I’ve seen certain everyday expectations created around female bodies that I myself was also forced to live up to. Body shaming is one of the means through which such regulation and control works in this patriarchal country. Growing up in a body-shaming society, I was subjected to a tremendous amount of scrutiny myself. As a girl child, there were numerous instances when I was derided for looking a certain way.
It wasn't until I graduated that I started understanding how tremendously those comments had affected my mental being.
It made me unconsciously behave in certain ways that wouldn’t bring me, or my imperfections, under the spotlight. As a teenager, I had imbibed all those bodily expectations which I couldn't possibly meet. And as an adult it gave way to a sense of mediocrity and lack that I constantly kept feeling. While body-shaming has currently become synonymous with fat shaming, it definitely isn't the only form that exists. I'd instead like to talk about two other forms of body-shaming that I personally went through growing up.
Short people jokes are so common that they are hardly even considered offensive or body-shaming. As a teenager I wasn't the perfect height for girls of my age. My entire childhood was me being punchline of jokes like "you're so small, I can't even see you". People kept telling me that heels were my only option to avoid looking disagreeable or ugly. I still remember a neighbourhood aunty once telling my parents to give me some steroids for growth. She was concerned that I would be left behind in the race to find a good-looking husband otherwise.
Today, I can laugh at these comments. I am still not the perfect height (which I am yet to figure out what exactly is). I faced severe bouts of under-confidence, especially while giving interviews or speaking on a stage. For the longest time I even convinced myself I wouldn’t be able to drive because of my height. But gradually, as I stepped in my 20s, I started to question such thoughts. An approach that played a significant role in making me body-positive was listening to other women's experiences.
I started watching a lot of TEDx women speakers who spoke on the issue. Additionally, I searched for women who had similar body structures as me, and were in positions of power. And to my surprise, I found many. I realized that there were countless women who had fought the same battle before me. And the one weapon they all had in common was self-love. Hence my own journey towards body-positivity began. It was no one-day trek, but today more than ever, I've never been prouder of my own body.
Body hair shaming
Most women will agree that the body hair shaming problem is real, and increasing day-by-day. My peers made me conscious of my body hair from a very early age. I had, in fact still have, a hyper-sensitive skin, and most forms of waxing doesn't suit me. Therefore, the only choice I was left with was to either suffer skin infections or continue being bullied. It sowed the seeds for a self-hating tendency where I’d constantly be repulsed by my own body hair. Soon I stopped wearing skirts and shorts, and went for full-sleeved shirts on most occasions.
My mother is somebody who should get the biggest credit for pulling me out of that phase. She had always sworn herself off from any kind of make-up and waxing. According to her, 'log kya kahenge' should never become a parameter to judge oneself.
The more I grew up, the more her manner of buffing societal standards started serving as an inspiration. Social media and its many body-positive influencers also helped me embrace my entire self, body hair included. Female LGBTQ artists, with their bold body hair demonstrations, played an important part in this journey of self-acceptance.
My fight against body-shaming has made me aware of how vicious this cycle created by patriarchy actually is. It degrades all women, and makes them believe that their body structures are inherently related to their capabilities. And in those moments of self-doubt, patriarchy snatches away the already unequal opportunities it provides to this sex. There is only one way to counter such a problem. More women need to speak out about their experiences with body-shaming so that there can be healthier conversations. I learnt from the brave outspoken women before me who had won this battle through self-love and body-positivity. And I hope someday, some girl reads this and knows she isn’t alone in this fight either.
Dyuti Gupta is an intern with SheThePeople.TV