Fat Bottomed Girls, Kesha, and What to Do When You Feel Shamed

During my junior year at a Christian college, my four roommates and I were interrupted from our studying (read: gabbing) by abnormally loud music coming from the apartment below. It didn’t take long for us to realize that the boys downstairs weren’t having some sort of jam session, rather they were “serenading” us. As a shout out to the girls in apartment 303C, they set the volume to maximum so we could hear the song too. How sweet!

Except for one detail. Their song of choice was “Fat Bottomed Girls” by Queen.

My roommates found this hilarious. They laughed and opened the windows. To play along, they started dancing and even shoved pillows into their backsides to “up” the fun.

Fat-bottomed girls you make the rockin world go round.

I did not dance. I did not put a pillow in the back of my jeans. Truth is, I can’t remember exactly what I did, but I know how I felt. As my friends danced and shook their tail feathers, my soul flooded with shame. I assumed I was the reason they chose that fat-bottomed song. (My fluctuating weight proved one of my biggest challenges through college.)

Frozen with a nervous smile on my face, I stood there watching. Soon, those voices inside my head became louder than the music. Shame began its bludgeoning.

“You should be thinner! What size are those jeans you are wearing right now? Jumbo? Of course they’d dedicate that song to you because you aren’t beautiful. You’re ugly. Beautiful women are serenaded with love ballads. Fat and undesirable women like you are mocked with vintage Queen songs. You’ll never find love. This is what all men think of you.”

That wasn’t the end of shame’s scorn. It kept going. Truth is, it has reminded me of this incident for years. Make that decades.

Fast-forward to last week.

A friend texted to see if I had been following the Kesha fat-shaming stuff on social media. I texted back a note of thanks, then promptly Googled “Kesha.” (I had no idea who she was! Apparently, I missed her “Sleazy” (actual name) tour last year. {Sigh} I’m officially old but appreciate my friend assuming I was hip enough to know.)

Kesha had just posted a picture of herself in a bikini on Instagram. The caption, which I’ll paraphrase so as to completely avoid the expletives, told would-be fat-shamers to take a hike. In the USA Today story,  Kesha explains her efforts to overcome and eating disorder (she was in rehab for bulimia) and how she is learning to love her body.

As I dug deeper into Kesha’s life and history (thanks Wikipedia!), I found out about her lawsuit against her producer who (according to the legal complaint) drugged and raped her, repeatedly. Even if he’s found innocent of these awful acts, Kesha claims he repeatedly told her she was fat and needed to lose weight. He even told her she looked like a “refrigerator” in one of her music videos.

Photo by Jeffrey Putman, Img-3618 accessed on Flickr under creative commons license. Some rights reserved by image owner. No changes were made to image.

Photo of Kesha by Jeffrey Putman, Titled: Img-3618 accessed on Flickr under creative commons license. Some rights reserved by image owner. No changes were made to image.

Kudos to Kesha for getting help. Kudos to her for saying “enough is enough” and checking into rehab. And, even more kudos to her for standing up to this powerful man who abused her. She’s been shamed in awful ways. My heart hurts for her. But, is her solution enough?

Can shame be fixed through Instagram bikini pictures and telling fat-shamers to shut the (expletive) up? It seems that’s what our culture tells us to do. We can fix it if we silence all the fat-shamers.

But I don’t think this is true.

We’ll never be able to effectively quiet all the shamers in our lives by simply telling them to be silent or even through proving them wrong (“See, I’m not fat anymore!”). Once we outgrow the high school “mean girls” or end that emotionally destructive relationship, those voices of criticism, scorn, and condemnation linger. Pressing mute on all “new comments” doesn’t erase the hurt of past wounds. Does it?

So what do you do when you feel you’ve been shamed? Here are four suggestions:

First, Reject Self-Focused CuresWhile googling Kesha’s life, I thought I might as well see how the experts on the interwebs say to deal with shame. The answers didn’t surprise me: love yourself, prove yourself, be compassionate with yourself. That’s what Kesha’s trying to do right? Stand up for herself. Show us that she’s better than the mean comments her producer made. She’ll love her body and shut up her critics.

If this is really all it takes to get rid of shame, then why do so many people still struggle with it? Why aren’t there more people in the population carrying their heads (authentically) high because shame no longer weighs them down. Friends, I just don’t see it. I don’t see evidence in our culture of self-love fixing anything. Narcissists often are filled with shame, not free from it.

Second, Embrace the Only One Who Truly Covers Your Shame. As a follower of Jesus Christ, if I can overcome my own shame simply through chanting to myself that I’m valuable, then why do I need Jesus? If I can “fix” myself with self-love, then I don’t need a savior, right. I negate Jesus’ sacrifice if I can find a way to cover my own guilt and shame.

Yet, the truth remains that Jesus died and rose again to remove my sins and my shame. His sacrifice alone sufficiently covers my past and future regrets. It’s only through Jesus that I can find a satisfying answer to the lies shame tells me. It’s only through his sacrifice that I can say, “I don’t have to listen to your lies anymore, shame!” I can not do this by myself. I need Him.Fat-Bottomed Girls, Kesha, and What to Do if You Feel Shamed

Third, Forgive Your Shamer(s). Those boys who blared, “Fat Bottomed Girls” are all forty-somethings now, with reputable jobs, sweet wives, and nice kids. They aren’t posting mean comments on my Facebook, and never once did any of them ever make a derogatory comment about my body to me. It’s possible they never considered that any of us would read into their song choice. Their offense wasn’t that great. And, yet . . . I still have to forgive them. I have to release my right to hold any grudge. The longer I hold on to my offense, the longer shame keeps a hold on me.

I don’t want to trivialize this. Perhaps your shame was more severe, like Kesha’s or worse. I’ve felt that too. We must forgive those shamers as well. The one who took advantage of you. The one who lied and made a fool of you. The one who stole what was yours to give and left you alone to deal with the consequences. The list could go on. Yet, the only way to completely embrace the one who bore our shame is to do as He instructs us to do. We have to forgive those who have wronged us. (Though forgiveness doesn’t mean we return to abusive situations or allow ourselves to be the blunt of how someone else acts out their shame issues.)

Fourth, Believe Your Value Comes From How Jesus Defines You and Nowhere Else. Even after (through disordered eating and extreme amounts of exercise) I turned my size twelve “fat bottomed” self into a size two, shame didn’t shut up. The size of my body didn’t matter. Shame still found cruel words to say. Especially after I gained the weight back again. If I rely on my body size and shape to determine my value, my confidence will yo-yo up and down as shame keeps hammering away at my soul. (Kesha may soon find this out too.)

So, what shuts up the shame? Answering it back with the truth: My value comes from Jesus alone.

If shame tells me I’m too fat .  .  . It is silenced by the truth that He tells me I’m accepted.

If shame tells me I’m not good enough . . . It is silenced by the truth that He tells me I was worth dying for.

If shame tells me I’m worthless . . . It is silenced by the truth that says value is determined by what someone is willing to pay. And, Jesus was willing to pay it all for me. He stands up to my shame and silences it, for good.

Is shame a challenge for you? What do you do when you feel shame?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5 Comments
  • Alicia Wright
    April 8, 2016

    Thank you for sharing this message. I love that you brought out how we don’t make people strong by turning them into narcissists. We do it by helping them know the mighty and loving God of the universe!

  • BreAnna Teschendorf
    July 26, 2016

    As I finished reading this I sighed to myself, “Oh… that was so good… wow!” then I realised I ought to give that feed back here and say thank you!
    All day today I was praying inwardly, asking Jesus how I can learn to accept my body…. the life long struggle. It was like a dam broke inside of me and I said, “This cannot go on! There has to be freedom from this!”
    I looked at several Christian webpages, which only seemed to emphasise the problem, “Yes, women struggle to like their bodies.” Boring.
    Finally I saw your “Love Jesus, not Cellulite” pic. on someone’s pinterest. I came to your webpage and started reading….
    For the first time ever, my eyes are open to the thousands of non-Biblical lies I have eaten-up, thinking I was getting closer to a Godly perspective! When I first started reading, it was as if my spirit couldn’t accept it, I was so blinded and indoctrinated. I thought, “What is this lady on about?”
    But then it felt like I came out of a fog and I saw that everything you were writing was wonderful truth…. and yes, I too have made my own body into an idol and wanted people to worship my beauty, instead of focusing all of my heart, soul and mind on loving God… and then others!
    I thank you for this life-changing revelation!
    Thank you for speaking truth into a very confused (Christian) world.
    I pray that the Lord blesses your ministry and expands your influence. I am a full-time missionary in Berlin, Germany. If I am ever in a position to organise a woman’s conference and fly you out here… you will hear from me again!
    Blessings and Shalom!

    • Heather Creekmore
      July 27, 2016

      BreAnna – Thank you so much for that feedback! It’s tremendously encouraging to hear your story. That fog — yes – I know it well! I pray that God will continue to reveal his truth to you on this issue so you can find freedom like never before. And as for that conference, I’m in. 😉

  • Allyss
    December 5, 2016

    Abslutely great message, I could totally relate. Really enjoyed reading the truth in this post! My creator is the only one who can tell me what I’m worth…amen!

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