Body shaming & us
Aren't we obsessed with our appearances? Why do we get caught up with looks and forget the human behind that skin? 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 criticize people based on their physical appearance; we criticize them because they don't fit the artificial standards of beauty designed by the society. Because they aren't' 'fair and 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. However in girl's case it is extreme. A girl in our subcontinent 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, they are criticized and constantly advised to improve their look.
So called patriarchal projection
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 .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 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 and Hollywood 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 fiancée while many food item advertisements are reminding us how crucial it is to lose fat within 25 days in order to look attractive for 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 distress 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.
As an aftermath
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. Let's practice acceptance, love and tolerance. Let's live and let others live.
The writer is an alumnus, University of Dhaka