Skinny shaming, it’s effects, and 3 super amazing women who share their story
Featured Black and White Photo by Helen Thomas
Body shaming has grabbed eyeballs all over social media. What one misses to notice is that taking a stand against body-shaming is not only about raising issues around ‘fat-shaming’. Body shaming also includes ‘skinny shaming’, something that is not often discussed or taken for granted for the person is considered ‘privileged to be thin.’ Hence, the body-shaming continues, while self-esteem levels plummet, and depression sinks in. Women in India are subjected to hurtful comments where a “voluptuous” figure or “well-endowed” woman is often declared as the ideal body type by people who love handling out free advice (not too thin and not too fat! Get it?).
What is Body Shaming?
Body shaming is what people say intending to humiliate a person (often knowingly, but sometimes unknowingly) and pass critical comments on a person’s body type. These actions and words begin with hurtful comments that can have a detrimental effect on one’s self-esteem levels. Often, criticizing a person’s body type is done as a part of humour that begins with friends and family members. This often extends to work colleagues, and even random strangers one bumps into at parties.
What is Skinny Shaming?
Telling someone “You are too thin,” “You don’t look like you eat,” “You are flat,” “You don’t need to exercise, you will disappear,” “You are not curvy enough,” “You look tired, anemic,” “You won’t get a man (said to women)” are all examples of skinny shaming. While most people who comment may object that these are said in a light-hearted manner, skinny shaming is real and needs to stop.
Bullying and body shaming begins as early as the initial growth phases of life. These are the tender years wherein what people say often leaves a strong imprint on young minds. People who have been shamed may grow up to have issues affecting a perfectly normal life.
A person often tends to feel inadequate, uncomfortable with their presence and may experience a loss of confidence in public.
Skinny Shaming and why it Needs to Stop
I can’t remember how young I was when it all started. People around me were always obsessed about my weight and height. They seemed to spring out of nowhere with skinny shaming comments that seemed downright rude. This bullying and body shaming continued even as I grew up. The body shaming at work continued with colleagues always obsessing over my body type.
Thin shaming is often not given the weightage as much as fat-shaming, as the latter has gained more attention on social media. Skinny shaming is real and hurtful and this needs to stop if we, as a society, stop obsessing over body weight issues and appearances of people.
People who have been shamed may grow up to have issues affecting a perfectly normal life.
As an Indian fashion blogger, my journey has been one with multiple experiences. I’ve had a chance to mingle with women who have mocked me in public for being thin while others who wanted to “be like me”. Standing up for myself is something I’ve learned along the way. Skinny shaming and fat shaming – both are equally distasteful, and women in India are subjected to humiliation no matter their shape, age, and marital status.
What the Slender Women have to Say
I quizzed a couple of lovely ladies who have faced skinny shaming. When asked about the kind of comments people had passed, Jyothi Prasad, age 35 and a homemaker, said, “People told me that I look weak. They said unkind things that I don’t get food to eat.” Jyothy even slipped into depression after having lost her father at the age of 18 years. This made her skip her meals and suffer more causing multiple taunts to come her way. Over time, this spunky lady realized that people will continue to speak badly about others no matter their size, shape, or colour. Today, Jyothy is proud to have overcome all the negativity of skinny shaming to embrace a life where she is happy to be her current size – slim and a mother of two. She is just the way she’d want to be. When asked about advice for young women, Jyothy said, “We have only one life, and we must not waste time on people who ‘skinny shame’ others. We should move on and love ourselves.”
Bindu Naidu, age 27, and a Bangalore-based HR professional, has faced skinny shaming comments from the age of 18. She particularly remembers being told she will never get a man. “You are skinny, like a stick. There seems to be nothing on your body. Oh! You look like a kid.” Bindu, hurt by the skinny shaming comments learned to give an appropriate response at an early age. When asked about the steps to be taken to change the mentality, Bindu replied, “Every body type is different. No one has the right to fat shame or skinny shame a person. People need to be educated about understanding different biological conditions and that every body type needs to be respected.” Bindu firmly believes we don’t have to impress anyone. Today, she has accepted herself as a lovely, slim lady and is happy to be healthy in her skin. Yes, the skinny shaming impacted self-esteem levels but Bindu was never unfazed. When quizzed about telling something to her younger self, pat came the reply, “Chuck the society. Live for yourself!”
Fashion designer and entrepreneur, Shiny Alexander is a force to reckon with. She mentioned, “Stepping out of school as a thin and dusky girl was a tough experience. I was always told I will never be taken seriously or will never bear a child due to my thin body.” Shiny mentioned the hurtful comments also included that she didn’t look her age and this made people doubt her professional capability. Body shaming at work is a reality. Her first job as a lecturer invited hurtful comments that indicated she will never be taken seriously as she looked like a student. Did the skinny shaming comments bother Shiny? “The comments hurt in my teenage days. I was lucky to have a large supportive family and a wonderful group of friends who never judged me for my body type.” Shiny believes there is nothing much that can be done to change this mentality as this is dependent upon a person’s upbringing. So, what would Shiny do if someone called her thin at this moment? “I would only feel sorry for them and smile,” she says. At 35, Shiny is running a successful 11-year old business and is comfortable in her skin. She remembers her self-esteem levels being shaken in her initial days but she has stood strong and did not let her younger self break into pieces. “I want to thank my younger self for surviving.” Shiny particularly mentions that 99% of the people who were ‘skinny shaming’ her were women. Men have been supportive and kind towards her journey from the initial struggle to success.
In my quest to connect with women who have been skinny shamed, I realized the deep impact it had on the minds of women in particular. The society often dictates what a woman should do and size here seems to be an obsession for many. So, what does a person do when he/she faces skinny shaming comments? Take a look.
How to Respond to Skinny Shaming
- Firstly, stand up for yourself. If the person is a stranger, you can gently remind them that it is none of their business. In case of people you know, do mention that it is your body, and it’s your choice.
- If people are frequent with their skinny shaming comments, you must also learn to ignore. You know your strengths and you cannot be defined by everything people say around you.
- Be positive with your approach. Be clear in communicating with people that this is not acceptable and skinny shaming even as “fun” is distasteful.
- If you are a parent, stand up for your child. Allowing others to skinny shame your child and get away with this is harmful to the development of the child.
- Love yourself. Learn to appreciate your personality which should never need approval from others.
Skinny shaming and fat shaming – both are unacceptable as this can hamper the personal development of any individual. It is cruel and no one should be made to feel bad in an indecisive world that is suddenly laying emphasis on “embracing your curves” or going “size zero”. With picture-perfect Instagrammy photos gaining popularity, body shaming can affect a person negatively leading to depression, and isolation.
Featured Photo by Helen Thomas