Body Shaming Begins At Home

by | Jun 6, 2023 | Uncategorized | 0 comments

Do you remember the first time a woman tried to hide your bra-strap peaking out of your top?

Or another woman trying to catch your attention towards your sinking neckline exposing your cleavage?

Classic examples of well-meaning women looking out for another woman. Aren’t they?

Or do you remember in your teenage, being advised not to lie on your back while sleeping? Or to always lie down on your sides with a sheet while sleeping?

Or being instructed to hide your bra and panties under a towel on a clothesline?

I remember a few of my friends who shifted suddenly from frocks and skirts to salwar suits. Some were provided with stoles and scarves to hide their assets. In my all-girls convent school, it was made sure that our knees were always covered with our tunics. We were taught to sit with our legs sticking to each other and not to stretch our hands while yawning.

We were subtly, unconsciously being trained to hide our bodies.  To feel ashamed of our growing curves, our periods and become fearful of being touched. We were being trained to become invisible.

On the other hand, boys were living in a different universe. They were being shamed for the absence of any sign of achieving manhood. They were being bullied for being too thin, or short or for having smooth skin or voices not breaking.

While girls were being made to fear their own femininity, boys were expected to turn into men overnight during puberty. Peer pressure amongst boys is much higher when it comes to expressing their masculinity. So it is possible that a 15 years old boy learns to hit someone or whistle at a girl or indulge in eve teasing from the older boys because that’s the only way they know to express themselves as men.

90s were the dark ages for the boys hostel inmates especially pursuing medical/engg degrees. A common ragging norm used to be to parade them naked while their seniors would comment on their physical attributes with special attention on the phallus.

Perhaps, this negative attention on their physicality and mental/emotional pressure to prove themselves leads them to adopt aggressive behaviour with women later in life.

Body shaming is a part of psychological sexual abuse. Our earliest sense of being arises from our physical form, from our body. When this shaming is particularly attached to our private parts or their functionality, damaging effects last for a lifetime. It lowers self worth in each of us and mostly in women it results in submissiveness and in men in aggression.

I wonder if we are unconsciously passing on the legacy of shame to our kids. When my daughter was still an infant, my sister in law insisted on cladding her in nappies 24/ 7.  Reason for her discomfort was the sight of female anatomy on the baby. I was flabbergasted. Perplexed. Speechless.

Akin to my sister in law, another friends’ mom insisted on changing her infant daughter’s nappy in private and severely reprimanded her when the girl grew up and started changing her diapers independently in presence of other family members. Another friend had forbidden her 6 and 7-year-old daughter and son to take bath together or undress in front of each other.

I spent a large part of growing up with boys of my age and older ones. I was never bothered with dressing well, had a short crop, small breasts and was largely mistaken to be a boy. As pointed by a friend recently I was happy hiding my femininity behind the garb of being “one of the boys”. It saved me from eve teasing, being groped in public transport and much later in life being seen as desirable. Although I have always admired other women with make up and accessories, I have always felt extremely shy and under confident in indulging in either.

We live in our bodies and interact with the world through it. Why should we spend our entire life being ashamed of it and hiding it?

Let’s make an effort to acknowledge these emotions, buried deep, plastered with our confidence, successful careers, carefully wrapped behind facades of motherhood and more.

Why do we need to do it? Acknowledging our body and the emotions related to it? As women our emotions are intricately linked to our bodily functions and especially with our reproductive system. Every period cramp, PMS symptoms, heavy bleeding, clotting, PCOS, uterine cysts is deeply rooted in our emotions of shame, inhibition and embarrassment.

Sounds too far-fetched, isn’t it?

Let’s try just one thing for now. Choose any one restrictive aspect of your life related to your body and liberate it for yourself. It could be wearing a skirt, not wearing a panty, taking off your bra at night, looking at your naked self in the mirror, touching your vagina, touching your breasts, wearing something flashy, not wearing anything at all. Do it once, do it twice, do it multiple number of times till your next period cycle. And then we shall talk about it once again. Feel free to ping me a message on my FB page – Shveta Mishra /insta –shvetawith5elements with your experiences.

If you want to know my beginning, I started with applying eyeliner and lipstick. Now I am good at it.