A viral and heartbreaking hashtag proves body-shaming starts early for women.

If it seems like body-shaming is a new phenomenon, it's really not.

We hear about it more and more these days in response to mind-numbingly ignorant marketing campaigns, laughably absurd celebrity criticism, and everyday people singled out by mean-spirited strangers.

The extra awareness is a good thing, but the truth is that this kind of weight- and beauty-based bullying has been happening to (mostly) women for as long as anyone cares to remember.


Twitter user Sally Bergesen recently called on women to share their own memories using the hashtag #TheySaid.

She recalled her dad warning her not to eat too much when she was only 12 years old. 12!

Though the comment was likely meant as a playful tease, it left a deep mark on Bergesen. And she's not alone.

An avalanche of responses followed, proving that our body-shaming problem is deep, rampant, and extremely damaging.

Fat or thin, young or old, it seems almost every woman who's ever lived has had to deal with other people's verbal opinions about her body.

As stories poured in, it became clear girls are being told from a frighteningly young age that their bodies aren't good enough.

Women shared horrible things their parents, friends, and siblings said to them when they were 8 years old, or even 5.

5-year-olds can barely make themselves a sandwich, but we expect them to reel in their calories in order to keep a flat tummy.

The stories also served as a powerful reminder that body-shaming can take a lot of different forms.

It's not always meant to hurt feelings. In fact, it's often disguised as concern or helpful advice. But its impact is almost always the same.

The stories women shared were enraging and heartbreaking.

As hard as the comments are to read, it's incredibly important we do so.

It sometimes feels like we've come a long way as a society in terms of accepting people of various body types as they are — and in a lot of ways, we have.

But you can't read through the thousands of responses to #TheySaid without realizing this remains a huge problem, particularly for women and girls. To move forward as a culture, we need to be brutally honest about how badly we've let many of our girls down, face the problem head on, and make a change.

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Disney has come under fire for problematic portrayals of non-white and non-western cultures in many of its older movies. They aren't the only one, of course, but since their movies are an iconic part of most American kids' childhoods, Disney's messaging holds a lot of power.

Fortunately, that power can be used for good, and Disney can serve as an example to other companies if they learn from their mistakes, account for their misdeeds, and do the right thing going forward. Without getting too many hopes up, it appears that the entertainment giant may have actually done just that with the new Frozen II film.

According to NOW Toronto, the producers of Frozen II have entered into a contract with the Sámi people—the Indigenous people of the Scandinavian regions—to ensure that they portray the culture with respect.

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Though there was not a direct portrayal of the Sámi in the first Frozen movie, the choral chant that opens the film was inspired by an ancient Sámi vocal tradition. In addition, the clothing worn by Kristoff closely resembled what a Sámi reindeer herder would wear. The inclusion of these elements of Sámi culture with no context or acknowledgement sparked conversations about cultural appropriation and erasure on social media.

Frozen II features Indigenous culture much more directly, and even addressed the issue of Indigenous erasure. Filmmakers Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck, along with producer Peter Del Vecho, consulted with experts on how to do that respectfully—the experts, of course, being the Sámi people themselves.

Sámi leaders met with Disney producer Peter Del Vecho in September 2019.Sámediggi Sametinget/Flickr

The Sámi parliaments of Norway, Sweden and Finland, and the non-governmental Saami Council reached out to the filmmakers when they found out their culture would be highlighted in the film. They formed a Sámi expert advisory group, called Verddet, to assist filmmakers in with how to accurately and respectfully portray Sámi culture, history, and society.

In a contract signed by Walt Disney Animation Studios and Sámi leaders, the Sámi stated their position that "their collective and individual culture, including aesthetic elements, music, language, stories, histories, and other traditional cultural expressions are property that belong to the Sámi," and "that to adequately respect the rights that the Sámi have to and in their culture, it is necessary to ensure sensitivity, allow for free, prior, and informed consent, and ensure that adequate benefit sharing is employed."

RELATED: This aboriginal Australian used kindness and tea to trump the racism he overheard.

Disney agreed to work with the advisory group, to produce a version of Frozen II in one Sámi language, as well as to "pursue cross-learning opportunities" and "arrange for contributions back to the Sámi society."

Anne Lájla Utsi, managing director at the International Sámi Film Institute, was part of the Verddet advisory group. She told NOW, "This is a good example of how a big, international company like Disney acknowledges the fact that we own our own culture and stories. It hasn't happened before."

"Disney's team really wanted to make it right," said Utsi. "They didn't want to make any mistakes or hurt anybody. We felt that they took it seriously. And the film shows that. We in Verddet are truly proud of this collaboration."

Sounds like you've done well this time, Disney. Let's hope such cultural sensitivity and collaboration continues, and that other filmmakers and production companies will follow suit.

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