Last week, Wendy Williams broke the Internet (and not in the Beyoncé way) after she posted a holiday throwback Thursday picture of a younger Wendy sitting by a Christmas tree.
Admittedly, Wendy’s caption went on to confess that she was an “awkward 12 year old.” With sponge rollers in her hair, a gorgeous face full of innocence and a pre-pubescent, somewhat stocky build, I double tapped and thought ‘hey everybody has an awkward phase. Right?’
But nothing could quite prepare me for the backlash of body shaming that went on in the TV host’s comments.
“You look like a professional arm wrestler,” said one commenter.
“u shaped like the damn kitchen sink,” said another.
One cruel comment read: “Baloo back from jungle book havin ass.”
And those were the mild ones.
The comments were mean-spirited, offensive and borderline racist, including monikers like “Wendell,” “bro,” “boy,” “dude” and “Winston.” Asserting that she was really a man, internet trolls with private accounts spewed body shame with no bounds.
There was also a very small minority among the nearly 13,000 comments who called out the hateful statements, but for the most part, nearly everyone seemed to participate in the very public body shaming of Williams.
One meme in particular was a split image of a 12-year-old Wendy and the muscular boxing kangaroo whose recent fight with a man went viral. In an Instagram post, Baller Alert posed the question: “Who would win this fight?”
Even a fellow feminist writer and colleague I know posted an image of Wendy with Pablo Escobar’s face photoshopped on to 12-year-old Wendy’s body. The number of people who participated in such body shamming had me in disbelief.
“How is this OK?” I thought. “Nobody’s going to say anything?”
Now as a long-time listener of Wendy Williams’ radio show, sadly, I know that the bashing of her body is nothing new. Calling Williams a man is not innovative. I remember callers phoning in to assert that she was a man and often asked how she was able to have a baby? (suggesting she was not born with a female genitalia).
But Williams always handled the comments with grace. She would make it a huge joke and then go on with the show. The recent bashing of Williams, however, never felt this concentrated and mean. The worst part is that no one is speaking up, not just in defense of Williams, but for all women who may look like her.
Wendy Williams has yet to comment. I respect Wendy’s decision to ignore rather than engage. Engaging can only equal more hurt for her. Still, I can’t help but think that this is affecting her. This can’t feel good.
It wasn’t that long ago that we were all tweeting #LoveforLeslieJones and #StandWithLeslie when cyber bullies attacked the standup comedian and “Saturday Night Live” actress with similar offensive messaging. We all collectively shook our heads at the Twitter trolls who hurled racist and offensive remarks at her. Even Twitter stepped in to permanently ban some of the accounts involved. Fellow celebrities, from Gabby Sidibe to Hillary Clinton, also came to her defense.
@Lesdoggg, no one deserves this—least of all someone who brings us so much joy. I’m with you. -H
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) August 25, 2016
I truly don’t know why people are so hateful towards @Lesdoggg. Why? She’s talented and wonderful. Why are people so pressed to be awful?
— Gabby SidiBae (@GabbySidibe) August 24, 2016
So who’s going to stand up for Wendy? And why are we back here again? What do we all get out of publicly shaming people on the Internet?
Yes, Wendy is a former shock jock turned gossip talk show host. But should we have less sympathy for her because she engages in a little gossip?
The answer is no.
Though Williams is likely used to the critiquing of her looks, one should never have to grow accustomed to racist body shaming. It’s just not right. And to see so-called advocates of women and feminists participating in the sharing of such posts was even more troubling.
When one woman is shamed for her body, we are all shamed. It could happen to any of us. Not to mention, if any one of those negative commenters were on the receiving end of such nasty body shaming, they wouldn’t be quite as graceful as Wendy.
So this New Year’s, I’m sending Wendy some extra love, and hopefully, I’m not the only one who stands with her.
RaVal “V” Davis is the go-to girl for all things body positive and feminine. She is a published writer who has penned pieces for The Huffington Post, Essence, EBONY and VIBE, among others. Keep up with her at RaValDavis.com.