“Pregnant women, like you, should watch your diet and lifestyle,” a popular 1990s actress told an audience member about a pregnancy-related book launch nearly a decade ago. The woman replied, “Ma’am, but I’m not pregnant… I’m just a little fat!” Sure enough, it was a foot-in-mouth moments, qualifying as body shaming, for the actress, who apologized immediately afterwards.
On another occasion, a critically acclaimed actor once complimented me, “My God, you’re expecting!” He gave me a hug before I could even say, “No, I’m not! I’m just wearing an umbrella style kurta which may be suitable for maternity wear but I like it anyway!
The idea behind sharing these “oops” moments is to underscore the nonchalance with which people play the ‘she’s pregnant, she’s not’ guessing game simply with the idea of what one looks like.
As someone on the heavier side of the weighing scale and the wider side of the inch belt, it offends me. As someone who keeps up with the Bollywood paparazzi lore and the constant speculation about where the stork visits, it offends me. Gaining weight and being pregnant are often not the same thing.
Bollywood actresses under the media pregnancy scanner
Kareena Kapoor-Khan, Katrina Kaif, Kajol, Aishwarya Rai-Bachchan, Bipasha Basu: the list of celebrities who have been under the media’s ‘pregnancy scanner’ recently keeps growing.
A mother of 2, Kareena shot down the buzz around her third pregnancy in her own inimitable method. “It’s the pasta and wine guys… calm down… I’m not pregnant… Saif says he has already contributed too much to the population of our country,” she joked.
However, it doesn’t take away from the truth that people are quick to imagine a little belly for a baby bump!
Actress Divyanka Tripathi Dahiya also took to her Instagram page and wrote, “I don’t have a flat stomach like the image of (an) ideal woman shown. Deal with him! Don’t ask me again if I’m pregnant or fat!”
Check out his post right here:
At a time when body shaming is slowly but steadily being shamed because it deserves to be, this needs to be said out loud. Just because a woman is wearing an unbuttoned outfit, dark ethereal garments, or a balloon dress, it doesn’t mean she’s pregnant!
Furthermore, obesity-shaming is not the only type of body-shaming. Celebrities such as Kriti Sanon and Disha Patani have been ‘shamed’ and closely trolled for their ‘flat’, ‘hanger’ and ‘haddi’ figures.
As someone who speaks out against the tradition of body shaming says, inspirational speaker and writer of “Too Fat, Too Loud, Too Ambitious” Devina Kaur says, “The commercialization of the human body has made us obsess over what kind of ‘ideal’ body that social media over-markets. But it can only bring us negative criticism and self-doubt.”
“All of our bodies are different. Much has to do with our varied eating habits, the type of exercise we choose, and the genetics we inherit from our parents,” he says.
But the mindset around women’s body type stems from social conditioning. What people don’t understand, however, is how much mental damage speculation can cause.
“We have learned that a woman can only gain weight if she is expecting a child; otherwise, he is the object of public humiliation and criticism. As a woman who overcame food addiction due to my body size, I can say that negative comments can leave a lasting impression and leave mental health scars in their wake,” Kaur offers.
The Role of Social Media in Fueling a Tradition of Body Shaming
According to life coach Sheetal Shaparia, the overdrive of social media standard regarding desired body shape and achieving it has widened the path to body shaming.
“You see people criticized for their body shape every day. People may have read or heard comments such as: ‘You are tall for a girl’, ‘Don’t take the second helping, you are gaining too much weight’, ‘Some colors don’t suit you due to your dark complexion’, ‘Are you planning to start exercising because you’ve been gaining weight?’ Body shaming is everywhere, and social media has turned trolls into lions who enjoy bringing other people down.”
It is that feedback, albeit casually said, that changes our notion of our body. They become deeply ingrained.
Body shaming, says Shaparia, manifests itself in surprising ways: when you criticize your individual appearance, when others body sham you to your face, or when others body sham you when you don’t feel round.
The first step, he suggests, is to test when you unconsciously try this with those around you. Being body-shamed can harm you.
How to deal with body shaming?
It may also be easier said than done, girls, but first we have to learn to accept and love our bodies just the way we are.
“Exercising or starving can cause psychological damage and become a challenge to overcome in the future. We have to try to unlearn the socially accepted body image and release the negativity we carry. After all, there is no such thing as the perfect body type,” says Kaur.
Sheetal Shaparia suggests a series of essential steps you can take to overcome body shaming.
1. The comments of others do not describe you
“People will have a comment or problem with what you say or do. That doesn’t mean they’re right,” explains Shaparia, urging you to pay attention out one ear and let it go out the other.
2. Your body shape is not who you are
“Beyond the shape of your body, it is a jewel. Create your reality.” The professional says that people should pay attention to the person they are and the work they do instead of insisting on the way they appear to be.
Insecurity around the body should not shape you or your thoughts. Learn to be sure of your body! Whatever happens, love yourself.
3. Surround yourself with positivity and kindness
We all have that relative or friend who thinks he is doing us good justice by exposing his concept of our shortcomings. “It’s better to draw boundaries than to keep hearing negative comments,” says Shaparia.
4. Be aware of social media
Social media will be your best friend and your worst enemy depending on your circle. Follow people who encourage you or make you feel good about yourself and the world normally. And say “no” to those who are always negative in their outlook.
Do this if it’s important to unfollow or block people who always bring you down. You can even report when you see someone embarrassing you or someone else.