Body shaming is an act or practice of humiliating someone by making mocking or critical comments about their body shape, body parts, physical look or size. It is a form of bullying that can result in severe emotional trauma especially when it is done to a young person. Body shaming can be done by one to themselves or done by other people. Family members, friends and classmates are the usual initiators of body shaming, which could result in mental health problems such as depression, anorexia, bulimia, self harm, body dysmorphia and suicidal behaviour for the victim.
According to a survey, more than 40 percent of women and about 20 percent of men agreed that they would consider cosmetic surgery in the future. Also, 95 percent of people with eating disorders are between the ages of 12 to 25. People also reported being body shamed by their mothers, fathers, grandparents and even their partners. Body shaming often occurs in the form of criticism for being too fat, too skinny, too short, too tall, having a large belly, having huge thighs, not having muscle tone, having stretch marks, having hyperpigmentation, and many other factors that make one to be perceived as less attractive in the society.
Body shaming also often comes in the form of social media and mass media. Celebrities and regular people are trolled online on the basis of how they look. Mass media often helps to amplify the idea that there are fixed body types that are attractive to the opposite sex. Overweight characters in cartoons or movies are portrayed as less intelligent, happy or attractive. Magazines are flooded with images of men and women who have had to take steroids or undergo cosmetic surgery. These images are seen as the new normal, but they are not achievable for a regular healthy individual.
Comedy is supposed to help make people laugh, but it has been used as a tool to body shame tool. Jokes about how someone is so skinny they resemble a wooden board or the fact that a fat person resembles a loaf of bread dipped in water are insensitive. These jokes are ways to subtly drop messages that encourage discussions about the appearance of someone else in a board meeting, a class room, a wedding, or any other event. These jokes should not be encouraged in any setting.
Body shaming encourages social division and stigmatisation of individuals who do not fit the regular beauty standards. The intention may not be negative, but the results are bad. Most eating disorders are caused by a history of being ridiculed based on size or weight. Body shaming has also resulted in making the victims have disorders in thinking about their body and shape. High risk cosmetic procedures such as the Brazilian butt lift are being embraced by individuals because of the pressure to look good enough. A simple comment on someone’s body could trigger anxiety and depression.
In conclusion, not everyone has the same body. Not everyone will look like the actors you watch on your television screen. We cannot all be tall, with broad chests and toned muscle. We cannot all have smooth skin, hourglass figures and slim frames. Body shaming is normalised as just being honest or making a joke, but it is very hurtful for the victim. Don’t be the reason why someone develops body dysmorphia, self harms or decides to end their life. The truth is at some point, we all have body shamed someone else in the past, but we can put the act to an end. Let us try to end body shaming and be kind with our words.