Enough of the shaming of fat bodies

Body shaming is the act of negatively commenting or humiliating others about their physical appearance, usually targeted at a person’s weight or size. - Photo: JENNIFER BURK/Unsplash

Recently, a post on Twitter about a woman's experience of getting body shamed at her workplace received a lot of attention on the social media platform. The young lady tweeted about a man who came up to her at the eyewear booth which she manned and told that she "can’t be cool" unless she loses weight.

The comment affected her because despite her many attempts to lose weight – hormone treatments, swimming, dieting and exercising – "people like him" often belittle fat people and assume that they don't make any effort to lose weight or take care of their their health.

Many who commented on the post were irritated by the man’s criticism, saying that he was rude and "heartless". A few shared their own experiences of getting body shamed.

Body shaming – an act of negatively commenting or humiliating others about their physical appearance – is, unfortunately common and is usually targeted at a person’s weight or size.

Far Ahmad, 35, says that people often have stereotypes about fat people which "are not true at all".

“People think that fat people are lazy, that they don’t have any goals and lead a very unhealthy lifestyle. Fat people are seen to be 'less than' other people in the society and they are often looked down on. When someone is fat, it is as if their body belongs to everyone to be scrutinised," says Far.

“Another idea that people attach to fat people is that we are unintelligent. When people feel like they are more educated, well informed and knowledgeable than fat people, they have the urge to tell those who are fat on what they need to do with their body because people think that fat people are uneducated,” she says.

Far and four of their friends – Jaskirath Kaur, Ratnadevi Manokaran, Dorian Wilde and Preamiitha Prakash, formed My Fat Squad (Instagram: @myfatsquad), a community for fat people. My Fat Squad offers fat people a safe space to talk about issues they face and also get information on fat-friendly spaces, doctors, services and so on. and Jaskirath are among the co-founders of the My Fat Squad – a community for fat people. They advocate for the rights of people who are fat, regardless of their gender – whether it is access to having a comfortable chair to sit at work or having equal access to healthcare system – and create a safer space for fat people.

No reason to body shame

Jaskirath, 35, says there is absolutely no good reason for someone to body shame others. She feels that it is a privilege to be physically fit or to have an acceptable body.

“People are not thin because they decided to be thin. They are thin because that is the way their body exists and it holds some power within the society. People think that they are commenting someone’s body for the benefit of others, but what they are actually doing is trying to hold on to the privilege that the thin body offers them because it is acceptable to the society.

“When they see a fat person living their life to the happiest and fullest, it sort of threatens the power or privilege that they have. So, they desperately try to hold on to it by criticising other people and making sure they establish that being thin is the only acceptable way to exist,” she says.

Just like the stranger in the twitter post, Far and Jaskirath feel that people tend to think that fat bodies are open topics for discussion.

“That man thinks that being thin is what it takes to be cool – that is nonsense. There is no logic in that. He is missing out in life for not knowing any cool fat people and it is quite sad," says Jaskirath.

“Despite her ability to run a business and being beautiful inside and out, that man chose to value her based on her look instead. It is a myth that people choose to become fat, as if it is a choice. I have been fat all my life and it is just how my body exists,” she adds.

Although they both concur that body shaming affects people of all genders, women tend to experience it more then men.

“Being a fat woman, you definitely a lot more abuse and harassment because of patriarchal ideology. Women are expected to be a certain way because the value of a woman is attached more on her physical appearance.

“This happens everywhere. The way a cashier at the grocery store talks to you may depend on your physical look or how pretty you are, for example. When you go to the hospital, there are nurses and doctors who may treat you better if you are thin or have fairer skin. Teachers at school may treat their students who are thin better than fat students,” Far says.

Jaskirath feels that finding a support system is the best way to deal with body shaming comments that one may encounter.

“When you experience body shaming, you will feel like you don’t want to go out. It lowers your self-esteem and people don’t understand the level of anxiety that you have to face in public. It makes it difficult for you to try new things and experience life. But loving yourself and accepting your body is very important,” stresses Jaskirath.

“However, no matter how much self-love or confidence you have, it will never change the way people treat you. The problem with body shaming and other kinds of discrimination is that they are always beyond your control,” Far concludes.

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fat shaming , body shaming , fatness


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