It’s not comic. It never was and it will not be…
Why are you so lean? Didn’t you eat anything? Why so many pimples? Why are you so tired? Hope you like more fatty body, don’t you? You changed a lot and became fatty. That kurta suits you more than this western wear. Your father and mother are so fair, then why you are like this?
These are some of the typical dialogues that many of us face on routine basis. Is body shaming something to appreciate? Many of us have encountered the same situation in one way or other. Many a times, we have been a part of some uncool conversation that made fun of a friend’s dressing style, hair style, body shape etc.
Body shaming is criticising or teasing others based on their physical appearance, which may sometimes makes them cynical and affect their mental health. Many people are persecuted because of their size and shape, while some are shamed due to their other physical features. These harrowing criticisms are made on one’s colour, hair, body shape or structure, dressing style or any other physical appearance that others want to judge. For example, telling others they are too skinny or fat, criticising someone by comparing them with someone else’s appearance, judging someone based on their style etc. are all body shaming. This is a harsh practice that has been followed by generations. Ways in which people are body shamed are:
‘My Body is My Own’ was the theme of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Population Report 2021. It is for the first time that a UN report focused on bodily autonomy. The report defined bodily autonomy as one’s power to make choices about their body without any fear and not have someone else decide for them. The theme also addresses body shaming.
When a person is already concerned about any one factor of their physical appearance and a close relative/friend passed a comment on the same, it demoralises them to the core. Even if they laugh in that moment and don’t mean to hurt anyone, the comment always echoes in their ears and affects them badly. Thus, the person starts finding flaws in themselves, irrespective of their many positives. Obviously, there will be a few who won’t take these comments or conversations seriously. But then we can’t predict who will get hurt and who wont. So, it is better to avoid such remarks.
One can be body shamed by someone close to you irrespective of their age. Many people justify this practice as a part of societal concern. Truly, no. Whether done knowingly or unknowingly, the effect of body shaming remains the same. The criticism that people put forward about one’s physical appearance are the factors set up by society itself that ultimately lead many of us to a mental breakdown or condition.
Being socially bullied increases the level of insecurity. It results in low self-esteem, which in turn affects one’s productivity. Thus, people who are body shamed often try to avoid gatherings, celebrations and show less interest in getting themselves involved in socialising. Certain surveys conducted reveal that those who face body shaming show less interest in making friends and try to stand away from the crowd. As a social animal, that can lead to depression. Thus, it may also increase the risk of suicide.
The image on the side is from a Malayalam movie named ‘Margamkali’. The film conveys a negative message to society in many parts, even though it has been pretty good scenes. The female protagonist in the film has a big mole on her face and everyone makes her upset by talking about it. In one scene, she stands in front of the mirror and covers that side of the face with her hand and whispers, “I am beautiful.” It means that with the mole on her face, she looks ugly, which is not true. It is society that drags her into mental agony and depression.
Everyone is unique in their own way. No one is perfect and there is no ideal body structure. Be positive about the way you are. Don’t drop self-love, self-respect and self-esteem anywhere as they are the stepping stones to lead a satisfied life. A positive body does not only mean acquiring a desirable figure set up by society, but also means being healthy, both physically and mentally. Treat yourself the way you wish because you are important.
Practice the ‘Hear and Drop’ approach towards those who promote body shaming. I am also an everyday survivor of body shaming, where people constantly ask me, “Don’t you have good food? Have you gone through any stress?” I don’t know why I am so lean. May be I would like to see myself as this or it could be any other reason. These jokes are irritable, but I tried and learned to ignore such comments.
If anyone is facing any problem based on my appearance, the mistake is theirs, not mine. We are not born to criticise anybody, it’s something that has been etched in us by society. Enjoy the diversity and let them live their life happily.
About the author: Ginju Elsa Mathew works as Young Professional in the UNICEF in its Chennai office and lives in Pathanamthitta, Kerala.