Why body-shaming isn't right...

Why body-shaming isn't right...

‘Skinny bones’, ‘fat’, ‘obese’... body shaming is a serious issue, one that’s more prominent in today’s digitised world

How often have we been a part of conversations that belittle another person’s supposed ‘obsessive compulsive’ ideas on cleanliness, jokes made of the way somebody looks or dresses, or more?

It’s not funny. It never was. How often have we been a part of conversations that belittle another person’s supposed ‘obsessive compulsive’ ideas on cleanliness, jokes made of the way somebody looks or dresses, or more? Whether we’ve been the target of some of these jokes or whether we’ve just laughed along with the group, there’s something definitely ‘uncool’ about these comments, and the sooner they’re addressed, the easier it becomes to tell people they’re just not funny, and never have been.

No more jokes, please!

More often than not, it’s usually people closest to us, our best friends and family, who tend to think that these jokes are the funniest. Sure, you can have a laugh at how thin you look, it’s always good to have a sense of humour about oneself, but there’s always a line that gets crossed somewhere along the way when you start seeing yourself differently, too. Body shaming is usually evident and intentional, besides being just really mean, but often more hurtful than anybody ever knows. More than anything, it is, and has always been, personal. There’s always the write-up that tells you to turn a blind eye, stay confident of who you are inside despite what people tell you. Irrespectively, it hurts and stays inside your head for much longer than it should.

The fascinating thing about humanity is that we’re all different individuals. We come in all shapes and sizes, and no two of us are exactly the same. Having lived a life where people were constantly asking me why I was such a ‘skinny bones’ or being outright rude asking if I was anorexic, it’s taken a good four decades to finally be comfortable with the way I look. What we don’t realise is that there need not necessarily be a reason for the way anybody looks and we’re not really answerable to anyone. Sure some of us are ‘underweight’ while others are ‘overweight’, but why we look the way we do is quite frankly nobody else’s business.

London’s official transport authority, TfL, came under fire last year for a message on its service information boards that read, “During this heatwave, please dress for the body you have, not the body you want,” as a quote of the day at Blackhorse Road Underground Station. While a lot of people expressed shock and outrage at such a blatantly body shaming message, TfL ultimately had to apologise and remove the said message that was met with such derision.

Fuel to the fire

Body shaming seems to be at an all-time high, what with the advent of social media and the ability to pass comments on people you hardly know. It’s far easier to hide behind a facade online and say terrible things, or ‘like’ awful comments, than it is to face somebody unknown and say something mean.

A little over a year ago, a national newspaper in Italy reportedly made some rather sour comments on an Italian fashion blogger’s bachelorette party. The story simply said, although her friends “weren’t skinny or in shape,” they all still appeared to have fun. This was aside from talking about the blogger’s weight gain since having a baby a mere four months before. The blogger then called out the newspaper on social media, telling her over 13.5 million followers, “I’m beyond shocked to read such a wrong message shared by such an important newspaper. Women have such a hard time feeling beautiful. Different is beautiful. Not perfect is beautiful. Happy is beautiful. Confident is beautiful. Don’t let others bring you down or tell you who you are, ever.”

body shaming

Nobody, internationally, has it easy, whether you’re Aishwarya Rai Bachchan or Tyra Banks. Decades of Bollywood movies have also made it okay to have the mandatory ‘slightly chubbier’ friend in the background who was the comic relief aka sounding board and voice of reason for the romantic hero. Fanney Khan, released in 2018, finally showed us what it felt like to be a teenager battling weight issues. Pihu Sand, who plays the teenager dreaming of being a star performer, spoke of how in spite of putting on 20 kg in six months, she had battled body shaming right from when she was in school. Vidya Balan tells of how “wherever you go, I think people are very body-obsessed today. ‘Moti’ is not an expletive for me. But I don’t like it when people comment on my body. Because if I talk about your brain — brains don’t sell, that’s why we don’t talk about it. We have no right to comment on anyone’s appearance. This has happened many times with me. When they see me happy, they are confused. As women, when you are successful, this is a way to drag you down. And I don’t give anyone that power.”

Nobody has the power to change the way you feel about yourself. Statistics on body shaming show an overwhelming 94% of teenage girls have been body shamed at some point. And, contrary to popular belief, body shaming is not exclusive to the female gender. Teenage boys and men are often subjected to thoughtless opinions and hurtful comments made as well with nearly 65% of them reporting to have been body shamed.

What to do 

Maybe we’ve been victims of comments that gag and make us want to hide, but perhaps we’ve been a part of those that laughed, or worse, said something mean to begin with. Whoever we have been, it’s never too late to change. Here are some tips to deal with body shaming:

* Nothing else matters. What you see is what you get. Look in the mirror and be happy with what you see. Your opinion of yourself is the only opinion that counts. Everything else doesn’t really matter.

* Know when to walk away. If a conversation you’re involved in doesn’t make you feel good, leave. Walk away from anyone who doesn’t bring positivity to your life. Life is too short to spend dwelling on comments passed by people who shouldn’t matter.

* Encourage empathy. There’s more than enough nastiness in the world to spread around twice over. Spread some empathy instead. Everybody is living with something they can’t tell you about, everybody has a story.

* Inspire. Inspire others to have the guts you do. Tell people off for saying things they don’t need to and reassure others to dress exactly the way they want to, irrespective of what anybody else thinks.

* There is a lot of optimism about the Internet, give or take a couple of trolls here and there. Bloggers and celebrities have started hitting back at haters, letting them know body shaming is not something that will be taken lightly. The Economist had an article a little over a year ago about the mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, hosting a conference on “the impact of fat-shaming, complete with a fashion show featuring plus-size models.”

Healthy is truly the new skinny now, with model stereotypes no longer being represented by malnourished teenage somethings, and brands now include plus sizes. #MindYourOwnShape is thus the new trend online, showing visitors the real effects of body shaming while encouraging women to stand together against body-shamers. Simply because, loving your body should never mean hating someone else’s.

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