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Body-shaming must stop...

Comment
Meera Ravi


A recent report from the catwalks of one of India’s biggest fashion week celebrations waxed eloquent about how designers were at last turning their gaze on plus-size customer needs, given that more than 60 per cent of the haute couture customer demographic is actually not the reed-thin Size Zero of supermodels. Not surprisingly, this change has come on the heels of the realisation that they were missing out on a multi-million rupee opportunity because plus-size women and men have the money, are as eager to dress as stylishly as their slimmer counterparts.
Body-shaming is a bizarre everyday social behaviour that we see around us every day. Many of us feel that telling a person s/he has lost weight is the ultimate compliment and unfortunately, so many of us don’t think twice before exclaiming over somebody’s weight gain. I am on the plumper side myself and there have been so many times when mere acquaintances at parties have proprietorially patted my hip and recommended exercises to lose the bulge. Well, really. I don’t comment on the zits on their noses, do I? At least, since I wear a saree, most times, people cannot give me that silly advise to buy clothing that is one size smaller and work my way into it through diligent dieting and exercise!
And it’s not just people-to-people. Magazine articles berate us about losing weight and even apps have crept into our smartphones and offer to keep a strict check on what we eat and how much we exercise – without actually knowing anything about us, much less our appearance.
This is one example of body-shaming – but you apparently can’t win this game. Just last week, most fans of Indian cinema were distressed by the sudden death of famous actress Sridevi. A woman known for her fabulous talent and beauty, it is true that the 54-year-old actress recently underwent a series of face and body-shaping surgeries. But to blame a nose job or a Botox refresh jab for her death is absurd.
Not content with this vilifying, her grieving family was drawn into it too and people wondered why they had not stopped her obsessive body-manipulations. The truth is, few people know anything beyond the obvious nose-shaping and the tightening of facial skin and this is as farcical as all that fat-bullying we ordinary people face.
Am I defending obesity then? While it is true that obesity is a health hazard, I do believe there is no sacrosanct weight table that you have to stick to the last gram to. You have to be somewhere around the right weight, if you are an average Joe or Jane. Of course if your career depends on spectacular fitness – if you are a fireman, a deep-sea diver or athlete, say – then you have to watch your weight and fitness far more closely.
In the glamour world of fashion and showbiz, we would do well to remind ourselves that the actors and models are just that – stand-in ‘models’ for real-life situations and opportunities and not to be taken as the ultimate goal for your everyday health regime.
A study in the US found that plus-size patients were treated less thoroughly by doctors and doctor-patient conversations for them often contained thinly-veiled accusations of laziness.
By all means, add exercise to your daily routine and eat wisely. But do remember that these habits do not give you the right to lecture to the rest of the world about what they should look like!

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