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Thru thick and thin

Body shaming those who weigh on the lower side is just as bad as giving diet advice to those who have an air of prosperity

Matchstick. Toothpick. Stick-like. Malnourished. Skeletal. These are a few words that were often ‘jokingly’ used to address me when I was in school. Since weight is the most important aspect of anyone’s identity, such words seemed to give a perfect description of my personality.

Let me now introduce you to some people who have been extremely supportive and encouraging — perpetually boosting my self-esteem — with their constant care and concern. “You have become so thin. Don’t you eat anything? You look famished. You should include a lot of clarified butter and mutton in your diet. Oh! So, you are a vegetarian? Then you should eat a lot of paneer. Or maybe switch to non-vegetarian food. Have you tried weight gaining supplements?”

I am certain that you would be feeling envious of how blessed and lucky I am. Well, I come across a multitude of such caring people almost every other day. Some show this concern overtly, whereas others do not explicitly display it, but the way they end up giving suggestions for weight gain, I manage to gauge their goodwill. However, I feel that my weight is the only thing they seem concerned about. Maybe it’s time that I tell them how bogged down I am with several other ‘genuine’ problems — my weight definitely not being one of them.

Now, let us move on to people who find joking about someone’s weight — be it over or under what is socially accepted — extremely humorous. Such people are hilarious, their comments even more so — I feel they definitely should be given a platform to display their comic timing. Time to divulge some of their jokes. “Do not step outside, the winds will blow you away. Don’t turn on the fan, she might be carried away by the air. Don’t your parents give you food to eat?  It looks like you are anorexic. You can be a perfect fit for Kuposhan Bharat Chodo advertisement.” I am sure you would be in peals of laughter by now. Aren’t these funny?

This can be a chapter out of any skinny girl’s life. Skinny shaming, for some reason that is just not comprehensible to me, is not taken as seriously as fat shaming. Nowadays, people are becoming increasingly sensitive towards those who are overweight. What is not right is that this is being done by humiliating those who are skinny.

Many a times, while taking a step against fat-shaming, people end up making derogatory comments about those who are skinny. Isn’t skinny shaming a kind of body shaming that is equally hurtful and dangerous? Is it important to make someone with a particular body type feel mortified, in order to bring comfort to people with a different body type?

Even in many movies and web series, where there have made attempts to bash fat shaming, it has been at the cost of the skinny ones. In a sequence in the Amazon Prime series Four More Shots Please, the mother of Anjana (one of the protagonists) insults a girl saying, “She has no ass.” In a movie that was hailed as a new-age feminist movie, skinny girls have been insulted more than once like this, with dialogues like, “Men like curves, dogs like bones.”

In a recent episode of popular TV show Khatron ke Khiladi, comedienne Bharti Singh, said, “Haddiya toh kutto ko pasand aati hai, sher ko toh maas pasand hota hai (Dogs like bones, lions like meat).” Now, many would say that this was meant to be humorous. But how do such ‘jocular’ comments become permissible in case of skinny people, when the same are considered highly offensive, when used for those who are overweight?

People feel that it is completely acceptable to call someone skinny, whereas calling someone fat is considered nasty. Why these double standards? If we are to move towards body positivity, we need to steer clear of any kind of body shaming. We cannot tackle body shaming effectively if we see only fat shaming as part of it.

There are many skinny people, too, who go through a lot, trying to put on weight as they continue to hear words like ‘stick’, ‘flat’, ‘assless’, ‘scrawny’. Making comments on those who are skinny should invite as much wrath as calling someone fat does. Why do we even need to make any comment on a person’s weight? Why should fat women pull down skinny women in order to make themselves feel better? We are making this a war between those who are fat and those who are skinny, when it is supposed to be against the toxic body images perpetuated by society.

“I’m constantly criticised for being too skinny. I’m trying to gain weight but my body won’t let it happen. What people don’t understand is that calling someone too skinny is the same as calling someone too fat, it’s not a nice feeling,” Kendall Jenner once said, talking about her own experiences of skinny shaming.

Nicki Minaj’s song, Anaconda, which sampled Baby Got Back, was hailed as a socially disruptive, body positive anthem in 2014.  “I’m bringing booty back. Go ahead and tell them skinny bitches that,” said Meghan Trainor that same year in her song All About That Bass. As these songs tried to present those who are overweight in a positive light, they ended up skinny shaming.

It is about time that we grow out of this convenient habit of invalidating one body type to accept another.