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Women are body shamed under the guise of ‘concern’, this needs to be called out for the abuse that it is. While a healthy lifestyle is essential, it is for us to decide.
Divya was enjoying herself at an impromptu birthday party of a colleague, when somebody put another piece of grilled sandwich on her plate. This made Divya remark, “How much am I suppose to stuff myself? I am done.” To which a senior colleague of hers responded, “Divya, considering your size, this shouldn’t be difficult.”
Divya was aghast at his words. She wanted to scream out, “Have you looked at yourself; your shirt buttons are struggling to stay in place.” But she kept quiet as she didn’t want to spoil the celebration, or blow things unnecessarily out of proportion.
Does the above scene sound familiar? Am sure a lot of women out there have found themselves in Divya’s situation. Body shaming, primarily targeting an individual’s weight or skin tone, has become ingrained in our social culture. So much so, that people like Divya’s colleague don’t even consider it rude behaviour.
The target of such insensitive comments are usually women. The reason could be, women have always been considered the ‘secondary’ gender, for whom there are strict guidelines to be adhered to for every aspect in life. When you see a woman not adhering to these norms and not fitting in these slotted boxes, it becomes absolutely ‘necessary’ to remind her that she is a misfit.
The advent of social media and the desire to show that “my life is better than everyone else’s” has resulted in extreme amounts of unwarranted pressures and beauty standards, which can end up being punishing to achieve.
Fitness and a healthy lifestyle are an absolute necessity, but to most people fitness is synonymous with being thin. This is a perception far from the truth. There are health conditions, body structures, medical history, and a lot of related factors which dictate a person’s health and body weight. But these factors are ignored.
Look at matrimonial columns and the requirements are pretty much standard through all categories: ‘tall, slim and fair girl wanted’. This has led to the mushrooming of slimming centres and diet gurus at every corner in the country. Most of these places don’t adhere to basic safety norms. In the mad quest to lose weight people end up omitting essential nutrients from their diet. It sounds insane that people are ready to suffer health issues in their quest to fit into the ideal beauty standards. Such is the pressure to stay slim, that I once encountered a lady who was underweight and having health issues because of it, but she claimed, “It’s better to stay like this than get fat!”
Over generations it has been ingrained in women, that they have to remain attractive to find a spouse first, and then to keep the marriage alive. But is the term ‘attractive’ relegated to just the physical appearance? A sane and rationale person would say definitely not. But when have societal norms ever been rational?
A few years ago, I visited a friend who had delivered a baby a couple months ago. We got talking, and I asked her how motherhood had been. She replied, “Everything else I am learning slowly, but it’s this pregnancy weight which is the biggest problem. It’s just not going.”
I told her that it takes time, and that now was the time to eat healthy as she was a lactating mother. At this she responded rather sadly, “But my husband is really upset with my weight gain.” I was shocked. This man’s wife had undergone nine months of pregnancy and the ordeal of delivery. Instead of supporting her on this journey of parenthood, all that concerned him was the extra weight she had gained!
But hers is definitely not an isolated case. I see plenty of women like my friend, struggling every day. The constant jabs at their body weight and physical appearance by their near and dear ones only erodes at their self-confidence. They don’t mind resorting to extreme measures in their quest to look perfect. They avail the services of health clinics and slimming centres without checking their credentials, or the repercussions of the treatment. They are pushed to a desperation, where all they see is that there is somebody promising them some results, achieving which becomes an absolute necessity.
The instant reaction on seeing an overweight person is always about the same insensitive comments, “This is what happens when you gorge mindlessly”, “The result of an uber-luxurious lifestyle.”
To the people speaking in this tone, I have a few questions to ask.
The easiest thing that we can do is judge other people, and most times it is done to boost one’s own ego and provide a cover-up for their insecurity by belittling or treating somebody else insensitively. To add further to these woes, there is very little awareness created towards health issues plaguing women.
Recently, aspiring actress Sara Ali Khan, in an interview on national television admitted to be suffering from PCOS, and how she has had body weight issues. She garnered a lot of appreciation and rightfully so, for unabashedly speaking on an issue which is often hushed up and shoved under the carpet, in front of the whole country.
What needs to be appreciated more is that this young lady aims at making her career in an industry where physical appearance is of paramount importance, and shortcomings and flaws are not treated in an acceptable manner. She has probably proven the adage: ‘When you stop treating your problems as limitations, they will stop limiting you’. That is the attitude we all ought to adapt. Admit your problems, work on overcoming them, and be the boss of your life. Be proud of the person you are; it will automatically shut down the naysayers.
The other big area of body shaming is the skin tone. These are factors governed by a person’s genes and ethnicity, but this simple scientific fact is not comprehensible to many.
We as a nation are obsessed in whitewashing our skin. Specially women, because from infancy it’s fed into their heads how being dark skinned is unacceptable. This has often surprised me, because our country has a tropical climate, and we have always been brown skinned. I can only assume that this is one of the many hangovers of colonial rule.
But this has spelt doom for women, eroding away the self confidence and happiness of many girls. The only people to have benefited out of this are the manufacturers of fairness products. This is a million-dollar industry, which thrives on the insecurity of women, not that the men’s brands are far behind. Though this regressive and ruthless mindset of considering only white skin beautiful is extremely deplorable, it deserves a write up of its own, which I intend to do soon.
A few days back I watched this extremely inspiring video of Sushmita Sen. As always Ms. Sen puts her point across very effectively in just so many words. You can see the video here.
As she says, those people trying to body shame you are only displaying a weak character, which sadly has been displayed to the world, and there is no way you can correct it now.
So the next time you decide to body shame someone, remember who is going to be at the losing end at the end of day. To work on your weight exercise, and eat healthy. These are essentials to lead a healthy life, but don’t do it for others, do it for yourself. Choose an exercise regime and diet you are comfortable with. Most importantly accept your body love yourself.
There definitely a lot more to a person, than their physical appearance. A person’s personality is about the intellect and your thoughts. When you are happy about being the person you are, rather, comfortable in your skin, it would definitely make anyone wary of pointing a finger at you. When I was told by someone that they weren’t body-shaming me, but were showing concern towards me, I realised that there couldn’t have been more hypocrisy displayed. For a concerned person never aims at filling your life with negativity.
So to all the body-shamers out there, its time you worked on your insecurities.
Header image is a still from the movie Dum Laga Ke Haisha
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A dreamer by passion and an Advocate by profession. Mother to an ever energetic and
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