ADITI ROY | 17 OCTOBER, 2019
The World Loves to Body Shame Us
People don’t think about what they say
Body image is a big problem in our society. An unhealthy self-image can lead to depression, social anxiety and eating disorders. Even if we don’t want to think of ourselves in this way, still society forces us.
By some estimates 90% of teenage girls in India have been shamed for the way their bodies look. Yes, that means pretty much every woman has experienced body shaming before she heads into adulthood.
The shame women experience throughout their lives can have lasting, weakening effects on their self-esteem. For instance, one survey showed that only 4% of women consider themselves beautiful.
That’s really heartbreaking.
Let me share some body shaming stories many friends and I have faced in our day to day lives.
It happens not only to fat girls but slim girls as well. It feels like my body is right to gossip for others.
I was a chubby kid. I was fat shamed and bullied by my friends. My own family didn’t shy away from remarking how unattractive I look because of my figure.
It feels so nasty when people gossip about your body parts in public. In my case my mother, grandmother and my aunt tried to get me to follow gym and harsh exercises. They gave me less food to eat. Boys in my class teased me, harassed me and called me nasty names.
I felt at that moment I was not physically raped, rather I was mentally raped. When I looked at myself in the mirror I felt so nasty and so characterless. I heard guys calling me “whore” because of my figure which landed me in depression.
People don’t think about what they say. They judge others so easily except judging their own selves.
There are many more people on earth who have gone through such situations because of their body shapes. I can share some of their stories. They didn’t want to share their names.
“I got badly bullied when I was a new student in elementary school, starting in kindergarten when I was five and lasting until I was nine years old. One girl would tell me every day during recess, ‘You’re so skinny I can see right through you!’ I was a shy child and didn’t know how to handle this bullying, especially the name-calling. I was sad, and I believed that there was something very wrong with me.”
“For years I have been passionate about exercise and fitness, but felt uncomfortable talking about it. I have a tall, slender build and I was nervous about being judged. A senior physician supervising me once commented under his breath to suggest I had an eating disorder. I’m not sure if he meant for me to hear it, but I did, and it hurt.”
“‘Look! It’s a monkey!’ I was in middle school at the time. My dark hair and features were pointed out by two boys in class.”
“After five years of dating, my boyfriend told me he didn’t want to date me anymore because I was fat. I was so hurt, and for the next ten years I was on a weight loss rollercoaster and a downward spiral of self-body shaming.”
While many people point the finger at social media or the media at large, body shaming has been around since the beginning of time. Today there are simply more opportunities.
The statements above speak for themselves—and we’re sure you’ll see a little bit of yourself in each of them.
This article is part of The Citizen's journalism workshop 'Behind The Byline'. For more information, email email@example.com
Cover image: Works by Ana Mendieta, © Estate of Ana Mendieta Collection