Participants at a therapy-based session of story sharing on Saturday night stressed the need for celebrating different body types rather than shaming people for having an ‘undesirable’ body. They said that like women men were also judged for their physical appearance but their capabilities and worth in society was not measured based only on their looks.
The session, Battling Body Shaming, was held at Books and Beans café.
Zainab Chughtai, a social awareness campaigner, said physical appearance should not be a criterion for judging people as ugly, unfit or undesirable. She said women were expected by the society to adopt certain habits and carry themselves in certain ways only. This should not be acceptable, she said.
On her initiative titled BullyProof, she said it was aimed at starting a conversation about experiences that had shaped the way people looked at themselves and enabling people to share memories associated with body shaming.
“As a young woman I have come to the realisation that my body has never been my own. I have been taught to believe that whatever others see in me is what defines me. These others may be our parents, grandparents, friends or a significant other,” she said. She said straying from cultural norms associated with physical appearances could expose one to scrutiny, criticism and shaming.
“I’ve been made to believe that my physical appearance defines my personality,” she said. She said people were judged based on their height, weight, skin colour and the way they spoke, walked or carried themselves in the public.
Zahra Hameed, one of the participants, highlighted the role of the fashion industry in propagating certain appearances and body types as desirable. She said the image of men and women propagated through the fashion industry was not a true reflection of the society. “Celebrities like Vidyah Balan and Oprah Winfrey can be looked up to as role models in the media industry but they are exceptions,” said Hammad, another participant.
He said that physical appearance and body weight were not considered as important problems for men as they were for women. He said men who occupied positions of power in society or were considered successful in their careers could avoid being shamed for their appearance or body weight.
Jahanara Chughtai, another participant, stressed the need for frequent conversations on the issue in public spaces. “Apparently I’m too skinny. Most of my friends search for videos with tips on losing weight and I look for tips to gain weight,” she said. She said people should stop judging others based on their appearances. “It’s not someone’s fault if their metabolism is slow or fast,” she added.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 18th, 2016.