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Just Because I Didn’t Look A Certain Way, You Took The Privilege Of Calling Me Names

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Dear Body Shamer,

Body shaming came to you pretty naturally, right? In fact, the seeds were sown at your own home. When you heard your father taunting your mother for getting fat. When your elder brother teased your little sister for eating too much and looking like a “baby elephant”. When you were taunted for being shorter than your elder sister. It began very early for you, didn’t it? At your own home, you were accustomed to hearing direct, rude, sometimes subtle and at other times, pretty in-your-face remarks, so often that you internalized these statements and accepted that these are the ways of the world. That this is how normal humans behave. That this is how human beings taunt each other for looking a certain way. Hence, it came to you pretty naturally when in school, you called a chubby girl “elephant”, a dark little boy “kallu” or a thin girl “sukdi”. You laughed and made fun of these kids who looked slightly different than the rest of the crowd. Never even once did you think how your remark made those kids feel.

You called me “moti” in a breath, without a thought. Well, I was quite used to hearing all this all over the place. It was nothing new. I knew I was overweight and heavier than the rest of my class when I was 6 or 7 years old. Yes, I, a mere 6-year-old little girl was made aware of her body and its “heaviness” by you. I, who started dreading the sports class because I couldn’t run as fast as the others, or I who couldn’t jump as high as the others. Thanks to you, I remained consciously aware of my body, of how I was different from the crowd because of my fat thighs and round face. Thanks to you, I knew what an ideal body looked like from the time I started to recite math tables. The cues of an ideal body that you were taking from movies and media and your own family were now a reason for my issues with my own body. For you, those were mindlessly uttered words to tease me, to make me feel awkward, to have a moment of fun with your gang. For me, it was a stark realization of my being. And yes, I want you to remember that it started when I was 6.

I remained quite overweight throughout school because I liked reading books more than I liked sport. I lived in an area where I had no friends in my locality to play with in the evening, so it was only me, my books, my studies, and a lot of homework. I did cycle around, run, walk, skip rope in order to lose weight in my early teens. But it didn’t really help me much as I remained quite heavy despite exercise. To an outsider, I may have seemed like a lazy-ass nerd who did nothing except study at home (evident from my school performance), because of which I had this fat body. Which you took a liberty of calling out. Which you made fun of. Did you ever realize that this was a thing not very much in my own control? Did you ever stop to ponder why people look different before calling them names for their shape, colour, size and height?

People look a certain way because they are genetically made that way. It’s their personal blueprint. It’s their grand design. Just so because you were designed with a thinner frame, a more athletic build, or tinier waist doesn’t negate the fact that the blueprint I was born with was inferior. Just because I did not look a certain way that pleased your eyes (which, I am sorry to remind, had hardly seen, let alone appreciated any diversity), you took the privilege of calling me names. And I, being naive and young, assimilated it as a part of my identity just because I was surrounded by bullies like you everywhere I went. Yes, to a certain degree, it was my fault too, that I let you affect me. But it was your sheer overconfidence in being a shape or size which our rotten society sees as acceptable which made me feel like a lesser person in my body because I did not look like the rest of the more “normal shapes”.

But now, I accept my body and love it. Having been body shamed throughout my life has made me so thick-skinned now that it would take ten thousand body shamers to make me feel bad about my shape. Yes, it did take me ages, a lot of seeing and knowing the ways of the world to understand the futility and shallowness of body shaming. But now, after many, many years, I have accepted my body. Because frankly, this is the only one I have!

Now, coming back to you, the Shamers. Let’s have a conversation. Did you know what you consider fat here is considered pretty normal in many countries of the world? What you call dark and fat in India is beautiful, desirable and exotic in the west? Do you know that calling a short guy short is nothing but a sad defence because you have no better argument? Did you ever study even a bit of biology in your life to understand the science of heredity, and how certain people may have just inherited a body shape from their ancestors? Also, have you not had a family member suffer from metabolic diseases such as diabetes which makes it hard for them to control their body weight? Do you also realize that there are many types of eating disorders that millions of people suffer from, which leads them to have an overly thin or quite big bodies?

In today’s times, when information and knowledge flow so freely, why don’t you bother to read up about the diversity in the human race? When there are so many colours, sizes, shapes and types to the human body, why can’t YOU be the one to be more tolerant and accept the facts, rather than being the crudest form of animal and spread hate and animosity by targeting someone for something that is not their fault?

I can accept that you were too young, too naive yourself when you teased someone in school, but what in the world is wrong with you now which makes it so easy for you to comment on someone for their physical attributes when you, yourself have a body full of human flaws, scars and defects?

Now is the time for you to heal, dear Shamer. I want you to heal your own wounds. I know that you must have been shamed too. I know they must have said to you that you were not as tall as your dad, not as beautiful as your cousin, or not as thin as your best friend. They must have called you fat when you put on a few kilos, or called you out when you lost a lot of weight post illness. I want you to realize that bodies have been given to us by nature and we have little control over physical attributes. What I want you to do is, remove body shaming vocabulary from your brain and your tongue. Think how you would feel. How it would have affected you when you were a little kid and repeatedly called out for being a certain way. If you have kids, I want you to never utter a single body shaming word to them. Because, remember? I remember the words from when I was 6 years old. Your kids would remember them too. No kid deserves to be so conscious of their own body. You would not want your near ones to suffer at your hand ever again. So, dear Shamer, please never shame anyone for their body, their colour, or their size.

Hoping you evolve and become a better human being,

A Healed Victim

How can the human race evolve to be supreme, how can we claim to be a race of knowledgeable folk, how can we claim scientific supremacy when at the basest level, our thoughts are so fogged, so clouded by judgement on the basis of how we look? It is high time for us to take account of how we behave with each other if we are to evolve into something better, if we want to see a generation of better human beings around us. Human beings that don’t shame each other for the way nature has made us. It really is high time.

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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.

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