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Anorexia, Binge Eating, Bulimia: What You Forget When You Mock Someone’s Body

Body shaming is one of the alarming problems among today’s generation. The Oxford dictionary defines body shaming as, “The action or practice of humiliating someone by making mocking or critical comments about their body shape or size.” Nowadays, body shaming has become a very common and depressing problem among people, especially among teenagers, making it prominent on social media sites. It is important to mention that it is not a current issue but a very known and old problem which has now grabbed attention. People not only find humour in making fun of a woman’s shape or size but also of a man’s.

Did we ever stop for once and think about why we are asked to change ourselves or why we feel insecure about our body? As I go on exploring the problem, it is not only making people insecure about themselves but is also lowering their self-esteem. Younger women in the run of shaping their identity often put more emphasis on their body image, whereas on the flip side, young men often are body neutral or body positive (they are okay with how they look or have made peace with it) as they do not feel the need of taking body image into account during their period of ‘struggle’. This trend reverses as they start ageing. Many men become conscious and women start becoming less so.

According to a Yahoo survey, 94% of American teenage girls have been body shamed, while the number of teenage boys being at the receiving end of it is much lesser, at 64%. So, many women/ girls have lower self-esteem compared to boys/ men on how they look and the ill habits like body shaming have made it worse for women to face the world. It has made us become conscious about our shape and size in a negative manner. Also, according to the results of The Dove Global Beauty and Confidence report released in 2016, around 85% of the women interviewed had low body confidence, which made them sacrifice important public events. More than 10,000 women were interviewed for this research across 13 countries.

This report also says Japanese women are the least body confident. According to the study, the percentage of body confident women in India, Turkey, Russia is marked around 40%, whereas the percentage in countries like China, Mexico, Germany falls under 40%. “This new cross-cultural research highlights the reality that low body-esteem prevents many women from fully engaging in life,” says Dr Susan Paxton, who was involved with the research. “Women are under many pressures to conform to beauty ideals, and the report shows that social media is presenting a new challenge and adding pressure to look a certain way. The findings are certainly a call for action.”

Many people tend to change their ways of life because of the mocking and critical comments they get on their body image. These changes often lead to disorders or depression like eating disorders (binge eating, anorexia or bulimia), compulsive exercises (among all age groups), anxiety or suicidal tendencies (especially among teenagers). They start taking capsules or pills for getting slim, which can eventually have harsh consequences on their body. Girls go into dieting or binge eating because they are being fat shamed. They don’t even consult a doctor before doing so.

Nowadays, people don’t feel wrong in expressing their opinion out in the open. That is good, but shutting someone because of their body type is unacceptable. We are living in a time where magazines are showing enhanced and beautified pictures of models, exemplifying how a ‘perfect’ body type should be. Setting unrealistic standards for women and making them nervous about the things which are not even real. Kerry Washington took to Instagram to criticise the April 4 Adweek magazine cover, on which she appears. “It felt strange to look at a picture of myself that is so different from what I look when I look in the mirror. It’s an unfortunate feeling,” she wrote.

Magazines offering tips on how to get slim in days or how to get a perfect body in few weeks without even knowing our body type are common examples of body shaming. Even social media sites like Twitter and Instagram have become a hub of these cheap thrills. A very recent comment on Ariana Grande’s Twitter handle, ‘curves are sexy, sticks aren’t’, comparing her to Ariel Winter, is another example. Many celebrities like Taylor Swift, Jonah Hill, Rihanna, Lauren London, Amy Schumer, etc. have been victims of body shaming in various social media sites. Celebrities like Lauren London are criticised for their post pregnancy weight on social media. Girls posting pictures wearing a bikini are slut shamed. Why?

‘Her body is so flat’ or ‘you would never get a date with those thighs!’ or ‘he’s so ugly, I would never go out with him’ are constantly thrown around by people with the sole intention of insulting someone.

We automatically look at what is ‘wrong’ in our body because we think we are ‘flawed’. We try to fit into an unrealistic mould. Stop trying! Be who you are. Stand for every woman who has ever been humiliated for her shape or for the men who are being picked on for their size. Encourage and motivate people to balance a positive relationship with their body, to love themselves and the way they look. Every one of us is beautiful in a unique way. Celebrate that uniqueness!
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Image source: Magnus D/ Flickr
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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

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A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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