A New Zealand woman is taking a stand after being bullied by a group of men at the beach.
Shelly Proebstel from Waipa, New Zealand, was visiting Mt. Maunganui Beach for a day of fun in the sun when she noticed men “pointing and laughing” at her in her bathing suit.
Proebstel took to Facebook to share her experience in a powerful post about the pressures women feel to have the perfect “bikini body,” as well as the long lasting impact bulling can have on a person.
“To the guys who pointed and laughed when I took my sarong off today at Mt. Maunganui Beach, bearing my soul (my bikini body) to the world, I just want to say (excuse my language) F*CK YOU!” Proebstel wrote on her Facebook page Bald and Beautiful.
Proebstel, a body positivity advocate, explained that some people avoid going to the beach or wearing certain clothing out of fear of being ridiculed for the way their body looks.
“It’s because of people like you that people starve themselves and make themselves sick in an attempt to maintain a ‘model-like-figure.’ It’s because of people like you that people wear long sleeves all year round because they are scared to show your arms,” she continued.
She said these experiences, no matter how brief, can greatly effect a person’s mental health and body image.
“No, you are not responsible for the entirety,” Proebstel said, “but YES, you have to take some responsibility. So next time you see someone like me on the beach in a bikini or in a situation similar, before you laugh and point, take a moment to think about the damage you may just do, because not every person, young or old, male or female, will have learnt to have thick skin, or the resilience, or the self confidence, that I do to brush it off.”
Despite her confidence, Proebstel admitted there was a brief moment where she wanted to put her beach cover-up back on.
“I reminded myself of all that I have learnt on this journey, and I held my head high and stuck my belly out and wore that bikini with pride,” she said.
Through her blog, Proebstel seeks to spread self-love, challenge beauty standards and create a positive space where men and women can connect online.
In 2018, the blogger challenged her own definition of beauty by shaving off her long brown hair and raising money for Everybody is a Treasure, a charity that runs positive body image workshops throughout the country.
“Shaving my hair off meant letting go of that security and choosing to see the beauty inside me,” Proebstel told her local newspaper. “I’m making a statement that beauty is not in your hair – it’s in your heart.”
With her latest post, Proebstel encourages parents to use her experience as a teachable moment to raise the next generation to be more accepting.
“I urge you to teach your children that there is no one body shape, but instead that there is a rainbow of beautiful bodies,” she wrote. “I urge you to teach them not to stare directly at a bigger stomach than they might be accustomed to seeing…but to look at a person’s face and into their eyes. I urge you to teach your children to accept people for exactly who they are on the inside. And I urge you to teach your children to be role models to those around them who aren’t being taught this, and to be the positive change we need to see in the world, so that in 5 or 10 or 20 years time, no more people are pointed at and laughed at by the way they look when they wear a bikini on the beach.”