Body shaming is a practice or a specific action of humiliating a person by mocking or strongly criticizing their physicality. Body shaming is strictly limited to the size and shape of the physique of a person. It does not include any element of racism or other discrimination. However, it is possible for an act of body shaming to also be racist. The human body does have racial variations in regards to size and form, such as height, skeletal structure and waistline. Body shaming can also pertain to quality of hair and skin, however not the racial or ethnic attributes. If someone is being body shamed for the color of their skin, then that becomes racism. Body shaming is limited to the quality of skin, such as radiance, paleness, dullness, pigmentation, signs of ageing and other natural attributes, some of which may be owing to a health condition.
Intentional vs. Unintentional Body Shaming
A distinction should be made between intentional and unintentional body shaming. Unintentional body shaming is not desirable and it is wrong but at least you would know that a person is not being cruel deliberately. The intent matters since it should influence how you must respond to body shaming or deal with it. Also, the intent or lack of it would also help you to realize if you should take it seriously or brush it off. Many people make casual remarks about others when with friends, family or confidantes. These remarks may be nothing more than banter. They can be completely harmless. Not everyone means everything they say. Try to ascertain if the act of body shaming is intentional or intentional and then choose your response.
How to Deal with Body Shaming
The first reality you must acknowledge is that body shaming is more about the person committing the act and not about the victim. The person being body shamed is not contributing to the act in any way. This is important since the response must be appropriate and calibrated depending on the severity of the act. The response could be dismissal, anger, a more considerate approach to explain to the person that their act is unacceptable, an educative approach or a more vigorous counter and this may not be completely civil. Hurling abuses back at people body shaming is not a solution. Any type of aggressive behavior may actually make the person more vicious.
It is absolutely alright to just walk away and not hold onto the remarks. It is also acceptable to take a stand against the wrongdoing and vocally oppose it. There are other novel ways these days, such as flagging a person on social media as someone who practices body shaming. However, this would effectively be naming and shaming. Although not as bad as body shaming, naming someone and labeling them on public platforms may not be the righteous thing to do unless the perpetrator is beyond redemption and would never listen. Repeat offenders perhaps deserve naming and shaming on public platforms.
Defending yourself or someone from body shaming is not a compulsion but it is ideal. If you can defend yourself or another person in a given scenario, then you should do so but verbally and not in an extremely intrusive manner. You would have to muster the emotional strength and should have the will to fight body shaming. You do not know how the perpetrator is going to react. Many people who practice body shaming would run away when they are confronted by their victims or others present at the spot. Some people may not run away and might retort in more unpleasant ways. It is not unthinkable to imagine a situation escalating into a fistfight.
Be conscious of the fact that body shaming has got nothing to do with you and it simply reflects prejudices and hackneyed mindsets of some people. It is also necessary to understand that just as there are people who practice body shaming, there are countless others who do not indulge in it in any form. Do not presume anything in the aftermath of body shaming. Do not change the way you think or feel about yourself. Do not have a preconceived notion that other people also think or feel about you the way the body shaming individual has done.