Several years ago, when this blog was still called Ain’t No Mom Jeans, I decided to cover a little bit of celebrity fashion. I found a few pictures of celebrities walking their kids to school, hanging out at a park, etc. They were wearing cute, casual outfits, ones easy to recreate. So I rounded up a few links to similar pieces, wrote a bit of fluff and hit publish. Then I went to bed.
When I woke up in the morning, I was surprised to see how many comments the post had received. And even more surprised when I read them: “OMG she looks so fat!” said one commenter. “This is a terrible picture – she looks exhausted” said another. One particularly mean-spirited commenter remarked that Sarah Jessica Parker’s “hands looked old”.
Her hands looked old? Are you serious? First of all wtf who cares, and secondly….won’t ALL of our hands look old eventually? And please consider that right at this very second, someone else – another mom, perhaps, in the midst of spit-up or cranky toddlers or any other sort of taxing, everyday life – could be reading that comment, then look down and think, “my hands look old, too.” Not to mention that we’ve all looked fat at some point, we’ve all looked exhausted. What, exactly, is wrong with any of these very human things? When mean-spirited comments happen, especially online in public forums, the collateral damage is far-reaching.
So I deleted those comments – I deleted all of them. And guess how many times I’ve covered celebrity fashion since then? ZERO. It just seemed to bring out something….ugly. And that’s not what this blog is about. This blog is about finding ourselves as mothers, about finding our style as humans. It’s about sharing inspiration, and understanding that what works for one may not work for another. It’s about celebrating our unique journeys on this crazy path, and using our varied perspectives as a source of inspiration, not a point of shaming.
So I was thrilled when Dove and Twitter reached out about their #speakbeautiful campaign. This campaign aims to change the way women interact with one another on social media. And these companies aren’t messing around: On Oscar night, when hateful, negative messages are at an all-time high (over 5 MILLION negative body image tweets were posted in 2014), Dove will be unveiling a new ad to inspire social media change. And Twitter? Gotta love those data nerds – they’ll be rolling out new technology that uses Twitter data to identify negative social media conversations about beauty and body image. When a negative tweet is posted on Oscar night, the technology will be used by Dove to send non-automated responses to real women, which include constructive and accessible advice to encourage more positive online language and habits. Advice will come directly from social media and self-esteem experts who collaborate with Dove and Twitter to empower women to speak with more confidence, optimism, and kindness about beauty online.
Yup, that’s right: if you post mean-spirited tweets on Oscar night, Dove and Twitter will be calling.
As a direct recipient of negative criticism, I know that it can be hurtful – no matter how thick your skin, how open your perspective. But the thing about negativity that really bothers me, the thing that really gets me going, is how it breeds. How one mean-spirited comment creates a veritable pile-up of negativity. Negative comments are both a bummer to read and a bummer to give – on any platform. There’s nothing brave about mean-spirited comments. There’s no “truth” in actively trying to make another person feel bad for what they’re wearing, how they look or what they like. It’s just bullying, plain and simple. And bullying – in any form – creates a culture of narrow-mindedness and fear.
So please: a little more #speakbeautiful, a little less hate. There’s a world of difference between “that looks ridiculous!!” and “I prefer something preppier/more boho/more edgy than what’s pictured – does anyone have ideas for me?” And don’t even get me started on “her hands look old”. It’s high time we change this conversation.