It is safe to say we live in a society that constantly questions its women. From the clothes we wear to the colour of our skin to the choices we make, everything is forever being scrutinized. However, if there is one thing, we as a society have mastered, it is the art of body shaming. What really is body shaming?
It is labeling an individual with inappropriate negative terms and statements, based on the their weight, size and body type. Contrary to popular belief, it is not just ‘fat’ and ‘curvy’ women who constantly get mocked and shamed. Women of all sizes, shapes and body structure have to deal with it.
Since childhood we are made to believe in stereotypes, “If you become fat, no one will marry you!” or “You’re so thin, you look unhealthy and weak!”
Does a woman have no other identity beyond her physical appearance? When will people understand that an individual’s identity is more than their body shape! It is about time we stop shaming the body and start shaming the minds that mock it. It is not the body that needs shaming but the minds that constantly judge and labels it. It is time to tell the society, my body, my rules; you need to butt out!
Like me, many women across age groups, professions and social structures have had to deal with their share of body shaming. I asked a few women their personal experience with body shaming and how they handled it. No one equates marriage and weight quite like the Indian society. Whether you are thin or fat, tall or short, something about your body will always be a negative marker. “Nobody is going to marry you with that type of a body!” Like most of us, time and again, Bhavna has been told the same.
People often equate beauty, personality and likability to being a certain body type, and very little to do with the person itself. One such individual dared to tell Ketaki: “This room is full of pretty girls, and Ketaki!”
Body shaming does not start with strangers. It starts with people we know and from a young age.
Teasingly called ‘fatty’ by friends and family to motivate her to get back in shape and for better health as well, a family member once told Aishwarya, “You better get in shape by the time of the wedding; you need to look hot and attractive enough.”
Parampara spent her childhood and early teens as a chubby kid who often got subjected to taunts like, “Aye Moti! Thoda kam khaaya, bhains banti jaa rahi hai tu!” Now that she has lost her weight; due to her current lifestyle, the same people ask her mother that does she not feed her daughter well or pester Parampara with comments like, “You’re heading towards anorexia due to rigorous dieting!”
Having been on the receiving sides of both ends, Parampara has learnt how to deal with her critics and has the perfect answer to shut them up.
If weight is the reason for women not getting married, then it has to also be the reason for a marriage not working out, right? After her first marriage fell apart, an acquaintance chose to enlighten Pratishtha with these words: “If you had maintained your weight, he wouldn’t have had to look at other women.”
It is no secret, that if there is one industry that has unrealistic body expectations, it is the fashion world.
A photographer, on multiple occasions told Roxanne, what most personal style bloggers have been hinted/ told at one point or another, “I’ll do your portfolio, just lose 5-7 kilos, the pictures will come out nicer.” This was told to her when she weighed 50kgs!
While people can’t get enough of telling ‘fat’ girls to hit the gym, the minute they see someone like Tazeen at a gym, working out, comments like, “You gym? You run? Hahaha, seriously just go home and eat food” come flying her way.
Take it from someone who has struggled her entire adult life with body issues, body shaming only makes matters worse. You are helping no one by labelling them with derogative terms. Every possible body shaming insult has been thrown my way. From being told, “With that body, you are never going to make it in fashion” to “You are never going to find someone to marry” to “Have you even tried losing weight? It is not that difficult, trust me! Celebrities lose weight all the time.” It has taken me a good amount of time to come to terms with my body. I now have one reply for every single body shaming comment.
To be very honest, not everyone who makes a body related comment is trying to shame it, but there is a very, very thin line between healthy, constructive criticism and blatant body shaming. Whether it is for vanity or health reasons, it should be the individuals, and that individual’s alone, choice to either lose or gain weight.
The #ButtOut campaign is all about breaking age old stereotypes and celebrating women the way they are.
Honestly, we can’t really celebrate women without ending body shaming. One on hand you tell women to accept who they are and on the other hand you constantly shame them for what they look like. Society needs to realise that the way a woman looks, her physical appearance and her body alone do not make her who she is. There is so much more to her than meets the eye.
Disclaimer: This post was earlier published on author’s blog here.
Featured Image Credit: Mark R Biery