Feeling dreadful about our bodies

Graphic by Thom Bell

Body shaming is an omnipresent form of bullying enforced by the media

“Is it my fault? How could it not be my fault?”    

This stream of thought has run through my mind many times, pushing me to rigorously restrict myself and give in to unhealthy eating habits.

2017 has not failed to remind me of my poor diet. Several gym ads have already started to stress me out by guilting me into working out and get my beach body underway.

This constant reminder and underlying guilt is experienced daily by many. It is what I like to call “passive body shaming.” It occurs when the media perpetuates an ideal, often unattainable body type via commercials and advertising, in turn making you feel bad or guilty of your own appearance. This form of bullying takes many shapes and can have a serious physical and psychological consequences . Body shaming is highly common in schools, the workplace and public spaces. It affects individuals who don’t think they meet beauty standards established by the media. There is often a double standard—women are judged more often and earlier in life than men, according to a study conducted by the Rudd Center for Food Policy of Connecticut University.

Beauty standards shaped by the media play an important role in how we see ourselves, and the standards are different depending on where one comes from, their culture, or their gender. The first time I experienced fat shaming was in junior high when I moved to a new town. At the time, what led the bullies to lash out was the environment. This rich Parisian suburb had a different standard of beauty and body image compared to the countryside where I was originally from. My body was rather buff, from years of rock-climbing and snowboarding, whereas my female classmates were thin and gentle-looking.

It’s not only the students who are bullying, as the Rudd Center study states. They are also teachers, parents, colleagues, superiors and strangers who create daily stress and insecurity for many. While some perpetrators might use body shaming to motivate the targeted individual to lose weight, it often has the opposite effect. In fact, body shaming lead to induced anxiety and depression, as well as binge eating and embarrassment of exercising, according to the New York Times.

From my own experience facing judgement from strangers and the dirty looks I have gotten when I was eating by myself has forced me to be more self-conscious while I snack. I remember being told: “Maybe if she didn’t eat so much she would look better.”

For years, the media, strangers and classmates have shaped my vision of the perfect body type. Their so-called “helpful” comments, including the generic “just take smaller quantities,” “exercise more” or the great “you just need to control yourself,” have done more harm than good.

Today, if someone asks me what kind of body type I would ideally want, I will mention Korean pop idols for their slender bodies. My own standard of beauty has been incredibly influenced by the media, and it is also a standard that is physically unattainable. To overcome body shaming, one needs to be confident and practice self-love. Ending the constant competition and comparison regarding body types will empower and tighten communities.

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Letters to the editor:

Initially, I had reservations on whether or not Hayes' travel article was just a poorly written satire of an unworldly North American traveller, as noted by Warbanski. After reading a more tasteful and constructive travel piece by Shin Yi Siew as well as Features Editor Gendron's defence for Hayes' quality of writing , I feel compelled to write to The Concordian.