WHEN I WAS BODY SHAMED AS A NEW MOM

It was my baby’s naming ceremony. I was all decked up in a pink zari (gold thread) sari, gold jewellery and a hairdo. The colour of the sari complemented the glow on my face. Yes, I was glowing after the delivery. Happy hormones may be! I was indeed so happy about the arrival of my bundle of joy that it showed on my face.

We had hosted the naming ceremony 2 months after the birth of my baby. So I was clearly a new mom then! I looked beautiful, I just knew that because I felt beautiful from within. When I arrived at the venue with the baby (purposely I waited at home till baby fell asleep and most of the family members including my husband had proceeded to the venue earlier in order to supervise the arrangements) my husband whispered in my ear that I was looking beautiful than ever! It made my day. It was the first time in so many months that someone said I looked good. Otherwise, all that I heard all through the pregnancy was that how I am going to become fatter or worse, have already become that!

I was greeting all the guests merrily and was answering their typical questions like whether the baby sleeps in the night, is he breastfed etc. Obviously, the men clan didn’t get into nitty grities of the baby, for most of them, it was just like exchanging pleasantries or casual greetings. However, a person (very close relative) took me by surprise when he exhibited the audacity to comment something about my body.

It so happened that my husband had lost quite some weight a little before our baby arrived and obviously my weight was increasing as the baby was growing inside me. Obviously, all the weight that I had gained through the nine months of pregnancy was not going to disappear in just 2 months. All of you would agree that the new mum certainly feels like a balloon post delivery. The bloating and at times swelling on the body is certainly visible for the first few months post delivery and my case was no different. And it didn’t matter to me really. So, this man asked me why my husband had lost weight and whether I can cook well. Obviously, he was pulling my leg. Maintaining the sense of humour, I promptly answered that it was my mother-in-law who was in charge of cooking so be assured that he was fed well. On a lighter note, I added that perhaps he lost weight because he has been staying away from me for long now (because I was at my mom’s place since the birth of our baby) and probably he is missing me too much. We shared a hearty laughter and I expected the discussion to end there. But to my utter surprise, this man had the guts to say, “Looks like he is having meals twice a day and you are having six times of day”

I was so annoyed with that comment but I kept my cool and replied firmly saying, “oh yes, I do! Sometimes I have even eight meals a day and I don’t care if I look fat or ugly because I have something more important to think about. I have to breastfeed my baby which nobody else can do” I purposely replied to him a little louder than normal because I wanted other guests to hear our conversation. The very mention of breastfeeding made this man a little embarrassed and he chose to end the discussion by just saying I was right.

I calmly moved ahead to greet other guests who silently witnessed my body shaming episode. Obviously, I didn’t expect any of them to step in for me. If there was somebody who could shut up that man, it was me and I did just that!

Yes, I looked fat that day because I WAS fat then. My breasts looked heavy. But, how a mom who has delivered a baby just a few days back supposed to look? I didn’t take his comments very seriously because I know that its only a woman who can grow a life within her, nurture it, tear herself apart to give birth yet stand on her feet within three days of delivery, carry litres of milk in her body and tirelessly feed the little one every two hours (or even sooner). No man, however, fit he may be, can do that ever. 

Most of the mums are body-shamed because of their bulging tummies or round body shape. But friends, do not let such experience boggle you. Stand up for yourself. While it is important to be physically fit, it is also important to give time for our bodies to settle down post delivery. Don’t get depressed with such comments or do not haste to get back your pre-pregnancy appearance. Understand that your body is doing a great job. Feel proud of yourself. Only then will you be able to curb the discouraging and stupid remarks society makes about your body.

Next time somebody body shames you, do not forget to give them a piece of your mind.

(Image Credit: https://deho.tv )

BODY SHAMING, OUR NEW ENTERTAINMENT!

I remember watching this famous comedy show (The Kapil Sharma Show) on television.  It was all grand and pompous with celebrities adding to the glitter.  The host had an impeccable comic timing but one thing that never got down well with me (and seriously who cares 😀).  The host of the show would continuously take a dig at the fellow artists’ appearance. Calling them names like Fatso, Buffalo, hot air balloon, chimpanzee and what not. And he successfully managed to evoke gags from everyone present in the studio and those watching the Idiot box.  How sensible was that is my reservation?  And sadly bullying in the name of comedy or entertainment isn’t reserved for one odd show.  It’s omnipresent almost everywhere.

Movies, Tele serials, advertisements, social media – whatever the form of media or stage it is, body shaming is more and more increasingly used as an entertainment and a marketing tactic.

Even we are guilty of using physical attributes as an adjective to address someone at some point of time (sometimes just to have a good laugh at one’s expense) – that girl with buck teeth, that fat boy, that short man… Whether a human tendency or not, body shaming is acquiring a monstrous form, let’s accept it.

Off late I came across many posts on Facebook wherein picture of a person who is not physically attractive is posted and people are asked to tag their friends who could be sharing their future with them.  And beneath such posts, there’s a huge number of likes and emojis depicting how funny people found it.  Then there are posts depicting people who have confidently embraced their lives but don’t fit the bill of standardised beauty norms of the society, and that made them unacceptable for the rest.  People don’t refrain from unleashing their insensitive side via their mean comments shaming the appearance, from being sarcastic to abusive, they use it all.  And ironically this isn’t inhumane but just an “Opinion”.

So what is a beauty as per our “Hypocrite” society which ironically matters to us?

  • Lean = healthy, attractive, beautiful
  • Fair = beautiful and a shortcut to success

And this very idea of “Beauty” and “Health” is relentlessly propagated by the best thinking heads whom we call creative geniuses or to simply put it – “marketing team”.  An advertisement showcases a woman in distress because her husband finds her unattractive because of her weight issues, he feels humiliated to take her out because she is not 10/10 figure.  But suddenly she comes across some magic medicine that would turn her life upside-down miraculously.  Shrinking inches would widen the smile on her face and infuse lost love in her life.  Going by this manipulated definition of both Love and Health, we find them to be very shallow aspects in our lives measured by a common denomination of few pounds or inches.

Such power is the impact of these marketing gimmicks that the number of people willingly investing both time and money in bogus and more importantly hazardous products has seen an unprecedented upward surge which is beyond imagination.  Millions taking up crash diets, gulping down protein shakes, omitting carbohydrates completely – all this in the wake of attaining that desirable svelte figure or six-pack abs.  And no heed is paid if it’s healthy or not, literally no one cares.  I remember a young neighbour of mine died of a massive heart stroke thanks to his intensive but improper workouts and an equally imbalanced# hazardous diet plan.  He was hardly 24 years of age.

Why this pain is taken after all? That’s the only way to be accepted and appreciated.  We are living in superficial times where looks score over brains and other intangible positives. Bizzare and at the same time sad, do you have a counter opinion?  Reserve it in comments.

*An important note: Here I am not supporting obesity or unhealthy lifestyle but the concern should be health rather than just weight management.  Weight could be a result of many other complications – genetic, hormonal dysfunction, stress than just binging on junk.  Correct diagnosis is very important.  But alas! ignorance rules. Anyways, this is leading towards another discussion but the underlying point is body shaming is nothing less than cruelty.  Blabbering about someone’s weight ( for that matter any other physical attribute) without having an iota of knowledge about “what’s the real issue is” is simply idiotic.

Do you know why the  “plastic” beauty industry thriving like never before off late?  It’s the pressure of looking and living the image perceived of you. Especially among women (a clear-cut case of gender inequality) are under immense pressure of not looking their age.  Society wants them to be perfect.  Wrinkles on the face, messy hair, unkempt nails – nothing is pardonable.  Why?  Even in the matrimonial columns the requirements for a future bride reads “Fair, slim, Good looking, Educated“.  Clearly, education is not the foremost quality sought after.  And God forbid if the bride doesn’t fit the bill in terms of “Beauty” she assumes the position of “Centre of Discussion” for every XYZ who claims to be the well-wisher of the family, ironical isn’t it?  A swelling business of beauty business ( working against nature) is a result of our fears of being panned for our looks.

What does Body shaming do?  It simply kills the confidence, to say the least.

What’s really worrisome? Handing over this hollow and shallow society to our future generations.  Bullying in schools and educational institutions with physical attributes as premises is a mirror to what we are training them to be.

Just think about it.

Here’s a video that I came across on Facebook which explains the times we are living in perfectly:

BE A ‘HEART-STEALER’

Heart Stealer

Adorn yourself with Modesty and Propriety,
For they would earn you honour and admiration.
Sport the Banner of Truth on your forehead,
For the Truth alone will gift you liberty and confidence.
Bedeck your eyes with Images of Light and not of darkness,
For the eyes are the lamps of the body.
Bejewel your ears with Music that builds,
For idle gossip and mindless squabble spread venom throughout the body.
Season your lips with gentle words of Peace, Love, Understanding and Comfort,
For words have the power to build up lives or destroy them.
Wrap around your arms deeds of Mercy and Love,
For what you do unto others, the same would be done unto you.
Shroud yourself with the garment of Holiness,
For that will give you the courage to stand before people and authority.
If you adhere to the prescriptions of beauty mentioned above,
Charming in heart and Beautiful in mind you shall be,
And thus steal the hearts of countless many!

Rajnandini Sahu

ARE YOU A GOOD JUDGE OF BEAUTY?

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It was only yesterday that I came across a commercial for a popular face wash brand on the television where a 14 year-old girl was seen to be shifting her seat from the back to the front in her class at school as she was not embarrassed because of her pimples anymore. It was through the regular usage of this face wash that her pimples were disappearing. What struck me was that it didn’t occur to the so-called creative minds behind this advertisement that 14 year-old children are at the beginning of their puberty. Adolescents,  as they are called, experience a host of changes emotionally, physically, intellectually and sexually at this stage.

This is something that continues till our adulthood and later on as well. I don’t mean the changes the teenager experiences but our mentality gets shaped up in such a way that we tend to judge people based on how they look or what they wear. It has become a spontaneous affair in adults to notice the externalities of a person first and form perceptions according to their judgement. We overlook the behavioural tendencies of a person and deliberately alienate people who do not match up to our criteria of being beautiful. The softness in a person, the inner qualities like goodness, persistence, perseverance, congeniality etc. do not get noticed in the first place.

Our words are mostly judgmental. What truly define the concept of beauty is the words that we use. The way we talk, the range of our tone and usage of words exhibits the person in us. Just as King Solomon, the wisest man who ever walked on Earth says, “Our words should be like Apples of Gold in Setting of Silver,” our concept of beauty should also exceed the likes of materialism.

FROM THE CORPOREAL INTO THE INCORPOREAL

weight-loss-850601_1280Cleopatra, the last pharaoh of Ancient Egypt, was renowned throughout history for her radiant skin and her stunning beauty. It is said that she used to bathe in donkeys’ milk to keep her skin soft and beautiful. Legend has it that she required 700 lactating donkeys in order to supply the milk for her daily baths. Even today, beauticians recommend milk along with other herbs to help keep the skin supple and glowing. (This, at a time when we have high rates of malnutrition and under-five deaths in our country!) The markets are flooded with fairness creams, gels, scrubs, weight-loss supplements, and what not. And mind you, these are not meant only for the face to look good…the prescriptions are for uplifting the entire body image! Well, there’s no harm in looking good. It’s the mindless obsession after physical beauty that’s worrisome. Many young girls lose their lives every day (yes everyday!!) due to a condition called Anorexia Nervosa, which is an eating disorder that arises from an obsession to be slim and beautiful. The words ‘beauty’ and ‘beautiful’ are so obsessively used to refer to physical appearance that their precious meaning is lost in oblivion. We as a people sure need to rise above the beauty of the skin and the body.

Sir Thomas Overbury once remarked, “Beauty is only skin deep.” There is more to life than merely the beauty of the skin!

— Rajnandini Sahu

BEAUTY TRANSCENDS BODY IMAGE

Prabhjot at 16It was the night of 30th November’ 2000, it was me – 16 year old crazy teenager, glued to the television almost biting my nails in nervousness and praying to God for a victory. No, it was not India vs. Pakistan world cup match. It was the Miss World Pageant where India was represented by none other than Priyanka Chopra. My mom was sleeping next to me and woke up scared when I literally jumped with joy and screamed when the host said “And Miss World 2000 is …. Miss India”! I remember very clearly that I had  jumped with joy, I had tears in my eyes, I was super excited, I couldn’t sleep the rest of the night. Oh, what an excitement that was.

The excitement did not last just one night, it lasted I don’t know – a few years. Next day when I went to my all-girls convent school, I realized it wasn’t just me jumping with excitement. We discussed every damn detail of the event. Remember, we did not have youtube at that time to relive and re-watch the golden moment. We just remembered everything by watching it once live on television.

Excitement and attraction towards beauty pageants just kept going up-hill with Diya Mirza winning Miss Asia Pacific and Lara Dutta being crowned Miss Universe, all in the same year. It was an intense excitement and I made up my mind to at least give it a try for Miss India. Without any Google, I managed to figure out the minimum requirements needed to enter the contest. And I was disappointed even depressed – my height wasn’t enough to go for it. Still I could give Bollywood a try, if not modelling – that was 16 year old me talking to myself. If Rani Mukherjee with that height can be as successful, who can stop me?

Needless to mention that my interest in studies declined. Though I had been a great student, I stopped taking interest in studies. All I did was to practice wearing long heels and doing model walk with bunch of my physics and chemistry books on my head. And instead of eating eggs, curd, tomato etc, I started applying those on my hair and skin. Skirts became shorter; visits to beauty parlors became a regular ritual at the cost of studies. My parents were definitely concerned about their teenaged daughter losing focus in life.

My parents convinced me to at least get a professional degree before I decide to jump into a career of that kind. So, I bagged a seat in a Government Engineering college. And things changed a bit from there on, my interest in studies came back and I topped the college. While I was in third year, a movie named “Page 3” influenced my thinking. It was a “Madhur Bhandarkar” movie and showed a reality of glam world. It was shown in such a way that it sounded quite believable. Young girls getting married to old men for money, deceit and infidelity in marriages, girls sleeping their way to the top of their careers – all that was shown as a part and parcel of that world. And I am the kind of person who had always wanted success and fame but more than that, I value the quality of my relationships and my peace of mind. I have heard that you can either have success or peace of mind – you cannot have both. Well, I believe it is possible. It just depends how one defines success.

As I have grown wiser and older over the years, I now believe that looks are only a small part of our personality which is given a huge undue importance by media. I feel sad when I see young girls posing in front of the mirror the whole day and mothers in law still giving more weightage to fair skin of their daughter in law than her intellectual capabilities. Beauty is not skin deep, it goes way beyond just your personality. Beauty is all about how much love you have for the world and how much you care. Beauty is not fair skin or good height or perfect features; it is the depth of your heart and your ability to touch people.

In one of the body image workshops, the instructor asked a group of young boys and girls – “How many of you disliked your body or your looks when you were 5 years old?” No hand went up. “At 7 years old”. Still no hands went up. “At 10 years old”, a couple of hands went up. “At 13 years old”, a few more hands went up. “At 16 years old”, almost all hands went up. It makes me wonder, what is it that we are doing with our kids today? What sort of a message is being passed onto them that make them hate their bodies?

Who creates these unrealistic standards of beauty? Media does. And that damages the confidence of our young teenagers. It makes them feel low of themselves. It leads to depression and low self-esteem. As adults, it is our responsibility to help these little adults feel good about them. We want them to value their IQ and EQ more than their looks (if not equal).

Remember – Looks are only part of your personality. It is as significant as your intellectual capabilities and your emotional balance. And beauty is not just about your looks – it is about your holistic personality.

So, be beautiful physically, emotionally and intellectually!

Author’s Bio: Prabhjot Kaur Saini, is a Software Engineer and is currently working in Bangalore. She is an engineer by profession and also a thinker and writer with a philosophical heart. She can be contacted at: ‘prabhjot.varsha@gmail.com.’ Read her Other Articles on this site.