While the rise of social media platforms like Instagram are great for content creators, business marketing and even raising awareness on crucial social issues, there is a worrying trend regarding women’s health.
A lot of women join these platforms to showcase their talents, voice their opinions or to simply follow other profiles. But many women also enter these platforms seeking the love and attention they feel they don’t receive in their physical environment. The alternating pattern of adrenaline and cortisol controlled by strangers who have the blanket of anonymity has a tremendous effect on women’s perception of themselves. The numbers algorithm combined with constant public scrutiny quickly becomes a toxic addiction, whereupon women feel their entire worth dictated by strangers. And a disproportionate percentage of this worth stems from the sexualization of women’s bodies, that can range from complete glorification or fantasizing to the other end of slut-shaming or moral policing.
-A Muslim woman wearing the hijab is criticized for shooting her workouts in a mixed-gender gym.
-An Indian girl cooking different recipes is made fun of because she is “flat”.
-A woman teaching pole dancing is called “easy” and “asking for it”.
Expressing one’s sexuality is one thing. Sexual commodification is quite another. The former is a woman’s right to dress, speak or act in a manner that she believes best reflects her being as a woman. The latter is when another individual believes he/she has exclusive rights to dictate or profit from a woman’s sexuality. And the line between the two gets blurry in the digital world, even when the content has nothing to do with sexuality.
Self-love is a huge challenge facing women’s well-being. Despite making great advances in academia, career development and financial independence, many women struggle with being comfortable, let alone assertive, in their own skin. And no doubt, that comes from social conditioning. Everything from the number of sexual partners and choice of makeup, to the shape of our eyes and color of our skin has to be endorsed by the male ego and the male gaze. You have entire industries targeting women that both promote and capitalize on this obsession with external endorsement. This self-love deficit in women has led to an epidemic of loneliness, low self-esteem, poor decision-making and a tendency to please others.
I am myself a domestic violence survivor from a violent psychopathic ex-husband and an abusive narcissistic father. Throughout my life, I have always championed for social justice and fought for those who did not have a voice. But I realized that the greatest courage comes when one has to fight for oneself. And I can tell you that hands down, self-love makes you build such an invincible belief in yourself, that you will find that courage to fight back and overcome even the most bleak and dangerous situations. Because self-love teaches you that your dignity is non-negotiable, even if it is family.
Fostering a strong sisterhood is an incredible source of power for women. Because it shows that there are women who stand by you in solidarity and accept you for who you are. That there is no need to be ashamed of your identity nor change it to accommodate others. The sisterhood does not discriminate along lines that are often used to both label women and create divisions between them. Such lines include (but are not limited to) choice of attire, sexual orientation, sexual history, socioeconomic disparity, career paths, religious beliefs and racial background.
I was able to escape my ex-husband because of 3 extraordinarily brave and compassionate women. Their backgrounds were completely different to mine, yet all of them united in saving me. That is the power of sisterhood and I am living proof of that.
We as women need to be less judgmental of each other and show more kindness. Because it is that spirit of sisterhood that will go a long way in addressing many challenges facing women globally.