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Socially Acceptable Body Shaming - you can Never Win

by Advika Anand

If a Barbie doll’s measurements were converted to a real human being’s, her body would only be able to hold half a liver and a few inches of intestine. With so much of her body missing, she wouldn’t be able to hold herself up - forced to walk on all fours and physically unable to hold up her over-sized head.

The target market for barbie dolls is 3-12 years old. This means that girls internalise these ridiculously unattainable beauty standards before they can even spell the words ‘beauty standards’. Some of us strive for her tiny waist, others for her large chest. I fall into the second category.

People imagine that once they lose weight, all their issues will be solved. They’ll finally get the girl or boy, finally get the Instagram likes, and finally be beautiful enough. But I have come to realise that you can never fit the beauty standard. No matter what, there will always be something that not only you dislike about yourself, but other people will point out about you too.

Skinny shaming isn’t seriously considered body shaming because after all, being skinny is supposedly the ideal. Regardless, “chicken legs”, “skeleton”, and “doorframe” are just some of the hurtful comments that skinny girls never fail to hear. Criticism from friends and family alike, skinny girls do endure body shaming, yet somehow, we’re deluded into thinking that it only counts as body shaming if the comments are directed at those who are overweight.

My grandmother always puts a little extra food on my plate than on my cousins’, but that is easy to brush off. It is routine for me to smile and nod uncomfortably as a friend of my mother is lecturing me about how I look like my parents don’t feed me. But I will never forget when a relative, who I had met a grand total of twice in my life, told my mother that she was a bad parent because I look the way I do.

I get all my veggies in, exercise regularly, eat all the right nutrients, and besides having a nasty dust allergy, I have a clean bill of health. I have been cleared by every doctor and no matter what, my metabolism will always burn through what I eat like gasoline to a flame. So my body is naturally on the leaner side. Yes, my ribs will show through and my hip bones will protrude a little, but that is the way I am built, so please don’t ask me to eat a burger or joke about how I look like I could be blown away by the wind. 

Even the medical standards for BMI are skewed. A doctor told me that while the numbers say I am medically underweight, I am actually perfectly healthy because the scales were based on average Caucasian bodies whereas Indian bodies carry weight differently.

Even if I pass the skinny test without any hiccups, I don’t pass the chest test or the ass test. The reality is that only a few can have both a size zero waist and a double D cup size. If I don’t have much fat anywhere else on my body, how am I expected to have an abundance of it on my chest? I distinctly remember when in eleventh grade, a female friend of mine joked about how flat I was in front of my friends. I could not bring myself to wear anything but heavily padded pushup bras in public after that.

Skinny shaming isn’t limited to women; how many times have we seen men be shamed for being skinny too? In every movie, not only do we see the fat guy as a comedic device, but the skinny guy only gets the girl after going to the gym and magically sprouting biceps bigger than his head. Men feel the societal pressure to be made of pure muscle. This ideal male attractiveness standard of tall and muscular is tied to their masculinity. Men that I’ve spoken to have said that they feel uncomfortable during ‘gym talk’ when their friends start flexing their biceps or arm wrestling. Skinny boys are told that they "should" have more muscle given their height, age or that they have hit puberty. Comments are passed:  "your arms look like sticks" or in their sports teams, they’re ridiculed for not looking as strong as their bigger teammates. The pressure they feel drives them to exercise and diet in unhealthy ways and it results in disappointment and a lower self-esteem when their bodies are unable to make such drastic changes in small amounts of time. They look into the mirror and hate the way their bones stick out too. They painfully laugh it off when someone jeers about their knobby knees and elbows too.

It feels like you can’t win. You’re accused of being anorexic, or you’re shamed into actually becoming one. Body shaming is body shaming whether you are a size 2 or 20. Our bodies are so much more than a number on a scale. We need to learn not to pass judgement on other people’s bodies regardless of their size, gender or sexuality. 

1 comment

1 Comment

This is definitely a problem in the world we live in today. Very well articulated and written, this was a much needed article!

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