Editor’s Note: This month, that is July 2020, FII’s #MoodOfTheMonth is Feminism And Body Image, where we invite various articles about the diverse range of experiences which we often confront, with respect to our bodies in private or public spaces, or both. If you’d like to share your article, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Are they laughing at me over there?”
“I absolutely HATE myself.”
“These stretch marks won’t ever let me wear me the dresses I wish to wear.”
“Jeez, I am so full of hair, why!?”
“Yup, still no weight loss.”
“Ugh! Nothing looks good on a potato sack like me.”
“Oh, I wish I could have such flawless skin like her.”
Yes, this is how anxious we sound when we just keep on criticising our bodies rather than embracing them and learning to honor them as they are. Each and everyone has a certain type of body and they are beautiful in their own kind of way. There are so many people out there who are battling with the negative body image thoughts on a daily basis. They are petrified of the thought that they will lose all the desirability and attention if they’d stop looking beautiful in the terms of what people want them to be. This is where the change is required now. It is very important to be confident enough to start loving our flaws instead of consuming ourselves in the love hate relationship with our own bodies.
If we trace down the time when body image issues started surfacing, then we can say that they started centuries ago. Since then, the search for body perfection hasn’t stopped. Historically, a woman’s body used to be her greatest weapon in a society primarily dominated by men; but still they couldn’t use their bodies to defend themselves from the attacks of body shaming. I cannot forget to mention the trend of corsets and crinolines in Victorian England in the 1800’s, when women used them to mold their bodies in a perfect hourglass shape.
This strive for social acceptance and the attention of their husbands made many women vulnerable to diminished lung capacity, restricted digestion, heart palpitations, and in more serious cases, deformed ribs and misaligned spines. After all this there are still many women who are constantly forced to strive to get the so called approval from the society and its bizarre standards.
In today’s time, the concept of Thin Ideal has been ingrained in our minds. The Thin Ideal is a portrayal of a standard thinness that a woman should have to look attractive. This ideal acts as a driving force for many women to lose weight and look thin. The major source of the ideal’s eruption is obviously the popular media. The industry prefers those women to be the models and actors who fit the standards of this ideal. Famous actors like Sonakshi Sinha, Parineeti Chopra, Sara Ali Khan made their debuts in the film industry only when they lost pounds of weight and fulfilled the standards laid out by the industry.
There are many other models and actresses who go through painful and expensive surgeries to gain a perfect body without any scars, marks or spots. In most of the movies, reality shows and daily soaps, the main lead is always selected on the basis of their body type. Basically, if you do not fall under the parameters like slim, fair and tall, that are preferred by our society then you are not eligible to fall under the category of ‘beautiful’.
It definitely affects women’s self-esteem, increases body dissatisfaction, gives rise to eating disorder symptoms and the growing level of internalisation of the thin-ideal pressurises them to follow all the non-ideal ways like the use of steroids, intermittent fasting and starving, vigorous workout that can leave impacts on their bodies in the worst of the ways. According to many surveys and studies, it has been observed that there are more than 70 percent of girls who avoid doing daily activities like going to school because they feel bad about their looks and this has been proved that body image issues are majorly faced by teenage girls.
Due to the exposure to the Thin-Ideal media, most of us do not feel confident in our bodies and start doubting our self-worth. In this endeavour to attain the unattainable, we dissuade one of the most important things—self-love. There are many famous actresses like Bharti Singh, Anjali Anand, Delnaz Irani who did not let society’s tags crush their dreams and are doing very well in their lives. They are perfectly following the rule of ‘work for success and not for the eyes’. We should take inspiration from such personalities rather than getting influenced by the baseless and demeaning ideals set up by our society.
A month ago, my mother told me that, “Beta. Your arms and thighs are very heavy and it makes your body look disproportionate. You should start exercising, otherwise you’ll put on a lot of weight during this lockdown and none of your clothes will fit you.” It hit me hard and I realised that my mother’s judgement has a lot of influence on me. I started exercising and dieting but it was very stressful.
When my mother told me that I should start working out at home and start controlling my diet, I did it and I felt good but sometimes; but the idea of just doing it to attract all the desirability felt wrong and that’s when I knew that until and unless we do not feel comfortable about something, we shouldn’t do it. Your Body Mass Index won’t decide your Happiness Index. As a better alternative, I do some meditation and try to keep myself away from all the negative thoughts about me and my body. I love my body, its size, its colour, its shape and everything about it because this is the way I am and no one has the right to tell me about how I should look. This is my own body and only I know it better, than anyone else.
We know this, all of us know all of this. We are very much aware of what is right and what is wrong for our body, but here we are, always running after the things that may not be meant for us. The times are changing and evolving and so should we. Why can’t we just be thankful to our precious bodies which have always been there with us in every sort of situation, be it in a breakdown, in happiness, in sickness, in intimacy, in pregnancy and wherever we have ever been since we were born? We can execrate a small stretch mark on our thigh, belly or arms but we can not damn with the insincere and harsh comments that people have remarked at us with. We think that we can’t but we can, we definitely can!
Also read: Why Do Mothers Body Shame Their Daughters?
The change has to come, not in our bodies and how we look, but in the way we acknowledge our bodies. Treat yourself well. You deserve it. You want to have a donut, get that damn donut, eat it, take a delight from its every single bite without stressing about what people will say. You are beautiful, you are lovable, you are special, you are unique the way you are. Do not let yourself change for a bunch of people who won’t even appreciate your single effort and will always try to put you down with their comments.
Somya is a second year Journalism student from Lady Shree Ram College for Women, Delhi University. She is an aspiring content writer. She likes to express her views on social issues through her words. She wishes to keep on writing more about such issues that are of great concern and are not much spoken about. You can find her on Instagram.