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Body Shaming Cannot Be Justified As Expressing ‘Concern’ Over Someone’s Health

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“Why don’t you put on a little weight? Take some supplements”; “ This dress would have looked great on you if you had lost some kilos”; “Your hair is too thin for any hairstyle, you should avoid trying different hairstyles next time”; “I think dark colour dresses don’t go with your complexion”.

We often come across these feedbacks in our daily lives and call them ‘opinion’, though unasked for. Making someone feel lesser and feeding them myths about ideal body images is not an opinion. It’s called body shaming. Moreover, we could be at either end, receiving unwanted feedbacks or giving them. Each one of us has encountered this, and might still be dealing with such experiences.

Interestingly, it could be any place where we might encounter individuals ready to find faults with our appearance. We meet them in schools, colleges, workplaces, families, social gatherings, parks, gyms and more. Gradually, such remarks start festering our mind and turn into a lasting perception we create about ourselves based on others’ views. Since childhood, we have seen that the most laughed at characters in cartoon magazines or sitcoms are usually portrayed as fat and jibes at these characters could be demeaning and scarring for an overweight person.

Sadly, most of the times body-shaming is done not only by an outsider but by parents, spouses, siblings and friends too. #TheySaid campaign, started by Sally Bergesen in 2017, has validated that, in most of the cases the body shaming is done by parents or grandparents. Expressing concerns towards the health of our closed ones is one aspect, but making them uncomfortable with their own bodies and the constant disparagement cannot be justified as a concern. Due to the continuous poking from sources around, regardless of what others opine about us, we start detesting our personality gradually. Today, the pressure of looking attractive is mounting so much on us that we forget that models or celebrities on magazine covers and in commercials are just bodies that fit the stereotypes of the fashion industry. They are not the real body types that we find around us. And most of the times these images are photoshopped to make them look ‘flawless’.

I have a few friends who are not ‘lean’ enough to get compliments and hence, people keep offering them doses of advice about their diet, lifestyle, workouts and more. By doing this, people attempt to harness the stigma attached to obese or lean body types; shame them and try to influence their lifestyle and behaviour, which is undoubtedly a poor idea. This constant yapping from ‘concerned individuals’ takes a toll on their mental and physical health and they end up with conditions like depression, anorexia, bulimia, insecurity; at times it may even end up with them taking wrong decisions – sometimes leading to substance abuse, in extreme cases.

We keep on blaming individuals for having a particular body type and bring an unsaid inferiority complex in them. In turn, they keep delving themselves into so-called ‘healthy eating habits’, which are actually taking them away from their original food habits. It’s high time we understand that aspiring for a flawless body is an impossibly high expectation we have for ourselves. We need to arm our present and coming generations, to become immune towards these mortifying comments, and help them understand that a healthy body should be one’s utmost priority instead of meeting the ephemeral beauty standards. Let’s help our girls and boys by creating a positive and safer environment for them, where they can reclaim their true-self and live comfortably in their skin. Efforts should be made to teach as well as learn to respect others and value their contributions to the society, instead of judging them on their appearance.

We have a diverse culture which expands our food options. Then, why should we deprive ourselves? We should only strive for good health accompanied by good food and a good sport to indulge ourselves. We should aim for a healthy body and not a perfect one. Fitness goals should be set to achieve a disease-free healthy life and not some unrealistic beauty standards. We must not fall for the ideal images that are sold to us.

One should focus on carving out their inner beauty instead and love their body unconditionally and profoundly. Also, remember not to use ‘body shaming’ as an excuse for being unhealthy, because a healthy body makes a person happier. It’s time to restrain ourselves from scrutinising our appearance every moment, just because we see perfectly carved bodies on the internet. Stop blindly following old and outdated beauty standards and start appreciating your uniqueness!

And most importantly, stop judging yourself through the eyes of others.

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  1. Rajesh


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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.

Read more about his campaign.

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.

Read more about her campaign. 

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.

Read more about the campaign here.

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.

Read more about the campaign here.

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, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’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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