Over the years I have dealt with nasty jibes about my ‘thinness’. Friends have often called me kaandi, butt-less blunder, chapti-chameli and sukat bombil. A ‘well meaning’ boyfriend once called me toothpick. I dumped him immediately. Another guy I dated said I looked like a boy from behind. I promptly asked him if that was why he was so attracted to me. We never spoke again.
My self- esteem is bullet-proof. I’d rather be single than be in a disrespectful relationship with a judgmental prick. But being strong doesn’t mean people will not hurt you in the first place.
How ‘Thin Shaming’ is Just as Toxic as ‘Fat Shaming’
My troubles began in school where bigger kids and bullies enjoyed pushing me in the hallway or down a flight of stairs all the while chanting sukhdi-sukhdi. As I grew older, the bullying got less physical and more psychological. People would presume I was anorexic because I was thin. Most people use the word anorexia interchangeably with thinness without realising that the former is a full blown disorder. Even today, female relatives wonder if I’ll ever be able to deliver a baby if I continue to be a ‘flat-ass’!
Now, while all this negativity never dented my self esteem, I knew I wasn’t the only one to go through what is called ‘thin-shaming’. You have probably come across articles claiming ‘thin-shaming’ isn’t even a real thing.
While I agree that ‘fat-shaming’ is more prevalent than ‘thin-shaming’, I can assure you that both are equally real and equally toxic. Fat or thin, I think we need to unite and promote body positivity. Body positivity does not mean being proud of being unhealthy. It means loving yourself enough to do everything to stay healthy, but not take shit from judgmental douche-bags!
To find out what healthy means for your specific body type, speak to an actual doctor. Ask for a full customised health assessment. If there is a real health issue, address it as per the doctor’s advice. Don’t go by the gazillion websites on the internet because they often peddle over generalised information, unverified data or idiotic stereotypes.
Here’s How to Respond to Your Bullies
Look, people will always have something to say. I suggest you handle it tactfully instead of engaging in reverse discrimination or stooping to their level.
Ask your bullies why they feel entitled to an explanation for your shape. If they are colleagues or your superiors at work, politely ask them if your shape and size is professionally relevant? If the bullying doesn’t stop, take it up with Human Resources. Ask them if the organisation discriminates against people based on body weight. (Nobody wants a discrimination law suit or an expensive settlement.)
If the aunties in your neighbourhood worry about your reproductive ability, remind them that you do not need to justify your existence by proving the productivity of your ovaries or uterus. Also, if you do have complications during pregnancy or childbirth, a competent medical professional will attend to it. It won’t sound rude if you say it in a level tone with a smile. Also, the fact that you look happy and sound confident will deflate your detractors.
It gets trickier with members of the family. I suggest you take baby steps in making them understand that your measurements do not reflect your health. Explain to them concepts like bone density and BMI. Give them a demonstration of your physical strength. Show, don’t tell. Nobody likes being told they are wrong, but they will always believe their own eyes. Also, if you’re healthy, you will not change your shape or size because they do not approve.
Use the same science plus self esteem approach with friends. Those who are not friends don’t matter anyway. Either ignore them or just give it back. What’s the worst that can happen? I have been called a bitch more times than I can count and of late I have started replying by paraphrasing Priyanka Chopra in Fashion, “Bitch nahi… Super Bitch!”
When you turn around regally and walk away with your head held high and a swing in your step, the idiots will stop bullying you. Trust me, that works.
(Deborah Grey is a communications professional with over 15 years of experience in journalism, public relations and celebrity management. As a freelance writer she focuses on entrepreneurship and leadership, sexism and gender justice as well as sex and sexuality.)