We live in weird times — most of us spend our days glued to a screen of some type and more and more of us are getting used to working from our homes. As that new normal takes hold, it’s hard to keep track of which parts of the IRL social contract still matter and which ones don’t. Full office dress code? Nah, who needs it. Water cooler chit-chat over Zoom? Nice and fun but not necessary for accomplishing our day-to-day tasks. Knowing that it’s fundamentally inappropriate to comment on the bodies of you co-workers? Yeah, that’s still in play.
Reddit AITA (short for the question “Am I the Asshole?” that one asks themselves and others when they’re in the midst of the conflict) is chock full of moments that allow us to see people at their best and worst. In a post from Wednesday that was gaining some traction, we saw one person experience that particularly damaging body-shaming breach in the social contract and wonder whether she is in the wrong for being angry about it?
“I have big boobs. I’m currently at 52kg and there’s nothing I can do to change the size of these things unless I have surgery. I’m also extremely shy and from a very conservative family so my resentment and shame towards my bust is an ongoing issue,” the poster wrote in the infamous sub-Reddit before introducing her friend “Sarah,” who has a way of bringing up OP’s breasts.
She writes: “Sarah has this way of always bringing up my boobs in conversation, starting off complimentary but often ending with [a] subtle insult. She knows they’re a physical feature I’m uncomfortable with but doesn’t let up. Examples of things she’ll say is how my boobs look good now but give it a few years, and they’ll be down to my knees, hahaha! Or she’ll show me comments on reddit where people are discussing chest size preferences and most are commenting how they much prefer a smaller bust over large… A few days ago, it was extremely hot and I was wearing a lighter, more revealing top than my usual baggy coverups. During this video call, in front of 6 other colleagues, Sarah starts vocalizing her thoughts on my appearance: ‘Holy shit! Put those away! You look like you’re in a porno. We don’t need to see that first thing in the morning, hahaha.’ I was mortified. One other colleague laughed along but the rest looked uncomfortable. I felt close to tears, made an excuse and left the meeting. Sarah called me up half an hour later asking me what was wrong and I went off on her…I’m wondering if I was too harsh and maybe should call and apologize for my outburst?”
Bodies are complicated and, as OP mentions, we all have weird, difficult relationships with them. But it remains obvious that a co-worker (whether they’re your friend or not) should never make a comment about your appearance — particularly in ways that are contributing to hyper sexualizing or embarrassing you. It’s harassment, full stop, and makes for an unsafe workplace. (How are you supposed to collaborate on work when someone’s making you feel awful about your own body? How can you dedicate your time and energy to work when also battling those particular demons?)
As OP shared later on in the post, there’s conversations to be had with their Human Resources (HR) department as insults and negative body talk are hurled back and forth. But, ultimately, if we are going to get to a world where we quit making people feel bad about the bodies they’re born with, we need to start by adhering to some common sense rules for letting everyone embrace body positivity and neutrality.
And, to start, if you feel yourself overcome with the urge to say something about a co-worker’s breasts (no matter how harmless or innocuous you may think the comment is) do everyone a favor and don’t.
As a spiritually and emotional palate-cleanser, here’s our favorite quotes about having healthy relationships with our bodies and food: