Politics of Body-Shaming: Why Are Women Constricted To Fitting In?

Akansha Gupta
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Body shaming the world over has created a widespread culture of non-acceptance, this is especially highlighted and even endorsed by the media and social media platforms. In India, after actor Vidya Balan muted a media reporter who was harshly criticizing her for her weight gain and body shape during the promotions of her film Tumhari Sulu, she gained heaps of support from women all over the country who are done complying with a system that refused to accept their body type.

At the second Feminist Conference by SheThePeople.TV empowered by UN Women India, authors Meghna Pant, Kiran Manral, Sreemoyee Piu Kundu, and body positivity advocates Dolly Singh and Amena Azeez discussed the politics behind body shaming and why women are constricted to fitting in. The discussion centered around the concept of body image and what it means to have agency over your body. It also took up stereotyping and what makes it especially prevalent in India. Author and Ideas Editor at SheThePeople, Kiran Manral opened the floor asking panelists to recount the first time they have been made to feel uncomfortable or judged in their bodies.

Amena recalls a time where at a birthday party at which she reached out for a samosa and an aunty grabbed her wrist and said, “Beta, ladko ko moti ladikiyan nahi chahiye”.

Sreemoyee Piu Kundu tells us, “I’ve always been betrayed by my fat, I will always feel like a fat girl on the inside. Since the time I was young it has defined many of my interactions.”

Meghna Pant recalls a time wherein she walked into the office of a celebrity gynecologist who on the first meeting with her said,"don’t worry Meghna, we’ll make sure you put on no weight during your pregnancy." Women are facing pressures and starving themselves before, during and after pregnancy to fit into these sizes of models and the people that are on the TV.” She also recounted how people wouldn’t believe she would anchor the shows she does when she was pregnant, because “the camera adds ten pounds.”

Kiran Manral made a pertinent point, responding to all ‘fat shaming’ explaining that the root cause of society’s negative responses to women of different sizes is because of the need to look thin and desirable to men—regardless of what men themselves look like.

The panelists also took up the importance of having positive role models that promote self-love and acceptance of different body types. Important questions were brought up about how we can cultivate a culture in which we teach our young girls that deviating from the normative standards of beauty is okay.

Dolly Singh, who is a plus size Yogini, shared how she has the confidence to "go to any park put out a mat and turn speakers on and practice my yoga. When I’m on the mat I don’t see myself as a full-bodied person, I feel light as a feather. When I can master a headstand I feel much happier than standing on a weighing scale.”

Sreemoyee recounts an encounter wherein she met a young girl with dark skin and freckles who had experienced a very tough time in the arranged marriage market. “She went to some skin specialist, burnt a hole in her pocket paying over a lakh getting her entire body bleached and treated. She ended up with third-degree burns.” All of which was inspired by a television show that glorifies the cosmetic angle of arranged marriages in India.

The panel concluded by concurring that women need to get comfortable in their own skin and refuse to entertain social messages about perfect body types or beauty standards. Only then will body shaming become socially unacceptable.

Also Read: All Colours Of The Rainbow: Building Inclusiveness Into Public Discourse

Akansha Gupta is an intern with SheThePeople.TV.

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