In a society where women are valued for their physical appearances and face myriad systemic discriminations if they do not adhere to the ‘standards of beauty‘, it is difficult to maintain a positive body image. Growing up, as a young girl I have been always made to feel uncomfortable about my own body and how there was this urgency to “fix” something that was not right with me.
As an adult, I have tried to overcome that bias towards myself and feel more confident in my own body. However, this journey has been a roller coaster ride with lots of ups and downs. It has been quite a process to love my body the way it is and work towards its betterment simultaneously. Sometimes it so happens that when I am about to reach a state of absolute reconciliation with my body and mind, there are external factors that hamper my journey of being kind towards myself. Being diagnosed with PCOS earlier this year has also attributed to my mood swings and feelings of unworthiness that constantly cloud my mind.
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Now that I am 28 years old and single, I am often told to lose weight in order to find a “suitable” partner. In fact, someone recently told me to forget about getting married and “focus” on myself right now in terms of healing my body of all the illnesses (indicating that I should get rid of PCOS as soon as possible) and lose weight and then think about finding a partner for marriage. It seemed a very callous advice and I cried for good five minutes post that, hoping I had a support system where people didn’t always tell me to look a certain way but instead appreciated me for the rest of the qualities I possessed as a human being.
However, this made me analyse her statement intricately and the problematic nature of her statement at a larger level. Firstly, by saying the above statement there was definitely this sense of privilege of the “thin” body which is considered more beautiful and in India, where even now arranged marriages are still widely practiced, the principles of “free market” have also been applicable to what I call is the “marriage market” where people tend to check all their tick-boxes before finalising any alliance between the two families.
Secondly, this entire idea has limited my interaction with the opposite sex to a great extent. Whenever anyone from the opposite sex approaches me or shows any sort of interest in me, I always become distant due to the fact that I don’t feel worthy enough of being talked to. My self-confidence is largely affected because of how I look and how the society perceives me to be “lazy”, “incompetent”, “not worthy of love/ companionship” and lastly the need for me to quickly “fix” something in my body to make it look more attractive to the male gaze.
I am writing this today in the hope that people might understand that a “perfect” body is not a fix to all your life’s problems and to stop criticising anyone who does not adhere to the ideal body size and shape. Body positivity is always considered a very “soft” issue. It is not given much importance and the onus of losing weight is always on the overweight person. However, we must try and understand that our bodies are constantly changing and while there can be a possibility that the overweight person is trying their best to lose weight but their body is not reacting to it because of the medical conditions that may make it extremely hard for them to lose all that weight.
It is time that we unlearn our biases against fat people and treat them with kindness because you never know, they might already be going through a lot in their personal life due to their weight/medical issues and pin-pointing it all the time just makes it worse for them. At the same time, let’s not assume that “fat” means “unhealthy”. There have been various studies that suggest being fat doesn’t necessarily contribute to one’s ill health. We need a society that is not fatphobic and fatphobia is largely given birth by people who have the “thin privilege” and they might not even take into cognizance that “fat” people are treated differently all their lives.
Generally speaking, all the people deserve respect irrespective of their caste, gender, race and class, that is undisputable but we see in practice that is far from reality. I hereby advocate for that principle to be applicable in all spheres of life and with regard to fat people as well. We need allies who understand us, our bodies and do not belittle us. And guess who all can be our allies? Everyone! We deserve love, attention, companionship. Don’t tell “fat” people they need to halt their life and solely focus on losing weight in order to “deserve” and find suitable companionship. We would rather not be stuck with someone who thinks our weight defines our existence. Nobody’s weight is constant, it fluctuates throughout their lives and if a partner sees no value in a “fat” body, it is better not to be with such a person in the first place.
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