Many of us spend a significant portion of time engrossed by social media sites connecting with friends, browsing through photos or commenting on things that strike a chord with us. Often, it is harmless fun, but one of the downsides is how open it is to body shaming.
Commenting on another person’s appearance is all too common. You may have seen in magazines the kind of ‘rate or slate’ type pieces in which people are actively encouraged to judge whether they think someone looks good or bad in what they’re wearing. Common features also include celebrities with no make-up, celebrities in bikinis and celebrities who have put on weight or are looking thinner.
Meaning of Body-Shaming
The literal meaning of the word ‘body-shaming’ is the act or practice of subjecting someone to criticism or mockery for supposed bodily faults or imperfections. Body shaming is defined as the act of making inappropriate and negative comments about another person’s weight or size. Frequently, this is something that overweight people are subjected to but there’s an increasing trend in criticising those who look ‘too skinny’. Body shaming is ubiquitous.
It’s a form of bullying that can result in severe emotional trauma, especially at a young age. Body shaming is done by parents, siblings, friends, enemies, and schoolmates and is often portrayed in the media. “Why is she wearing that? It is not flattering at all.” Or “I am so ugly compared to her I will never find a date” are common thoughts and phrases used that are examples of body shaming. Negatively commenting about the size or shape of anyone’s body can be extremely damaging to them potentially leading to low self-esteem, anger, self-harm and even mental health disorders, specifically body dysmorphic disorder.
Some forms of body shaming have ancient origins in popular superstition, such as prejudice against red (or ginger) hair. Forms of discrimination may also differ significantly depending on age group. For example, among preadolescents, tall tweens are sometimes depicted as awkward, and sometimes face derogatory pejorative terms such as “lanky”. However, upon adulthood, such unflattering attitudes typically undergo a reversal as height is typically valued among adults.
Sometimes body shaming can extend to a perception that one does not sufficiently display masculinity or femininity. For example, men with wide hips or prominent breasts or lack of facial hair are sometimes shamed for appearing feminine. Similarly, women have been body-shamed for their lack of femininity for appearing to have a man-bulge or for having broad shoulders, traits that are typically associated with men.
Body shaming in patriarchal society like India
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.
In India if you want to see open Body Shaming, Just switch on your Television for 10 mins. Within the first few minutes, the Fairness Cream advertisements, will ensure to torment you for life.
The survey was conducted on 550 women (all in the age group of 25-40), that included conversations with 7 women and personal narratives of 20 women living in major cities in India. The women surveyed consisted of survivors of abuse, women who have undergone hysterectomies, women with chronic illnesses like PCOS, Endometriosis. The results were rather disturbing. It showed that in women, body-image issues ran way deeper than what we imagined.
Factors responsible to make you feel body-shamed
- Romantic/Sexual Partner
- Doctors/ Medical Practitioners
- Strangers you come across while travelling
How to deal with Body-Shaming
Stay away from negative influences or people who make you feel uncomfortable entirely.
Stand Up for Yourself
Next time when someone makes fun your looks or mocks you, don’t just withdraw into a shell, speak out against it. Stand Up against body shaming.
Find a Real Issue
Sit down and take some time to think about the real issues that are bothering you. If in control, change or accept it and if beyond your control, don’t stress it and move on in life.
Share It- Talk about It
Don’t just bottle up inside! Express the emotion to move through it. Speaking with someone you trust will help you tide over an unpleasant situation.
Do something that makes you Happy
Go for a walk, talk to a friend, have a healthy dinner! Controlling food with good dietary habits, living a better lifestyle and regular exercise are better coping mechanisms that have helped people over decades to feel good.
Body shaming is a widespread problem not only in India but all around the world and the burden of this falls more heavily on the shoulders of women and thus, should be and can be tackled with proper guidance and education.
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