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A Conversation on Toxic Body Standards with Worm Girlz

Written by Jade Montgomery and Lauren Rowe


Jade: Where to even start on 20 something years of not feeling at home in my body? Maybe with the fact that even my earliest memories consist of feeling extremely aware of my body, and what people said about it? I was five or six when my ballet teacher told me to suck in my tummy or she would take me home and cook me up like a roast pig.

Lauren: Yeah, wow, that’s really relatable.

Feeling so aware of how your body is being perceived at such a young age and being told to suck in your belly or hide parts of yourself to please other people – why were we being told to do that?

I remember being young and, whenever a photo was taken or if I felt like my body was on display, feeling like I did have to suck in or I would ‘ruin’ that memory or ‘ruin’ that photo or ‘ruin’ that moment. Reflecting on that, it’s heartbreaking to know that I believed my physical appearance could ruin anything.

I had an emotional breakdown the day of my year 12 formal because I was so obsessed with what I looked like. I struggled to enjoy the process because I knew the whole day was focused on my appearance and I wasn’t feeling confident in myself. I was overcome with shame because I couldn’t fit into my dress right and felt like I had let myself down. What was important was to enjoy my time with friends and celebrate but I couldn’t get past it.

J: It does so often feel like our achievements are ranked secondary to how our body looks and it’s no surprise we feel this way when the media we consume is so irresponsible. The way especially femme-presenting people are spoken about on TV, in the news, in media, often what they’re wearing or comments on their appearance come before any mention of their achievements.

And a lot of these people, like in our media, are conforming to impossible body standards and putting their bodies through behaviour that can be considered abusive to achieve this. That’s what we’re consuming and how we’re expected to treat our bodies which… I think it’s crazy that we’re at a point where it’s commonplace to abuse your body.

It’s not just in our media either, it’s our friends and family, it’s the pressure from peers, it’s medical professionals that are still dinosaurs and don’t believe in health at all sizes.

L: No one should ever feel comfortable making comments about another person’s body. Even when it’s not ill intended, it all comes back to the language people use. A lot of the time when we’re having conversations about our own bodies or seeing conversations about body image in the media, a lot of the language used is quite shameful.

It gives the idea of there’s a good body or a bad body. It’s quite black and white, the language that’s used. There’s good foods and bad foods, there’s good workouts or bad workouts.That language in itself applies quite a lot of shame to whoever may be the subject.

J: Yeah, definitely. We go through life with a lot of biases as well and I’ve done a lot of work on unpacking those biases because of how they were affecting me and tearing me apart. I think we all need to do more work on unpacking bias… like there’s biases in the workplace especially when applying for jobs. I think there’s so many things that society excludes you from if you don’t meet a body stereotype.

L: Growing up and dreaming of being a pop star… even dreaming of a career in music 5 years ago, I had a specific view of how I would change myself and what I would have to look like to be a musician. It’s obvious that I built those beliefs in response to pop stars and mainstream artists that I was seeing and idolising growing up. That’s not to blame those people for having the bodies that they have but demonstrates that I didn’t see the role models that I needed when I was younger to show me that you could achieve and you could still have all the same opportunities no matter the body you were in. I think it is incredibly liberating to unpack those biases and those body standards for yourself and liberating to realise that; I don’t need to wait for the perfect time or wait till I have the perfect body to do the things that I want to do in my life.

J: Yes, I… yes. It’s still something that I struggle with every single day, waiting for the perfect body to be in the music industry or to wear a certain outfit or to do a certain thing. I used to think I couldn’t have blonde hair unless I was thin or I couldn’t have a certain haircut unless I already fit the perfect beauty standard but it’s not true – those are just rules someone made up to make us feel bad about ourselves.

Something that I’ve been thinking about a lot is how much I have tried to hide my body by being as still as possible when I feel uncomfortable around people – like if I hold my body still no one will notice me and talk about my body in any way.

L: That sort of stillness, that feeling that we need to hide our bodies to protect them. It’s like… what we’re trying to do is avoid opening up the conversation to receive comments or feedback on our bodies, right? Yet it’s incredible how, despite working so hard to avoid opening up conversations in that way, unsolicited comments are still so often given. Whether it’s sexualization, or comments on our weight or appearance.

It’s something that each and every one of us can and should reflect and work on in our daily language. Am I centering the conversation around someone’s body and not the actual person? Does anyone actually feel good about these conversations, because I certainly have never felt comfortable about it.

J: Our song Not My Body obviously talks about not feeling at home in our bodies and I have been feeling quite vulnerable about releasing it because people can be brutal out there – especially online. But I know we have an amazing community around us where these conversations can be had without a fear of comments on our bodies. It is a hard story to share and unfortunately it’s one that a lot of people can relate to in some way or another. While that is a devastating fact, it highlights just how important a topic it is to be talking about. Every single time we play this song live, someone will come up to us and share their story and how this song has made them feel seen.

L: We hope that if you are reading this and relate to it in any way, always remember that you are strong and beautiful and you are more than your body. It’s never okay for somebody to just comment on your body without your consent NOT EVER!

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