The time I was accused on Twitter of Body-Shaming

This was the offending article (full size at the bottom of the page)…

Women's Health

In a change to my usual afternoon routine, earlier in the week I found myself embroiled in a minor “body shaming” scandal on Twitter. “CUNT!” “Fucking asshole” “Go fuck yourself”, those were the nice bits, these people were not happy with me. “Stupid PRICK!”. I was knocked off kilter and I realised for the first time ever that when Twitter turns on you, it turns without much warning, and I had a pretty relentless hour or so where my voice felt like a sneeze in a hurricane while I tried to figure out who had done what to whom.

So anyway, turns out a piece I’d written about a year ago for Women’s Health has just been published in South Africa, and a few well-meaning naysayers have taken umbrage with it. It’s about women’s genitals from a male perspective, I was contacted and commissioned to write a small, honest and entertaining opinion piece as part of a much bigger feature about “beavers”, so I did. I thought about it long and hard, and came to a simple (what I take to be fairly universal) conclusion – that vaginas are amazing, but baffling.

It’s always struck me as the great irony of humans and sexuality that our genitals are so ridiculous. For men a clunky appendage that has literally one setting – GO. And in contrast to that, for women, a complex, nuanced and musty collection of apparatus that in most cases become surrounded by something as stereotypically unfeminine as pubic hair. It’s like matchmaking a wrench with a calculator, it defies logic and yet – much as women don’t snort laughter out of their noses or start dry heaving when there’s a penis in the room – we have not only learned to love and appreciate downstairsy-bits, but (as I say in the feature) we’ve learned to do so “with unthinkable passion”.

It might not be the greatest thing I’ve ever written, I’d never normally say “panties” (euch!), but I thought the message of the piece was clear and upbeat, one of male fallibility and uncertainty around something so foreign to us, it certainly wasn’t intended as an exercise in cruel vindictive body-shaming to make women feel self-conscious about whatever might be lurking in their underpants.

But this is all beside the point. Like anything I ever write for public consumption, it’s up for interpretation and debate and I have to stand by it. I enjoy the balancing act of seeing if I can navigate through difficult subject matters with humour and truthfulness and sometimes I get it right, other times I get it less right. In this case, some seem insistent that I got it totally wrong. Body-shaming is so high on the public agenda at the moment and being painted as a “woman hater” didn’t sit well. Anyway here is the piece in question, draw your own conclusions – I’m not making excuses but it probably wasn’t helped by their decision to go to town on it with a highlighter pen…

Women's Health

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