Last week, a new and totally weird body challenge surfaced on social media. Young women competed in the "Panty Challenge," posting pictures of the inside of their underwear to prove how dry they were after a full day of... being a woman.
Of course, being a woman means having a vagina and, consequently, vaginal discharge.
Like most body-shaming social media challenges, this one is rooted in the internalized misogyny that makes us want to seek validation of our physical appearance from others.
Unlike past challenges, however, this one doesn't just damage a woman's self-confidence but also endangers her sexual and reproductive health. By teaching young women to believe their vaginas' natural, biological processes are disgusting, the Panty Challenge both misinforms them about personal health and encourages them to listen to societal pressures instead of their body.
Vaginal discharge is not only a natural and normal part of female health — it's also a necessary one.
While a few women participated in the Panty Challenge, many more took to social media to denounce it, as well as to disperse accurate information about female reproductive health. Numerous tweets even urged the challenge's participants to visit their OBGYN as chronic vaginal dryness can be an indication of atrophic vaginitis.
Unfortunately, this first challenge is just the tip of the body-shaming iceberg. Over the past few years, six other bizarre body challenges have encouraged women to prove their self-worth through their physical appearances:
2. The A4 Waist Challenge
Earlier this year, women in China posted pictures of themselves holding an A4 piece of paper across their waists to show they were narrower than 8.27 inches. Beautiful women of all shapes and sizes responded to the challenge in a badass and body-positive way.
By satirizing this challenge, these ladies highlighted its inherent absurdity, proving exactly why women shouldn't take the A4 Waist Challenge — or any other body challenge — seriously.
3. The Collarbone Challenge
Adding an extra bit of oddness to body shame, this social media trend challenged women to see how many coins or other small items they could rest in a nook created by their collarbones.
Thankfully, many people of both sexes found this challenge not only unnecessary to "prove" a participant is "thin enough," but easily mockable. If anything, this challenge showed collarbones are for holding up big, beautiful brains — not a stack of coins.
4. Belly Button Challenge
The "point" of this challenge is to show off your small waist size by wrapping your arm around it and reaching your belly button. Many participants believed that waist size indicated good health, but experts have proven that's not necessarily true.
Women's retailer "Curvy Kate" responded to the challenge with the #BoobsOverBellyButton challenge to raise awareness of how to check for breast cancer. By taking their health into their own hands (literally), these women empowered themselves and others in a way that went far beyond skin deep.
5. The Kylie Jenner Lip Challenge
An homage to Kylie Jenner's famous pout, many young women tried to imitate her look by sucking the air out of a shot glass. Besides being painful, the challenge was incredibly dangerous, with many of the shot glasses getting stuck or cutting the participants' lips.
Because your lips are as unique as your fingerprints, they're perfect just the way they are.
6. Hold A Coke With Your Boobs Challenge
While this challenge was well-intentioned and meant to raise awareness and funds for breast cancer research, women diagnosed with breast cancer didn't find it particularly encouraging or inspiring.
By sexualizing a devastating illness, this challenge ignores the crux of the problem. One breast cancer survivor, Aimee Fletcher, responded to the challenge with a powerful image showing what surviving breast cancer often looks like in reality.
Most importantly, this ridiculous challenge proved that no matter what size your boobs are, they're meant for so much more than holding up a can of soda.
7. Bikini Bridge Challenge
A woman creates a "bikini bridge" by lying on her back to show her stomach is concave, making the material of their bikini stretch across her hip bones.
Unsurprisingly, this social media challenge resurfaces every summer. Some women and men have responded with the parody #bikinihill hashtag to promote healthy body image and self-love.
As London Mayor Sadiq Khan recently showed in his plan to ban body-shaming advertisements, anyone who wants to wear a bikini can — and should — no bridge needed. Simply put, every body is a "beach body."
While each challenge focuses on a different part of the body, they all have one thing in common: they mean nothing unless we say they do.
It wasn't considered sexy or healthy to have a waist smaller than a piece of paper or to be able to hold coins in your collarbone until someone randomly decided it was. And this arbitrary judgment wasn't given power until someone else — many someone elses — acknowledged and agreed with them.
Each body challenge is nothing more than an issue of mind over matter. Just as quickly as they gain power and popularity, they can lose it — but it is up to us. The second we as a society stop opting in to these challenges, the second we will start opting for a healthy, self-determined body image.