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A thought provoking post on the perils of body shaming for girls and women, especially by female peers, and why we should stop being nasty towards our kin.
Body shaming is a worry. Whether a victim is subjected to fat shaming or thin shaming, the experience can leave long term effects. I speak from experience. As an overweight teenager and now an overweight adult, I have been subjected to nasty words and opinions about my less than ‘perfect‘ body.
From statements such as “You have such a pretty face; if only you weren’t so fat” to the boys in school shouting that I would break any table or chair that I even lean on, I’ve been there, heard that. In fact, I hated school because of the body shaming that I’d face.
Fast forward to my post college years, and the effects of the body shaming continued to show. I had a long phase where I’d make sure that I was covered from neck to toe in baggy, shapeless clothes because I had started believing that fat women had no right to want to dress up.
Then I started avoiding people because they were likely to throw some mean words at me. There was the elderly neighbour who assumed that I ate burgers and pizzas for every meal. Then there were the so called friends who said I would never find love because I was overweight. I could go on and on.
I grew up thinking that slim and underweight women were happy people, but then my research for my first book about teen girls taught me otherwise. Girls and women are shamed for being too slim! Wow. That hit me hard.
You can well imagine the effect of body shaming on an individual if I tell you that I’m in my early 30s and that phases of negative body image still haunt me. Before we blame Bollywood and the magazines for setting up unrealistic standards of beauty, let me tell you that we need to look closer in our own immediate surroundings. Women. Women putting down other women.
I can’t tell you about how many times I’ve sat in the movie theatre listening to young women and little girls verbally abuse actresses on screen for being ‘too fat‘ or ‘too old‘ or ‘too flat chested‘. And when a group of women get together for some gossip, the topic of other women and their negatives often come up.
Similarly, girls facing fat shaming or body shaming in any form at the school level get the worst of it from their female peers. Here we are talking about feminism every day but we can’t establish a reality where women support other women in EVERY way possible – that includes body acceptance.
We need to understand the horrible effects of body shaming. We also need to recognise that there is no one perfect shape or size in our lives and not just support campaigns like that of Dove in a few tweets or a Facebook post.
Female children need to be taught to respect differences in looks. Schools can step in too especially at a stage where physical changes occur with puberty and leave a girl in mental distress anyway.
Body shaming is disrespectful and harmful. Period.
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Sudesna Ghosh is the author of What Would I Tell Her @ 13 (2014) and News
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