-faced hostility towards women that we don't need in the world.
We need female role models who speak about the beauty of every other woman and actually mean it. We need to celebrate women for their achievements, rather than merely reducing them to their physical attributes. We need to make our minds up: are we trying to encourage women to exercise, or are we openly mocking them for it?!
And you know what? We need to live in a world in which we openly admit to our mistakes.
So, Dani Mathers, on behalf of women over the world - especially women who maybe wish they could be a few pounds lighter, or who are more than a little aware of their "flaws" - don't mock us further with a casual "oops, nobody was meant to see that" excuse for an apology. Admit to what you did. Don't tell us that you're not the sort of person who body-shames women, when you've been caught doing exactly that. Be strong enough to accept that you were utterly wrong. Be brave enough to look and see the harm that actions like yours cause ordinary women every single day.
And make the choice to no longer be a part of that harm.
We are all beautiful, regardless of what is on the outside. The irony of this whole situation is that it's the professional model who's come out of it looking ugly.
Only time will tell if the world can "unsee" that side of Dani Mathers.