Body Positivity: The Resistance from Within

The name Jitske Van de Veire will probably not ring too many bells if you’re not from Belgium. She’s the daughter of a Belgian celebrity and has recently gained her own fame by becoming a leading face in the promotion of body positivity. She regularly posts semi-nude pictures on her Instagram account with the goal to show the world that there’s nothing wrong with not qualifying to the “beauty ideals”. The message behind it is that she owns her body and that she can do with it whatever she wants to. Needless to say, we are fans.

 

 

In the news again

A couple of days ago, Jitske made the Belgian newspapers again, but with a completely different message: “Keep it fucking clean!”. Just like everyone who dares to do something online that doesn’t comply with society’s standards, Jitske gets a lot of dirt over her head. We have written about online harassment before, and it’s not very hard to imagine what some of the comments look like if a 28-year-old woman posts half-naked pictures on Instagram.

 

From her own experience and by being “the daughter of”, she probably knows a thing or two about how the media works and how not to be completely offended by every jerk who decides to project his or her own insecurities into an insulting comment. But sometimes it just gets too much. It’s totally fine that everyone has their own opinion and not everyone will agree that one should own their own body. Just like not everyone agrees that it’s okay to be naked among total strangers. It’s not about being right or wrong here, it’s about the way some people decide to express their opinions. We are not going to repeat some of the comments, but we can tell you, it’s very gross.

 

 

Is this the world in which we woke up?

We could write many more paragraphs about how sick online harassment can be, but this story actually gets a lot sadder than this. We stumbled upon the newspaper article on Facebook, and after reading it, we were pretty curious about what the Facebookies had to say about all this in the comments section. Call us ignorant, but we were expecting a lot of support for Jitske’s cause. Less than 10 minutes later, the only thing we wanted to do was go back to bed and cry for the rest of the day.

 

The majority of the comments were in the line of “attention whore”, “if you can’t handle the critics, then don’t do it”, “if you’re not a lingerie model, you shouldn’t post pictures in your underwear”, “that’s what happens if you put half-naked pictures on the internet”, and “don’t be such a hypocrite”. Is this the world in which we woke up this morning? One in which the victim becomes the accused? According to the opinion of apparently quite some Belgians, Jitske shouldn’t just expect those comments, she is actually asking for it.

 

 

The resistance from within

Do you think that this is pretty sad? Wait, it gets even worse. While scrolling through these Facebook comments, we noticed that quite a lot of them came from women. Just for the sake of making sure that everything is clear, let’s summarize what just happened. There is this 28-year-old woman who starts a quest for promoting body positivity with the goal to help women get over their insecurities. The pictures she posts get a lot of dirty comments. What’s the response of the women? “That’s what you get when posting half nude pictures on the internet”.

 

Can you believe this? Many of these women are probably mothers. Is that what they teach their children? That if they are harassed, they were probably asking for it? The next time someone tells us that youth is becoming prude, we’ll probably advise them to look at the mothers first. Or better, to look at the parents, because there were quite some men as well who don’t seem to have many issues with slut shaming a young woman.

 

 

It’s not just the internet anymore

Blaming the victim is unfortunately quite common and especially in cases of rape, sexual assault, and harassment. A lot of psychological studies have been done about this, and one of the most important causes is “the fundamental attribution error”, where humans have the tendency to attribute whatever happens to them to external factors (we couldn’t help it) and what happens to others to internal factors (it’s obviously their own fault). Another cause is the “just-world phenomenon”, which explains that we often believe that the world is fair and that people get what they deserve. If you want to learn more about this, we recommend reading this article, which explains it much better than we can.

 

When we look at online harassment, there appears to be another important phenomenon. A lot of (especially middle-aged) people still make the difference between “the internet” and “reality”. They see the internet as a different dimension in which different rules and etiquette are applied. A place in which harassment is something you can or should expect. But the internet IS reality. We all spend lots of time online. Social media isn’t something like a video game that takes us to another world. It’s one of our most used forms of communication. We wouldn’t be surprised if some people have fewer words coming out of their mouths than out of their fingers. If we keep seeing “the internet” as something different than “reality”, it’s likely that eventually the online norms will be applied to the offline world, instead of vice versa.

 

 

What can we do about this?

Luckily, we are not the only ones identifying this problem. Last week the UK announced a new law against cyber flashing which could have you end up in jail. Other countries have also already taken efforts to stop the unwanted dick pic. But harassment can be more delicate than this and it’s always the question when freedom of speech becomes an offense.

 

We’ve had our fair share of crap over our heads because of what we do, and what has always kept us going was the positive feedback. One “Thanks to you I feel better about myself” message easily outnumbers a thousand shitty messages. This is the advice we would like to leave you with: Broadcast positivity! Support Jitske and all those others who are willing to stand in the front lines. Bombard them with compliments. Tell them how much you appreciate what they do. Let them know how valuable they are for changing our future. There will always be haters, but don’t let them have the biggest mouth.

 
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6 thoughts on “Body Positivity: The Resistance from Within”

  1. Maybe this isn’t the place to say this, but life is too short to waste on some of the losers whose only contribution to the world is mindless, needlessly offensive comments on websites, usually those associated with newspapers and other media outlets. Just don’t go there, because although it may seem otherwise, those losers are not representative of people in general. Concentrate on the good things and the good people in life, and from what I understand of her from your post, that young woman in the story is one of them. And her message is great.

    Reply
    • Yeah, we’ve come to the same conclusion. We’ve had creeps since the very beginning of Naked Wanderings and we’ve tried to educate them for a while. It was just a waste of our time. So now we just plainly ignore them.

      Reply
  2. It’s so easy to blame. Blame reflects our own insecurities and jealousy. Gratitude and compliments are far more difficult. Thank you very much for this well written and researched post. Keep up your great work Nick & Lins!

    Reply
  3. Now you know why I don’t participate in anti-‘social’ media! Not even the Instagram pictures not appearing on my screen in the article you wrote.

    A wise man brought to my attention that “When you point a finger at someone, there are three more pointing back at yourself”. Seems to apply to the abusive trolls.

    Reply

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