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Sophia Bush Shuts Down Online Body-Shaming Culture in the Best Way

Dr. Elizabeth Yuko is the Health Editor at SheKnows. She is a bioethicist and writer specializing in sexual and reproductive health and the intersection of bioethics and popular culture. She is an adjunct professor of ethics at Fordham ...

Sophia Bush on body-shaming, birth control options & why she wants to marry a feminist

When it comes to birth control, Sophia Bush wants you to know that you have options — and that’s only part of the discussion she hopes to start on women’s bodies, including some strong words on body-shaming.

Bush, who stars in Chicago P.D. takes activism seriously, devoting time each day to take to social media and lend her voice to causes that are important to her, many of which center on women’s health. She recently sat down with SheKnows to discuss #NoHormonesPlz — her new awareness-raising campaign on birth control — as well as celebrity body-shaming and why she wants to marry a man who is a feminist.

SheKnows: What made you get involved with the #NoHormonesPlz campaign?

Sophia Bush: There are a lot of conversations happening around women’s health and our reproductive rights right now, and I was getting more and more fired up and having more of these conversations. It was interesting to realize how many women who I assumed knew all the things still have questions. And how many women — even as adults, we run businesses, we work at amazing companies — and when we talk about [birth control,] our voices lower and it becomes real paperback-bottom-shelf.

What is that? Why have we been cultured to be embarrassed by our bodies and why does our culture treat women’s reproductive health like it’s a luxury? This is health care. I’m so flabbergasted by the fact that an “issue” that 51 percent of the population faces isn’t mainstream.

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SK: You mentioned that you came across a survey that said that 1 in 2 women have reservations about there being hormones in birth control, but didn’t know there was a nonhormonal option. Was that the most surprising thing you’ve learned as part of this project so far?

SB: When I came across that statistic, I thought, “This is nuts," that we’re not talking about this. That women don’t know they can ask these questions of their doctors because they don’t think there’s an option to begin with. This is a problem. That in the age of the internet, these are where the statistics fall.

We’re not having this conversation to say, “Take all the hormones out of your body.” That’s not the point. But if everyone knows there’s a hormonal option and doesn’t know there’s a nonhormonal option, let’s make sure they have facts about both — so they can take these facts to their doctors, so they can ask their doctor all of the questions that fit their individual body and figure out what’s best for them. I want women to be covered and to be taken care of, especially now more than ever.

SK: Is there anything you hope men take away from this campaign? Should they be more informed about birth control?

SB: We always need men to show up for us — it can’t just be women fighting for women. I love a male feminist — so much. I’m like, “Let me marry a feminist, let’s do this thing.” It’s about time men should show up and say, “Yes, she should have access to whatever she needs.”

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SK: Body-shaming — mostly against women — has been in the news a lot lately. I’m reporting on another instance basically every week. Last week, it was Kelly Clarkson.

SB: “No matter what you are, you’re a mess.” That’s what the world tells us. “Every other woman is your competition. You feel bad about yourself and every other woman think she’s perfect.” 

It’s so crazy — no matter what, we’re all made to feel like we’re the worst and we’re the one who’s failing. And that, again, is societal baggage that they want to place on women so that we’re distracted by stuff that’s unimportant so we don’t just take over the world. That’s it!

It’s all a scheme. It’s all a scheme to sell us stuff and make us feel bad about ourselves, so we speak up less in meetings and we take less active roles in our workplaces. It’s deeply ingrained and in some places very overt and in some places it’s so subconscious that people aren’t even aware that it’s happening. For us, I think there has to be a space where we say “enough.” Enough.

It’s part of what interests me about the dynamic and landscape that women have to exist in. My male friends in the public eye are criticized far less than I am. They don’t receive a fraction of the criticism that I do just in general. They certainly don’t get body-shamed and they certainly don’t get rape threats.

And I deal with all of it. I deal with being told, “Who do you think you are, you dumb actress?” and I’m like, “Really? ’Cause I was a journalism major and had an emphasis in political science and have traveled the world working on NGO campaigns, worked on both Obama campaigns, am asked to speak at events for the former president quite frequently — what do you do? Do you want to have this conversation with me about what the level of my education looks like or the things I choose to do with my life?" What? What? Nobody ever said to Robert Redford, “Oh, you dumb actor, who are you to try and change the world?” Nobody did that.

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SK: And why do you think this is the case?

SB: So why does that happen because I’m a woman? And then why do people think that it’s appropriate to talk to me about my body? Why do men think it’s appropriate to literally write comments that not only I will see but that the world will see about my breast size, the clothes I should be taking off, the kinds of things they want to see more of on Instagram, which all refer to my body. And that’s not even getting into the threats of violence. And they come every day. They come every day. And it’s wild to me that people think this stuff is appropriate.

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