In an era where most of the world has done a lot to acknowledge this sensitive topic and all the harm it inadvertently causes to many people , Ugandans seem to have missed the memo yet gain (no offense guys). So, what is body shaming and it’s impact on us and most importantly, are you doing it unknowingly to others or even yourself?
Body shaming is the act of criticizing yourself or another person’s physical attributes/ appearance. It can be done outright or in many cases, in a very subtle way that most of us do not even notice.
The practice of body shaming in my opinion, stems from ignorance, a lack of understanding amongst us that there is no specific appropriate or perfect body. We grow up with our society , relatives and the media all telling us that a man or woman should look a certain way. We never really understand that to look different isn’t wrong. We never really grasp the concept that for someone to look a different way from what you think is appropriate is not that person’s problem but is actually your problem, the problem being your inability to adjust to the very many different shapes and sizes around us.
In the western culture, body shaming has been limited a lot of times to “fat shaming” for example shaming one for their size and weight but in Africa , in Uganda , body shaming is so much wider than that. Let me mention just one example, I saw a comment under a picture of a muscular woman that said, “ God forbid that I have such muscular thighs as a woman. A woman shouldn’t have muscular thighs.”. Now see here friends, for someone to confidently spew such words out means that they actually believe what they are saying. Such a person has a specific idea of what a woman should look like... What is this if not ignorance? What is this if not a lack of awareness that everyone’s body is different and your idea of what is right is just that , your idea and thus doesn’t apply to anyone?
We need to learn to adjust our perceptions of what a man or woman should look like. I have had so many clients come to me wanting larger hips, and this is their choice but to know that it’s because they’ve been labeled not feminine enough just because their appearance doesn’t fit societal norms is in itself body shaming. We all do it , everyday , through our comments on ourselves, on other people. I, for example , have broad shoulders and for the longest time I looked for a way to hide them as I told myself it made me look too bulky. Do you sometimes do this to yourself, criticize a part of yourself in the mirror and not even notice it? Do you make offhand comments about random people you meet ,Like, “ did you see his legs , I wonder why he’s wearing shorts with such legs”
It might seem innocent but I’m here to tell you, it is in-fact body shaming. If you’re there thinking body shaming applies only to overweight people , think again. It applies to everyone being shamed for being too skinny, too big , too short , too tall, too slender, too willowy , too bulky , too sturdy.
We need to learn that everyone looks different and if you don’t take the time to acknowledge that , you will always find things to shame people about, even without knowing. You’ll even shame your children and relatives and no one will ever let you know.
If something about someone makes you uncomfortable, do not lash out with a negative comment. That negative comment shows all your ignorance and has nothing to do with the person you’re shaming. If you have ever been shamed in any way , by yourself or by another person, I’m sorry. Know that it’s not a problem with how you look but more a problem of the “shamer’s” intellect and personality.
Finally my friends, if you ever see someone who looks different from you or doesn’t fit your criteria of what is “normal” , take a moment to understand that the way you yourself look is not the norm, you’re just you and they are just them.
Let’s put a stop to Body shaming.