Body Shaming – Why we should speak out now!

How do you define body shaming?

The oxford dictionary says: body shaming

NOUN

mass noun

‘The action or practice of humiliating someone by making mocking or critical comments about their body shape or size.’

 

Body shaming is not restricted to calling someone fat, which is what people commonly understand of it. It is also mocking anyone for the shape/size that they have. I recently encountered an incident where someone who is thin was commented upon and mocked unnecessarily for the shape. She then complained to her HR about the harassment. I am glad that in this one case the HR was woke enough to understand the gravity of the situation, and in turn warned the perpetrators.

It is disappointing to know many people who initiate such actions do not understand the damage they do to the victims. Body shaming can have a deeper effect on victims than just the initial anger and annoyance. Sneha Janaki, counseling psychologist, private practioner at Reflection Arena, Mumbai says, “Experiencing body shaming can surge psychological distress. People who are body shamed tend to feel disconnected, resentful or hateful of their own bodies. They often experience low self-esteem, find it difficult to be assertive and are self-depreciative as a defense against bullying.”

Staggering statistics say that 94% of teenage girls and 64% of teenage boys are body shamed. This would marginally reduce as one grows up, however it is rampant even in the adult world.

What instigates body shaming?

Saying mean things to others is not the only indicator of body shaming. Giving unnecessary advice, commenting constantly on appearance (comments that do not qualify as compliments), pointing out certain insufficiencies in one’s body/appearance would all qualify as body shaming! I would believe that barraging anyone constantly with what they wear and how that does not meet one another person’s definition of ‘good’, is also body shaming.

These views are often a result of deep conditioning of the mind in addition to what we perceive as ‘perfect’ in our heads. Such perceptions would impact not only direct behaviours but also impacts relationships, personal and professional. Sneha goes on to add, “Comments on the body are frequently overarching descriptors of people as lazy, undisciplined, and unmotivated. These perceptions often go unchecked and subconsciously influence us when hiring or looking for prospective relationship partners. Such invisible discrimination is passed off under the garb of concern or choice but often adds to social anxiety and withdrawal of people who are bodily shamed.”

How to fight body shaming?

Tell the individual straight up that you do not appreciate negative comments on your body and believe that it is not genuine concern. If the individual does not heed your warning then create distance. If this is happening in a professional set-up, it is best to reach out to a supervisor and then escalate to HR. Body shaming is rampant and common and it has to be dealt with.

I have been personally body shamed and it continues. Especially since people think they have the liberty of discussing my 2 kg weight gain without any context, the intention is more often than not to mock. I however, have 1. Learnt to ignore if it is not often 2. Give it straight back saying it is unkind, mean and bullying to comment on body.

As parents, we can raise boys and girls that are sensitive towards this and speak with them about body shaming and why it is bad. A discussion that covers both ends of the matter – instigating and combating body shaming should be initiated by us. An honest one to one conversation with children would help in raising a woke and confident generation.

I believe we all do what we do to stay on top of our lives, even if it means we look a certain way. We should raise our voices against body shaming loud and clear so that bullies know we aren’t taking this silently.

 

Image Courtesy: https://www.videoblocks.com/video/body-shaming-animated-word-cloud-rlqx8_dzxivjfr4dr
Image Courtesy: https://medium.com/athena-talks/5-ways-to-get-over-the-psychological-effects-of-your-body-shaming-537fa1be31b9
Image Courtesy: http://rubyhornet.com/body-shame-history/
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