The Ever-Increasing Culture of Body Shaming
Updated: Jun 20
Body shaming is an act that has been normalized in contemporary society and is often a timeslot of ignorance.
Body shaming occurs when an individual is subjected to negative criticisms and humiliation based on their bodily features. It is a form of bullying.
But before we get into the topic at hand. Here are a few common terms associated with body shaming and what they mean;
Fat Shaming: This is considering someone to be overweight and negatively criticizing them for it. It is quite unfortunate that fat shaming comes with stereotypes, as people who are subject to this are sometimes labelled as having less value than people who are society's version of 'ideal' weight.
Lookism: Lookism is the discriminatory treatment of people who are considered 'physically unattractive'.
Food Shaming: These are comments about how a person eats or about their food choices that can be devastating to some.
Body Privilege: Similar to Pretty Privilege, this is a term used to describe the economic, social, and political advantages people receive due to their physical appearance.
Texture shaming: this refers to humiliation based on hair texture.
When unrealistic standards are set, either by ourselves or by the society we live in, body shaming often occurs. The inability to meet up to those standards unleashes our critical side. To this, body-shaming is not just done by other people. You could also body shame yourself.
Nobody has the perfect body type or size. It shouldn't be overlooked that most times, our bodily features are a result of factors we can't control such as genetic patterns and metabolism.
So why do people body shame?
Being critical of ourselves and others is quite common for all people.
For example, it isn't uncommon for a brilliant artist not to call their work less than average even if it's glaring that it's quite amazing. This nature extends to our relationship with ourselves and others.
The biggest driver of body shaming is pop culture. Chimamanda Adichie, a Nigerian novelist mentioned that "culture does not make people. People make culture." Hence, cultural elements such as values, language, art, and what we see in mainstream media which make up contemporary society propagate the views of human beings which can be quite critical, judgmental, and a bit extreme. This is why it is very important to challenge what is seen in the media.
Is the content fanatical or unrealistic? Does it align with my values? What stereotypes does this content create?
Asking ourselves these questions helps us to be selective in the information we pay attention to and retain.
Do you know that body shaming and setting unrealistic standards interject with the realization of the SDGs? Here's how.
Body shaming can be connected to SDGs 3, 5, and 17.
Goal 3: Good Health and well-being
Body shaming can be detrimental to an individual's health and well-being, leading to depression, body negativity, low self-esteem, eating disorders, body dysmorphia, anorexia, etc.
These problems tend to negatively impact our mental, emotional, and physical health which makes us unnecessarily stressed. If not taken care of, they affect out day to day activities and relationships with others.
Goal 5: Gender Equality
While it is true that nobody is immune to body shaming, girls and women are more prone to be body shamed. This is largely due to factors such as the media, the fashion industry, and advertising that promote unrealistic beauty standards in society.
In a survey carried out by Mental Health Foundation, UK, 46% of girls reported that their body image causes them to worry ‘often’ or ‘always’ compared to 25% of boys.
Musicians who sing about women, comedians who lust after girls with curves and make jest of slender girls, celebrity culture which idolizes people and constructs certain images of how males and females should look, and the use of inappropriate and obscure language to describe body parts are all
Trends in mainstream media have long been examined to promote body negativity and dissatisfaction among females. To this, it's not uncommon for young girls to strive to be seen as appealing to their peers based on their bodily features.
Goal 17: Peaceful, Strong, and Just Institutions.
This goal aims to create a peaceful and just society that would be free of discrimination and the dignity of all humans would be ensured. This means that all human beings, regardless of their form, are to be respected. To me, body shaming crosses this line and makes people feel less of themselves.
It is not strange to feel insecure about your body. However, it can be so frustrating to labour under circumstances brought about by society's ignorance and our inactions to change them.
How then do you overcome Body Shaming?
1. Define your values:
The most important thing you can do for your body and mind is to keep fit and stay healthy by eating nutritious food, doing regular exercises, and practising mindfulness and meditation. You do not have to conform to unrealistic standards that are capable of putting you under unnecessary stress.
2. Reaffirm positive words:
Speak positively to yourself every single day! As a generation, we often use self-deprecating humour as a defence mechanism, and you are a product of your thoughts and words. Of course, it might take some time before these positive words and affirmations can be registered in your subconscious but if you're determined to believe what you tell yourself, you'd see positive results.
3. Identity what triggers your emotions:
This involves taking some time to identify what triggers the feelings of insecurity about your body and developing tactical ways to deal with those stimulants helps you address the problem.
4. Seek therapy:
If you are facing health issues as a result of body shaming and you think you need medical assistance, please do not hesitate to do so and seek help from the right source.
5. Be kind to yourself and remember that your worth isn't dependent on your body type:
In my first year of university, I was body shamed. This experience was so bad that I cried myself to sleep. My self-esteem took a huge hit and I felt less than. However, I woke up to a congratulatory email regarding a global essay competition I had applied to weeks earlier, confirming that I had been selected as a scholarship recipient. I felt empowered, and that experience taught me that my size doesn't matter. It's about what I carry on the inside and what I can offer to my community.
To this, it's very important to remember that we're capable of so much more, and beauty isn't just about what's on the outside. As the saying goes, true beauty comes from within.
Be kind to others and do not judge or comment on someone else's bodily features
Educate yourself and others about the negative impacts of body shaming
If you are going through body image issues, always practice positivity and daily affirmations
On social media, be sure to report any content that body shames as inappropriate
WRITTEN BY Tomilayo Oluyamo
Tomi is an undergraduate Mass Communication student who is very interested in quality education, socio-political history, impact communications and the social enterprise sector in Africa. She is an aspiring literary artist who enjoys working on impact-driven projects and hopes to pursue a career in international development. At the centre of what she does is her belief in God and helping young Nigerians showcase their brilliance by creating access to transformative opportunities. An avid learner, Tomi is always open to exploring spaces and connecting with young people like her who are incredibly passionate about designing solutions and improving their communities.
EDITED BY Chizulu Uwolloh.
'Zulu is a writer, self-proclaimed bibliophile, lawyer, and international development passionate about social impact and showing people how they can create change in their communities. Zulu Uwolloh is a lawyer and international development professional. She is also the founder of Kurerie, a digital platform, and community that amplifies the voices of youth making an impact in their communities. Kurerie educates young people on how they can become active stakeholders in the achievement of the SDGs. She is passionate about showing young people that they can change the world with the smallest actions.
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