No to Body Shaming: Body Size Doesn't Define Who You Are

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Everything we see around us is an art. They say it is an art of God, and yes, that's reasonable. But do you know what's the best art? — us, humans. "Human body is the best work of art." ‒ a popular quote by Jess C. Scott. It can run a human life with a span of decades while having a good shape that interacts perfectly with the environment and there isn’t only one but hundreds of varieties. However, these so called varieties are often ranked in hierarchy, the 'best looking' is ranked at highest while others that doesn't please the people's eyes is piled at the bottom and is often discriminated. As an addition to that, are you familiar with the sayings like: “You would be a knockout if you lost weight” “You need to put some meat on your bones” “There’s no way that is going to fit you” “Are you really going to eat all that?” “You are so fat!” “Your body is disgusting.” This is called body-shaming. Body shaming is very common especially in the Philippines because it is the capital of social media. Victims are those who weren’t born with a body that doesn't meet the norms. The victims often receive physical and psychological traumas and insecurities which steals away their confidence. It is basically defined as the action or practice of humiliating someone by making mocking or critical comments about their body shape or size.

According to Roanne Samuels (January 12, 2021), being raised in the Philippines, the type of greeting where someone points out a physical attribute (or two) is something she’s familiar with. She’s been to hundreds, at least 400 Filipino homes. And in visiting lots of Filipino homes. She gets these types of pointing out-physical-attributes statements quite a bit. They range from ‒ “Oh, you gained weight,” to, “You look tired,” to “My beautiful therapist is here.” She noticed that a person’s tonality doesn’t change from the type of compliments they give. in fact, traditional Filipinos typically see it as a compliment that they notice something in you- the good, the bad and sometimes the ugly. For her, the word healthy may bring up images of eating a balance diet, vegetables and fruit, exercising to name a few. Growing up in the Philippines, one measure of good parenting is to raise children who are “healthy.” They can also mean fat or not bones and skin.

Philippines has a very complex social economic hierarchy and class system. Based on socio-economic status, a Filipino can fall under Class A, B, C, D & E.  Class A as the affluent strata, people who have disposable income and live in exclusive subdivisions like Dasmarinas Makati or Forbes Park. Class E are the deemed “squatters” who inhabit lands without permission or don’t pay rent. Most people fall under class C & D according to the Philippines Social Weather Station, with class D significantly higher than class C. People in these two categories are colloquially called “the masa.” The poor scrape off their plate and their pockets each day to just feed their children enough. Consequently, their children may be thin and malnourished. In the Philippine culture and in images played on TV, these are kids who need help and whose parents have failed in providing them enough nurturance. Many poor people attempt to beef up their kids with cheap foods like hotdog (as with the rich) and ‘chicheria’ (chips and junk food) to demonstrate the ability to parent and provide well for their children. Many times, this is an unconscious move from the parent. The picture of a ‘payat’ (thin) child may conjure up feelings of inadequacy as a parent and the image of a fat child serves as evidence otherwise. In short, ‘payat’ means you don’t have enough food/ material possession and therefore belong to a particular class. In the Filipino culture where hierarchy of many different types allow access and privilege into the world of the well-off and therefore-opportunities, a parent’s role although not (always) consciously realized is to at least “let their child’s foot in the door.”

According to Chelsea Gabriella (July 5, 2020), a blogger and victim of body shaming herself has been told that she has a big nose, big feet, shapeless, and many more. One time, she let it get into her and it really didn’t go well. According to her, even celebrities are being body shamed, Marsai Martin was body shamed, but did not take it, Millie Bobbie Brown was body shamed but chose to fight back and not let it get to her. Chelsea was body shamed but fought back and she didn't let it get to her, and many other celebrities and she loves them all for that.

According to Erika Vergas (September 11, 2019), the following are the ways on how body shaming is being manifested: First one is by criticizing your own appearance, through a judgment or comparison to another person. (i.e.: “I’m so ugly compared to her.” “Look at how broad my shoulders are.”). Second, through criticizing another’s appearance in front of them, (i.e.: “With those thighs, you’re never going to find a date.”). Lastly, by means of criticizing another’s appearance without their knowledge. (i.e.: “Did you see what she’s wearing today? Not flattering.” “At least you don’t look like her!”). Although, no matter how this manifests, it often leads to comparison and shame, and perpetuates the idea that people should be judged mainly for their physical features.

Typically, people are body shamed when they appear overweight or underweight or don’t fit society’s view of “thin and beautiful”. Our culture loves the ideology of a perfect body, whether it be in print, movies, television, or online, seeing someone who doesn’t fit the mold isn’t considered acceptable to some.

Listed above are the ways and causes on how body shaming is being manifested. And, with those ways and causes come the effects of body shaming. Body shaming may lead to the following: social anxiety (when you are publicly bullied, the natural response would be to avoid putting yourself in those situations. This can culminate into isolating oneself and avoiding social interaction), eating disorders (the onset of unhealthy eating habits due to feelings of loss of control and low self-esteem. It could either be anorexia: the act of refusing to eat or bulimia which is the act of binging and purging. People suffering from an eating disorder may believe that controlling their food intake will change their appearance and make the body shaming stop.), lack of self-confidence / self-esteem (body shaming crushes the self-esteem and confidence of another human being), and it can even lead to depression (the increase in feelings of low self-image, self-worth, and self-esteem; feeling lonely and sorry for oneself can develop into a state of depression).

According to Erika Varga (September 11, 2019), in situations like those listed above, expressing true feelings rather than physical criticisms can be a great first step. While recently discussing this with the Adolescent IOP, several patients admitted that it is hard to identify ways of expressing frustration without using body-shaming, as this has become an almost automatic response. These are then the following ways or solutions on how to overcome body shaming: first is to practice identifying why you are upset (about a situation; For example, it’s unlikely that you’re mad at a friend because she’s breaking out, and more likely that you’re upset about a miscommunication or feeling of rejection.  Practice thinking it, and eventually, verbalizing it.), second is to identify who in your life is body-positive – or even body-neutral.  (Think of people who celebrate their body for what it can do, and people who refuse to comment on others’ physical appearances.  Spending time with these people can be especially helpful while you are struggling with your own internalized body-shaming, and help you view yourself – and others – more positively.), third is to confront those who perpetuate body-shaming.  (Once you’ve become more aware of your own body-shaming behaviors, you may notice how often your friends, family or co-workers do it.  Talk to them.  Discuss why it bothers you and help them see how it may also be hurtful to them.), lastly, find something (or things) you like about your body.  (We spend so much time witnessing advertisements about how to make our eyelashes millimeters longer and how to get whiter teeth that it’d be nice to counter some of that by celebrating what we do have.  Maybe, despite your body image struggles, you love a new hairstyle you discovered.  Maybe you’ve noticed how much stronger you feel with balanced eating.  Find something physical or nonphysical that makes you, you and celebrate it every day.).

Thus, body shaming is the act of intentionally humiliating or offending someone based on their body size. It is affecting men and women mentally and physically, and it has changed the “ideal body type” in our society for decades.

“Every art has its own uniqueness.” It is important to be aware that we are all created differently. We are one of a kind and shouldn’t be shamed for that. The body of every person isn’t the problem but the way they look at it, is. Boys and girls, men and women, no matter what the size of your waist, stomach or what the number on the scale says, your body is beautiful, and so are you.

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