Aren’t we obsessed with appearances? Why do we care? Why do we get caught up with looks and forget the human behind that skin mask? We forget what lies beneath that face, what lies in the heart and mind, what lies in the psyche. Body shaming is the act in which we criticise people based on their physical appearance, we criticise them because they don’t fit the artificial standards of beauty designed by the society. Because they aren’t’ ‘fair & lovely’ or ‘slim and trim’ and so on. It is a form of abuse which torments one psychologically and is widely prevalent. This is why it’s an important conversation at the Feminist Conference.
Our society defines beauty and ugliness based on the colour, shape and size of one’s body. Men and women both suffer from body shaming. A boy is expected to be tall and muscular with a physique which makes him appear strong. A girl in India is expected to be thin, fair skinned, short with a skin which has zero acnes and body hair. If someone falls out of this category (like most people do because we are humans), they are criticized and constantly advised to improve their looks.
SOCIETY’S PATRIARCHAL OVERHANG
Even though body shaming affects both men and women, it is an extra stressful baggage for women in a patriarchal society like India. The remedies for a flawless skin include measures like turmeric paste, aloe vera gel, waxing, face masks and thousand other things. If a girl is fat, she is advised everything ranging from avoiding rice and potatoes to liposuction surgery. We have reached a point where fat shaming has almost become synonymous with body shaming but that doesn’t mean thin girls are spared! Even girls who are thin, are shamed for being too skinny and advised to wear full sleeved clothes so that their so called ‘lack of figure’ isn’t visible. All kinds of insults and advices are thrown towards a woman who does not fit in these societal standards of a perfect body.
Earlier, being fat was a symbol of being wealthy and belonging to a prosperous family but times have changed, being slim is fashionable now. Now, be it any of the genders, sweating it out in the gym is the craze. Be it the relatives who tell you to look pretty in order to get married or the shopkeepers who refer you the dress which will hide those curves, everyone is always promoting how to not feel good in your own skin. Also, the jokes cracked of pregnancy about fat women aren’t funny at all.
MEDIA PLAYING A ROLE
Media has played a significant role in promoting the culture of body shaming, considering all the fake and nearly impossible to attain beauty standards that Bollywood has set over the years. All the advertisements of cosmetics are preaching how it is absolutely essential to run after a fairer skin in order to get a job and/or fiancée while many food item advertisements are reminding us how crucial it is to lose fat within 25 days in order to look attractive in a party.
With the increasing use of social media, body shaming is now witnessing an all time high. People get behind a computer and post negative comments and think that just a comment won’t harm anyone. But we are a generation of social media addicts, every detrimental comment that you post distresses someone. While passing a remark about someone’s physique, we often overlook the fact that the remark won’t change their bodies, but it has the power to affect someone so extremely, it can get them depressed.
HOW IT MANIFESTS
Body shaming can lead to inferiority complex, lowered confidence, eating disorders and other such issues. It can cause insecurities leading to troubled relationships. There are chances that the victim may feel too self conscious and withdraw from social situations. Instead of judging people just because they don’t look as we want them to, we need to be more mature, accepting and empathetic. Don’t be a bully and don’t even let someone body shame you. It is more necessary to adopt a healthy lifestyle instead of listening to criticism by people who don’t know either you or your body. Yes, obesity is a problem, it is a risk to health and it is essential to have a fit body in order to reduce health risks but shaming someone for being fat is totally unacceptable. Let’s not forget that it’s the character of a person which determines his/ her actions in life and not the body fat. Shape, size, colour and levels of ability can never be the criteria to judge someone’s character or potential.
A lot of people have realized this and hence, we have witnessed movements like #IShapeMyWorld by a well regards jeans company which celebrated the lives of women. Recently, Rihanna launched a lingerie collection which consists lingerie of all sizes and wants to promote body positivity. Closer to home, actresses like Vidya Balan and Sonakshi Sinha are beautiful examples of women who did not let the size zero stereotype rule their careers. The song ‘Shameless’ by Youtuber Prajakta Koli brilliantly convinced girls to be shameless in this body shaming world. Even though there are positive changes, there is still a long way to go. Taking a step a time, let’s feel comfortable in our own skin and let’s give others the freedom to practice the same. It’s your body and nobody can judge or understand other than you, yourself. Let’s practice acceptance, love and tolerance. Let’s live and let others live.