Why Are You So Fat/Thin/Tall/Short/Dark/Pale? The Reality and Cruelty of Body Shaming

Successfully reducing one’s weight from 105 kilogrammes (kg) to 76 kg is an incredible feat. But Twitter user @J0eyi who hails from Damansara discovered that not everyone would celebrate her achievement when she managed to lose all that weight. Many people, including her teachers, still teased her. Many still called her fat.

She, unfortunately, had become a victim of the cruelty of body shaming.

What Is Body Shaming?

Body shaming is defined as the criticism of someone based on the shape, size, or appearance of their body. These comments can be made to the person’s face or behind the person’s back. By family members, friends, loved ones, or strangers. But ultimately, it has devastating consequences for those who are victims of body-shaming. Because at the end of the day, I see body shaming as an act of bullying.

The Scope of Body Shaming

Contrary to popular belief, the scope of body shaming is not limited to fat-shaming. It is so much wider and can include shaming for being too thin, too tall, too short, having too much hair, or having a lack of hair. One can also be shamed for being too dark (“If I take a photo of you, I can only see your teeth!”) or too pale (“You look like a ghost!”).

If you are someone who thinks that body shaming is a term concocted by those who are too sensitive to ‘well-meaning comments’, here are some statistics for you:

  • In India, results from a preliminary study about body shaming suggest that the prevalence in the country could be higher than the global prevalence of 25 to 35 per cent. That’s worrying.
  • An article published by CNN on June 1, 2021, reported that more than 50% of surveyed overweight in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States stated they have been fat-shamed by doctors, family, friends, classmates, and co-workers. It has subsequently led to self-blame and avoidance of health care. The tragedy is: they are being fat-shamed by people whom they know and probably trust.
  • Another study showed that 94 per cent of teenage girls and 64 per cent of teenage boys have been shamed for the way their body looks.

So, with all due respect: NO. The victims are not being too sensitive. It’s not a figment of their imagination. It seems to be a global problem that must be addressed.  

Consequences of Body Shaming

Victims of body shaming may suffer from various devastating consequences. For example, those who have been weight-shamed may develop eating disorders such as anorexia or bulimia. In Shanghai, a mental health clinic reported that it only treated three cases of eating disorders in 2002. In 2018, it had increased to 591. This can partly be attributed to viral posts online that propagates that having thin bodies and pale skins are the ideal definition of beauty.

Furthermore, it can also lead to a body dysmorphic disorder (BDD). It is a mental health problem that causes a person to be so upset about the appearance of his or her body that it gets in the way of living normally.

They may also suffer from other mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. Additionally, it can also impact how they interact with others and may lead them to self-isolate. The combination of being depressed and isolating themselves could also increase the risk of suicide.

Mostly, victims of body shaming may look in the mirror every day and hate how they look. The words directed at them, making fun of a certain aspect of their appearance, may haunt them every time they look at themselves.

Bearing the shame of being too fat/thin/tall/short/dark/pale may cause them to have very low self-esteem and ultimately experience self-rejection. And that, I believe, is the greatest tragedy of body shaming: because nobody should ever reject themselves.

Source: Photo by RODNAE Productions from Pexels

Have You Been Body-Shamed?

“You remind me of a stick. Why would any man want to marry you?”

“Fatty-fatty-bom-bom. Fatty-fatty-bom-bom. That’s what I will say every time I see you.” [Fatty-fatty-bom-bom: A derogatory term in reference to a person’s weight.]

“Look at those scrawny arms. Reminds me of a twig. You’re not macho at all.”

“Hey, midget! Were you one of the seven dwarfs in Snow White? Hey, midget! Are you here? Because I can’t see you!”

“Your shoulders are so wide. Are you a man or a woman? Because women are supposed to be petite and dainty!”

Here’s a question for you: Have any of these statements have been directed at you before and made you feel really bad about yourself? If you have encountered body shaming before, you need to read this:

  • Understand and recognise that body shaming can be likened to bullying, and you should not feel ashamed of yourself. Victims of bullying tend to blame themselves, but it is important to know that it is not your fault. Don’t accept their mean words as the truth.
  • Surround yourself with those who can encourage, support, and help you to view yourself in a positive manner.
  • Reach out for help if you are struggling with depression and thoughts of suicide.
Source: Photo by RODNAE Productions from Pexels

Don’t Be Ashamed, Speak Up for Yourself

I would like to also share a story of an inspiring Malaysian with you. YB Kasthuri Patto is the Malaysian Member of Parliament for the Batu Kawan constituency in Penang. The daughter of a former senior Democratic Action Party (DAP) politician, the late Patto Perumal, she is a bold voice fighting for female rights in the Malaysian Parliament. But did you know that she had been a victim of body shaming before?  

During the Parliamentary sitting on July 13, 2020, as Kasthuri Patto was championing a cause for women,  another Member of Parliament commented, “Gelap, tak nampak!” (Translation: Too dark, can’t see!). However, she didn’t take it standing down and went on to boldly stand up for herself.

However, if you are fortunate enough to have never been body-shamed before, I hope that you can play a part in creating awareness about the harmful effects of body shaming and reach out to help someone you know who is being body-shamed. And the next time you witness the cruelty of body-shaming in action: do something to stop it. Don’t stay silent.

They’re The Ones with The Problem

To all of those who have suffered at the hands of body shamers, the next time you look in the mirror and are tempted to look away, here’s something that you should remember: you are beautifully and wonderfully made. You are unique. You are precious. No one has the right to make you feel bad or ashamed about how you look.

If you’re wondering why I am so passionate about body shaming, it’s because I was also a victim of body shaming. Back then, I didn’t know about anything body shaming and assumed that there was something wrong with me. That what they said about me must be the truth. It took me many years to overcome the sting of the words thrown at me and the pain that I felt.  

So, to all of you who have been victims of body shaming before: it’s not us, it’s them. We shouldn’t feel ashamed…. THEY SHOULD.

Source: Photo by RODNAE Productions from Pexels

Hannah Becca is a content writer under Headliner by Newswav, a programme where content creators get to tell their unique stories through articles and at the same time monetize their content within the Newswav app.
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Hannah Becca
Author: Hannah Becca

A writer with a love for coffee and a passion for humanitarian works.