“Are you referring to the fat girl or the one with two braids?” enquired an acquaintance. My 9-year-old son, who was privy to this conversation, asked me later why someone would use adjectives as reference when they could very well use their names. It surprised me then that what a 9-year-old understands so easily, we often tend to forget. Adjectives like fat, thin, skinny, dark, tall are just describing words and cannot be substituted for proper nouns.
Body shaming perhaps stems from this leeway.
Having spoken about being ‘fat shamed’ when she was out buying clothes for her wedding, Dr Tanaya Narendra (27), who is popularly known as Dr Cuterus on social media, knows what it does to one’s psyche and how it needs to change.
“Yes, I was subject to body shaming during the time I was looking to purchase my wedding outfit but the issue in itself is so much more than just that one incident,” she says.
She mentions that even before she made the trip from Allahabad to Delhi she was forewarned about the kind of scrutiny she might be subject to with regard to her weight. “People were quick to leave me with their own observations and comments when they found out I was getting married and would be shopping for outfits,” says Dr Tanaya.
The paucity of time pushed Dr Tanaya to spend a day doing some research on places where she could get her wedding outfit and the very next day, she hit the stores. But she found the reactions she was getting from people to be “rather interesting”. “In most of the stores I got to hear comments about how it would be difficult to get something in my size. I walked around for the entire day and this was a recurring comment I heard,” she says. She also adds that she has since then heard from many others who feel that shopping, whether for bridal wear, otherwise entails listening to very unwelcoming comments on one’s size.
“I wasn’t at the stores looking for any validation on my size. I am happy the way I am and all my parameters are good, so I don’t see the need for anyone else to have a problem with it,” she asserts.
Even though Dr Tanaya refers to herself as a ‘body positive’ person, this incident left her with a bitter taste in her mouth.
She continues, “It’s amazing how people can find a way to connect the weight one carries to any problem they might be facing. I had a friend tell me about how an ENT surgeon was quick to connect her weight to an issue she had with her ear. I fail to see how the two could be connected. These might be one-off incidents but they are something that each of us might have faced.”
Dr Tanaya, who is often found demystifying the workings of the human body and explaining ‘taboo’ topics like sex, vaginal discharge and masturbation, asks how those who do not have a good relationship with their bodies might react to such constant scrutiny. “I have come to regard my body as a whole – not looking at the bottom as a separate entity and the breasts as separate,” she says. Experiences like the one that Dr Tanaya encountered dehumanizes the body and makes it difficult for one to see themselves beyond their outward appearance. “This leads to depression, social anxiety and issues of self-worth even,” she adds.
She adds, “Understanding genetics and even hormones helped me understand how bodies work. Sometimes these are factors that make losing weight difficult and understanding that is important to this discourse.” She also says that this unhealthy obsession about looking a certain way is causing way more damage to the body that one realises.
“Body shaming culture causes a lot of anxiety in people,” she adds.
As we conclude, Dr Tanaya speaks a profound truth. She says, “You cannot stop people from making assumptions about you – what you can do is keep being great at what you do and that will eventually shut people up. Developing a thick skin is probably the only answer to help live through these comments.”
Taking cue from this young doctor, let’s stop ascribing adjectives while describing people. These small changes will help in bringing about a much-needed shift in mindset.
(Edited by Yoshita Rao)