The Anne Arundel County High School Cheerleading Competition took place on January 28, 2022. The gymnasium was filled with plenty of energy, sportsmanship, spirit and talent. The event went off that night without a hitch, including being COVID-19 mindful to all who attended.

The next day on social media however was anything but positive. The bullying and hateful body shaming of the larger, curvier cheerleaders who competed was sickening and appalling. I have to admit I was surprised that this kind of behavior was still a thing. I guess I was naive to think thanks to celebrities such as Lizzo and Ashley Graham, companies like Dove body products, Fruit of the Loom undergarments and Old Navy Clothing commercials etc., that we as a society had moved on from the narrow minded thinking that only a “Size Two” girl was worth cheering for.

I am baffled as to why we are not more concerned and worried how it affects the mental health and self worth of our youth today. In all fairness, I’m sure it goes both ways … large curvy girls are too big to cheer and skinny girls use the “two finger” diet in order to fit that tiny uniform or maintain their spot on the team. Why is size even a second thought? We need to instill in these girls and guys, they are PERFECT just the way they are!

The saving grace in all the hateful body shaming comments was hearing all the cheerleading staff and coaches had come together and immediately shut down and addressed this kind of despicable behavior. Kudos to all Anne Arundel County Cheerleading coaches for stepping up, shutting it down and showing unity across the county.

Cheering for your favorite team or school is NOT one size fits all. All sizes and shapes are welcome!

Body shaming is a form of bullying. The effects are not limited to depression, low self-esteem, self-harm, and eating disorders. What can you do if you experience or witness body shaming?

  • Stick up for yourself. Have a planned response. It can be witty, serious, or dismissive, but if you don’t have the time or the inclination, just walk away. If the situation doesn’t feel right, remember that it is not your job to educate the bully.
  • If you witness body shaming, say something. Ignoring the situation is part of what normalizes it. Don’t let the bullies get away with it.
  • Be kind to yourself. Relax. You are your own worst critic. Appreciate what your body can DO more than what it looks like.
  • Make a list of things you like about yourself that are not related to appearances.
  • Surround yourself with positive people.