I wanted to talk about this for a long time and I had it saved under my drafts, but never got down to fully finishing it. Today I got laughed at for my fat thighs at a dinner party (it was announced publicly and loudly) and I’m this close to throwing something at someone so I thought it was time to finally let this baby out.
On Fat Shaming Versus Constructive Criticism
Fat shaming has something that has been going around for tens of years. I’m pretty sure the action of lack of empathy thereof has been actively present for quite a while regardless of country. “That fat slut” coupled with “god, she looks so fat in those shorts.” And with the surge in membership of social media, fat shaming has presented it in so many forms that it’s almost impossible to keep track of it anymore.
I am a young woman in her early twenties. I wear a size 10 and size 28 jeans and definitely do not carry a vogue look on a supermodel frame. Neither less, it has been apparent in my social circle and country that fat shaming is one of normality.
When I was 14 and starting to be more aware of my body, my aunt commented on my body in front of the whole family one day during dinner. She proceeded to rub my protruding belly and laugh. It was sheer mockery to me as a self-conscious fourteen year old, who was still growing into my body then. Shortly after that, a friend told me that he thought I was chubby. As much as he has apologized profusely over those years for his comment, he regains that he held no malicious intent. That being said, I forgave him.
However, one thing that people cannot understand unless they are in your shoes is that these comments of your body stay with you no matter where you go. It doesn’t simply get washed away with an apology or with time just because they are part of what these aggressors decided to deem as “constructive criticism”.
I have a friend who still doesn’t eat carbohydrates at all because she was mimicked as a young teenager by her other girl friends that she was heavy. See! It lives with you for a long time.
Through the years, I have to admit that the strong influence of the media affects young girls and women all around the world and convinces them of what their body shape should be like. I can’t count how many times I’ve told myself to eat less in my head, or how many times I tried a fad diet or exercised because I felt disgusted with myself and my body. Nothing I do seemed to make a difference and I was demoralized. Thankfully, with Meghan Trainor’s song all about that Bass, and Jenifer Lawrence comments on a healthy body image, it has made me a little more hopeful.
A week ago, my aunt pointed at me and told me to lose weight because men only liked thin girls. She then proceeded to tell me to stop eating so much and to attempt to work to look more like my mother (who is of a smaller frame). As I stood up to walk away, my uncle said, “Why are your shorts so short?” To this point, I realized I could never win with these people. If I talked back to them (which I had a million to one comebacks, I swear) my mother would have been embarrassed and upset with me because I wouldn’t have shown them respect. Asian Culture.
I was so upset that day, I shared it with a few colleagues on a chat. The response I got from one of them really soothed the anger and sadness I felt. I felt extremely thankful that there were men in Singapore who still stood for personality than looks. I couldn’t be more grateful for the advice and direction I received.
For the record, My BMI is in the acceptable range. I exercise. Though not intensively but I do go running every once in a while. My only sin and weakness is that I love to eat. I don’t gorge myself silly but I eat what I want to eat, when I want to eat it and I don’t count calories. I suffer from no sickness or long term illness. I donate blood annually.
I definitely believe in constructive criticism, but not the action of fat shaming. The differences between the two lie in the content of the words spoken, to be deemed malicious or helpful, as well as the context and social environment it is acted on in. If you wanted to give constructive criticism, you would say, “I’ve been trying this new exercise regimen and it’s made me feel healthier. Do you want to try it some day with me?” over dinner with you and your friend. Not scream it on loud hailer at a dinner table of 5 saying. “Hey Jen! You seriously need to work out with me sometime!”
Basically put, the intention is what separates the both apart.
Constructive criticism sets out to help the person by identifying the problem and showing the person the way to eradicate the problem because you genuinely think the person would be more satisfied doing it, or if the person has asked or sought your help.
Fat shaming sets out to put you at a ‘higher’ level as compared to the victim. To bring the person’s self-esteem down or sometimes just so there is a conversation to talk about.
I think this needs to be stressed greatly. Our bodies are precious because we live in them. Fat or thin, we are all humans with emotions and feelings and we are all capable of getting hurt equally.
I don’t think fat shaming can be eradicated overnight. But I do hope that in due time with awareness that women can be respected more for their skills, talents and personalities. Not determined by a scale, mocked and shamed just because they don’t look the way the majority thinks they should.
My sister calls it the sad truth of life. But I’d like to hope one day that reality will change.
In the meantime, I will eat whatever the hell I like.