Body shaming and naming: “the new coup”
By Tadiwanashe Burukai
Have you ever been told you are too dark? Or too tall or too fat or you have big breasts.
I think you can all relate to this, you have either said it, been told about it in your face or heard someone being told that. Have you ever stopped for a second and think how that other person would feel being told that?
There is a term that describes all that, BODY SHAMING!!!
Body shaming according to Oxford Dictionary it’s the action or practice of humiliating someone by mocking or critical comments about their body shape, size, and colour. It’s expressing mockery or criticism about a person’s body shape, size, and colour.
It’s a great concern within our community and has adverse psychological and even leads to physical effects. Sometime this week as I was getting in a lift you know “mushkashika”, a dude refused to sit with this lady because he thought she was “too fat”. His words were “moda kundigarisa nemusikana uyu ndigosviniwa zvangu, handide ini” (you want me to sit with this lady so she can squeeze me, I won’t).
I remember how for a few seconds I looked at his facing hoping for a remorseful facial expression or an apology but no, he got out of the car and walked away. I felt sad at how he doesn’t even realise how such words are hurtful and rude. We have grown up in a society that doesn’t understand the effects of body shaming and name calling. We thinks its ok to speak badly of how someone has a big ass/butt, or is tall or has big eyes or too skinny or this or that.
We it’s not ok, it’s not right. Lately with the way social media has taken over the world, body shaming and naming has taken a new level. On Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, whatsapp you name it, you will find all forms of body shaming and naming. I recently watched a video on facebook of some social elite whom I shall not name for privacy reasons. She was talking about cyber bullying, body shaming and name calling. I found her opinions to be relatable and not saying she is a saint or anything but we have stopped listening to what people say. We have adopted selective hearing and we listen not to understand but to respond. I remember how people called her this and that words I can’t repeat here as there are offensive and vulgar. These words were directed not to her speech but her body which I found odd.
Body shaming and name has become a norm and what saddens me the most is that our kids are learning from us. There hear us speak and comment and there think its right and do that to the next person. A child across my street has a tendency of calling women with big breasts “chimhamha chemukaka”. I remember the day he said that to a lady who was passing by for a second I froze dreading the slap that would come from his mother to rebuke his words but funny enough the mom looked at the lady and looked aside. She didn’t even apologise on her sons behalf or make him apologise, meaning this child does this often and the mother too so its ok for them. They don’t find anything wrong with body shaming or naming.
At the same time our kids are victims of body shaming and naming from us, you too short, too fat, too skinny, you have a big head. Imagine how this child’s psychological upbringing has been tainted for life. Remember a child learns from us thus what-ever we say has a toil on their day to day life. Body naming and shaming is not just between strangers by the way even between family members and friends, this is when its hurts the most. And in most instances the remarks are said in public when you are around people.
I know you are probably thinking of some incidences were you have either been body shamed or named, been the one who body shamed or named or were there when it happened and you said nothing about it. I wrote this after the mushikashika incident because during the ride home we had a lengthy discussion with the brother of the man who walked away. He was defending his brother, of course he would. He didn’t see anything wrong with what his brother said, I remember the lady who was body shamed saying you do realise sometimes it’s not out of choice to be who I am.
We tend to forget that I might have a medical condition that’s why I am a plus size, I was born with a big nose or eyes I didn’t choose them. I am dark which I, personally don’t find anything wrong with because there are my parent’s genes. I have crooked teeth because my parents couldn’t afford braces. There is a whole lot of reasons why people are the way there are either by choice or not.
Yesterday was International Women’s Day and I was seeing a lot of positive, encouraging messages and words celebrating the day. I too was sending my own messages as this day is important to me as a woman. I then passed through town on my way home when these women were mocking a man who had passed through their fruit and vegetable stall. “Ungatoti murume pachi shuwa munhu asina kana nyama kuwonda kuiita match stick kudaro” (how can you call him a man with the way he is light in weight).
It then hit me to the face that this is not a concept which only affects women but everyone. Young, old, woman or man what you might be, you can become a victim or perpetrator of body shaming. I then decided to write this article to share my views and opinion on how body shaming can lead one to either overeat resulting in obesity, starve themselves causing anorexia, be self-conscious leading to low self-esteem or self-harm. Body shaming and naming in some instances has led to violence or suicide.
So before you comment or say a snaring remark I would suggest you think twice before you become one of those rude people who think its ok to express their personal opinion about your body. Also next time you hear someone body shaming or naming another person tell them it’s rude and it’s a form of verbal harassment. Thank you