The House of Mirrors is a place of illusions; the one that skews your image and you see yourself in ways that are far away from reality. Stout face, enlarged body, stick thin figure and midget short height is many of the illusions that you see in the mirror and laugh at yourself finishing the laughing riot in front of a simple mirror to get an overview of how you really are. You walk out of the enclosed room, back into the real world and you haven’t stopped laughing since on others for whom large bodies, skinny figures are in fact, the reality that they deal with every day. No mirrors yet distorted reflections of how you perceive them.
A couple of my friends, acquaintances and people that I had interviewed for this piece weigh a little more on the scale, have a flamboyant personality, wear the brightest smiles, and make their presence felt in any room that they enter. I couldn’t help but feel guilty of how I was somewhere hiding behind the crowd all this while who refused to see these people beyond their physical attributes and finally after a series of revelation in my self and accepting the unique identities of all, I find people around just the same with little or no alteration in the way they look at the others.
While some may hold responsible the conditioning, others may blame the media for showing only a narrow spectrum of humans that are real. There’s an entire class of diverse individuals who are invisible on screens but walk in our daily lives; crossing paths with abundant beauty and gifts waiting to be explored, or better be accepted. People are constantly being judgmental and it becomes difficult for them to not compare themselves with others. When on one hand, we ask people to be themselves, on the other hand; we form guidelines and conventions to be followed which is regulated by pseudo-intellects influencing how we should see beauty.
Amid harmless jokes and unsolicited weight loss advice, we are promoting fat shaming and judging anyone not by their actions, but the way they look, they sound, they speak and the whole concept encapsulating someone’s weight is perverse. ‘You have become healthy,’ ‘You should try to diet,’ ‘You have gained weight. Why don’t you do something about it,’ ‘Lose weight, you will feel great,’ are few of the remarks that have become a haunting part of the daily routine. The disappointing part is that the remarks are usually made by friends or close acquaintances unaware of the repercussions and self-doubt that follows.
A few of the unconventional people came out in the open and showed the mirror to others. Fashion label Lane Bryant’s campaign #ImNoAngel bashed the stereotypical portrayal of thin sized models and highlighted people of all shapes and sizes in swimsuits. Plus Size Model Tess Munster grabbed eyeballs across the globe for her audacious photo shoot in swimsuits rejecting the ongoing trend. Actor of sitcom Orange is the New Black Danielle Brooks, Blogger of Young, Fat & Fab Gaby Gregg, Blogger Melissa McEwan who created the #FatMicroagressions hashtag, Indian blogger Taneesha Awasthi of Girl with Curves who published an award winning blog on fat shaming and Reeneta Dutta from GlamShutter promoted a change in the visual culture in the social media. Many of them were criticized for promoting obesity but in retrospect, the movement is about acceptance of people of all sizes and shift the concern towards health and not size.
There is legitimacy to the aggression that one can sense in the above mentioned movements started by plus size bloggers, models, actors and personalities that walk among us every day. I was not asked to change the seats or shift a little more for other people in a public transport. I didn’t walk into a clothing store unable to find my size clothes. I wasn’t asked by my friends to lose weight because that would make me look prettier. I wasn’t rejected on a date because of my size. I wasn’t cornered by the crowd at a party and asked to shut up because of the way I look. I wasn’t judged to have sedentary lifestyle because my clothes didn’t fit. I wasn’t laughed at in public and kids didn’t point out fingers at me while their parents watched and giggled at them for being innocent. I wasn’t stared at in a restaurant when I gorged on a cheese burger and extra large fries. I wasn’t asked to put back the dress which I thought would look nice on me but the store manager thought otherwise. I wasn’t made to feel less worthy by others and I didn’t develop a negative self-image. But all of these things did happen to her and other people around us. We remained silent.
Various studies have been conducted worldwide that helps ascertain obesity, weight gain, and factors that result in related health issues. Accordingly, a lot of causes such as psychological, biological and sociological can lead to weight gain. In a study, out of 5 cases of obesity, 3 had genetic reasons. And out of all the obese people who were studied, only 40% cases were related to an unhealthy lifestyle. The question here arises that are we looking at people who are already healthy but are fat due to other factors that we don’t know of?
In a culture which is so obsessed with thin beauty ideal, the idea of accepting and loving a larger body is still somewhat radical.
The need of the hour is for all of us to understand that it is the difference that makes us unique, makes us interesting. It is imperative to propagate empowerment of each one of us because fat shaming holds people back to show their true personalities and kind words or acceptance can help someone feel stronger and accomplished. We need to widen our definitions of beauty and not be subjected to what is shown in the media. Let our own insecurities be dealt with so that we don’t go about telling others how flawed they are to pacify our bruised egos. We can do that, right?