The following was submitted by SMIW contributor Anwiti Singh.
“Why don’t you join a gym?”
“Have you heard about this new diet?”
“You should try a cleanse!”
Those are some of the more polite things that a person who is above-the-socially acceptable-body-weight can hope to hear. As for the not so polite ones, I don’t even know where to begin!
I have experienced body shaming all my life, at first for being too skinny and now for being overweight.
I have come to realise that my life serves the sole purpose of providing entertainment for others by being the butt of their ‘fat jokes’. I’m pretty sure there are millions of others who experience this on a daily basis too.
Body shaming is a widely accepted form of bigotry in our society, and nobody ever stops to think that their condescending words and glances might hurt another person. No one considers the battles others are fighting – just to survive in this cruel and judgmental world.
Until a few years ago, I was a very skinny person – to the extent of looking undernourished. But, there was nothing I could do to change it, because that’s just how my body was. All through high school, boys would comment on my thin frame. I was called things like ‘aadha kata nimbu’ (Half cut lemon), boy dressed as girl, skeleton, size zero obsessed, etc.
I would look at all the other girls around me, whose bodies had bloomed and wallow in self-pity. My little sixteen-year-old brain was often occupied with thoughts enhancement surgeries, which isn’t really something a teenager should be thinking of. But, constant ridicule and laughs had driven me to that extreme.
Then, I fell ill. I was diagnosed with a bone marrow disorder, which required me to undergo a rigorous treatment involving steroids. In a span of just a couple of months, my body changed drastically.
The change was so radical, that it developed a body identity crisis for me. I couldn’t relate to this sudden increase in fat all over my body. I couldn’t accept that my recently 24 inch waist was suddenly 30 (it is 34 now). I felt like someone had removed me from my natural body and put me in one that belonged to a stranger. It took me a full year to finally accept that it was me, in my own body.
However, for a brief glorious period, I finally felt happy. I thought that now that I was no longer skinny, no one would ever question my body again.
I couldn’t have been more wrong.
After spending two years in recovery, I started college. A whole new world; with possibilities and opportunities that could shape my future. But here I was, back to being ridiculed again. This time, for the cellulite around my belly and the flabbiness of my arms. Fat-jokes became an everyday thing, gradually invading my psyche. I became bulimic. I felt I didn’t deserve the food I was eating. I felt that all my achievements, intelligence, and self-worth – everything positive in my life was tied to the amount of fat on my body.
Somewhere along the way, the blatant body shaming was joined by benevolent bigotry.
Just because someone has extra fat on their body – people think it is OK to give them unsolicited advice about how they should live their life. So, on came the ‘well-meaning’ suggestions to start working out, trying new diets, and adapting different lifestyles – ignoring / oblivious to the fact that my weight accumulation was caused by the medication I took.
Soon enough, my relatives also became like the teenage bullies from college. Despite knowing everything that I had been through.
They relentlessly shamed me, made me feel guilty about being who I was, made me believe that I was a waste of space.
Body shaming is just another form of ‘fit-the-social-norm-or-be-harassed’ mentality. The bullies thrive because the society has made them feel that it’s okay to bully someone who is weaker, smaller or less conventionally attractive.
When we tell a fat-joke, we out ourselves as being prejudiced and discriminatory. When we slap our thighs hysterically at Kapil Sharma’s misogynistic body shaming – we empower and glorify the bullies. When we forward the same jokes online and on WhatsApp, we strengthen a culture of bigotry.
It took time for me to mature into a person who could think better; but slowly and steadily I realized that my self-worth isn’t related to my body fat content (or lack thereof). I am a strong, independent woman, with above average intelligence and a prospect at a bright future. I can’t let these sad, bigoted people ruin it. I know now, that the best thing you can do is ignore these bullies, because you cannot educate them without going down to their level.
So, that’s my advice to anyone else reading this, who has faced body shaming and ridicule for being who they are. Realise your self-worth beyond the standards of beauty set for you by others.
The shame is on the shamers. Not on you.
About the Author:
Anwiti is a 23 year old student and budding writer based in Delhi. She strongly supports animal rights and feminism.