I don’t know if you read the deeply problematic thing that Kim Kardashian for the MET Gala or you’ve been comfortably languishing under a rock (in which case, I am tempted to join). She lost 16 pounds in three weeks to fit into her dress. Stupid by all accounts but I know that many impressionable young people right now probably see this as an embodiment of the ‘fashion is pain’ statement or whatever deeply nonsensical form of the phrase they choose to believe.
The belief system that this promotes and encourages is that your body- in it’s current shape or form- isn’t worth love and you need to be a certain weight and size to feel beautiful. But this sort of distortion of beauty standards we’ve seen for a while now, which is why I want to draw your attention to casual body shaming.
Casual body shaming is exactly what it suggests. I take a look at this concept, often cloaked under concern or health, but damaging nonetheless.
What Exactly Is Casual Body Shaming?
When it comes to obvious body shaming, we know enough to call people out. When they make comments about your weight in an overt manner, it’s okay to tell them to fall in line and that you don’t appreciate comments about your body in a way that makes you feel bad about it.
Casual body shaming is, therefore, trickier to spot. It can come as a compliment, often thinly veiled so you know that they don’t think your body is good enough. Like, ‘Those are child bearing hips though.’ Sure they are, but I know that my fertility is hardly the point of this discussion. Casual body shaming could also mean that you are suggested an extra lap during physical activities or there are supposedly harmless comments about keeping the fries away from you.
I notice that casual body shaming is often done by friends or family members who, as disgruntled as you with the beauty standards but unable to fully wrap their head around it, continue to perpetuate beauty standards that are either dumb or exhausting or both.
How Does It Affect You?
The thing about casual body shaming is that it’s done so covertly, it’s not till much later that you realise that you were uncomfortable with what was said or that you do not agree with it. Sometime’s a joke about your body shape, sometimes you’re handed a size bigger than you told your friend are, it’s so sly (perhaps even unintentionally) , you can’t put your finger on it. The suggestion by a relative that you should be gifted a gym membership as their belly shakes at their own genius joke, it’s annoying but this is where you don’t know if you’re being sensitive or they are being irksome. You know that if you do call them out on this, they will dismiss this as a joke. Or they will ask why you must take everything so seriously. Or worse, that they said it out of concern for your health and well-being.
Sometimes, you let this casual body shaming pass because you feel like you’re being petty for bringing it up. It was said with such nonchalance, perhaps you heard it wrong? It’s worse in a group setting because then you’re made to feel that this sort of reaction – your being upset is unwarranted and petty.
What Can You Do About It?
If you’re unwilling to upset the apple cart, then there isn’t much you can do about it. You let it slide. But you shouldn’t certainly not downplay your feelings about how it’s making you feel – bothered and annoyed. It might be a comment made in the passing, but you are allowed to fully feel the import of the words used. And if it upsets you, you could perhaps confront the person making the comment. To know how they are likely to react, read the bit above.
You are mostly going to be made to feel like you need to stop taking everything personally and so seriously. You will be told how they are just holding up a mirror to your truth. Whether you agree or disagree, or how you want to go about it from there, is entirely up to you. Are you willing to tell your mom that her comment about passing on the big hips hurt you? Are you willing to endure the icy silence that will inevitably follow? Will you be okay when an uncle looks visibly defeated when you call out what he thought was a hilarious joke? Are you willing to pick up the mantle and say ‘That hurt me and you should be more mindful,’ and will be able to deal with consequences that follow? Oh and also, will you be able to endure a comment by this relative about how ‘they are not allowed to say anything to you’ and ask others to tip toe around you? Yeah, account for all of that, because calling out casual body shaming comes with these caveats.
I am not sure I have the answers to casual body shaming, but I know that it’s incredibly difficult to spot, but way easier to feel. And that you will not fully feel the impact of it at the moment. Much later, you will be alarmed at how easily they made fun of your body.
For you my friend, I suggest you wage an angry, indignant war. One that you might not win, but one that you must do nonetheless.
In another unrelated note, I wrote about shiny dazzling genitals, click here if you want to read that.