You’re beautiful

By Iqra Sarfaraz
Tue, 10, 18

It’s about time you come out of your complexes and face the world boldly no matter what your size or shape is. Let’s beat body shaming together by creating awareness. You! takes a look...

It’s about time you come out of your complexes and face the world boldly no matter what your size or shape is. Let’s beat body shaming together by creating awareness. You! takes a look...

Have you ever thought about how often we are told to change our appearance? Magazines constantly offer tips about how to lose weight ‘in days’, appear slimmer ‘instantly’, and hide our ‘imperfections’... without actually knowing anything about us or our appearance. This is one example of body shaming, and it is everywhere. Most of the sitcoms blatantly use plus size characters as the basis of many jokes.

Body shaming, criticising yourself or others because of some aspect of physical appearance, can lead to a vicious cycle of judgment and criticism. Messages from the media often imply that we should care about looking slimmer, smaller, and fairer. And if we don’t, we worry that we are at risk of being the target of someone else’s body shaming comments. Also, in our day-to-day lives, people often bash you if you are fat, way too skinny or dark.

Same is the story of Salma, who went through constant criticism for her lanky body when she was in school. “I was bullied very badly when I was a new student in elementary school, starting in kindergarten when I was five and lasting until I was nine years old. One girl told me every day during recess, ‘You’re so skinny that I can see right through you!’ I was a shy child and did not know how to handle this bullying, especially the name-calling. I was sad, and I believed that there was something very wrong with me,” shares Salma.

This leads to the question: if it has such harsh consequences, why is body shaming so common? Why, when we are upset, annoyed, or intimidated by someone, do we default to criticising their appearance? ‘Whatever, she’s ugly’, can be a go-to defence in these situations, particularly during adolescence and the young-adult years. In some ways, it feels easier to shoot for something that will hurt, like targeting physical appearance, rather than expressing what is really going on emotionally.

Moreover, body shaming also starts from home. Right from the time when we are toddlers, we bear the brunt of being a baby girl. It is obligatory that we look nice in pink Cinderella frocks and ponytails of soft, flawless tresses swaying here and there. Chants like ‘Kitny gori hai, kitny pyari hai’ sound good to our parents. They actually feel proud if their daughters are ‘beautiful’ and ‘flawless’. But, God forbid, if a girl is not born ‘attractive’. Parents and relatives become worried about getting them good suitors in the future. As soon as the girl reaches her puberty, ammi jaan and the entitled mohalla aunties start giving her tips (read: unsolicited advice) to have a fair complexion, to lose weight or have a nice figure to attract those oh-so-amazing mummy’s laadlas.

The panellists at the #MeriAwaz campaign discussion.

A good and supportive family system is very important for young girls. This is where their empowerment begins. And above all, it is our mothers, who need to take the responsibility of boosting their daughters’ moral and self esteem. Only they can tell their girls that they are beautiful in their own individual manner. Their appearance won’t win them any trophies but their individuality will. Their success is not dependent on the fact that they are size zero or XXL. It is high time that our families - especially mothers - take up the challenge of elevating their daughters and build them up into ‘better human beings’ rather than ‘better looking beings’.

Also, corporate companies are the real stakeholders in promoting the right kind of content. They are the ones who decide where to put in advertisements on television and the kind of shows they invest in.

Luckily, there are few companies with productive campaigns regarding women empowerment, which are coming forward and trying to bring change. For instance, recently, Dalda hosted an exclusive panel discussion for key opinion leaders at a local hotel in Karachi to celebrate its ‘#MeriAwaz’ campaign. The campaign is a call to action for all mothers of Pakistan to silence societal voices that get to their children and negatively impact them. The event kicked off with host Ayesha Toor introducing the campaign’s panellists along with other representatives. The panel of esteemed women selected for this event included actors Aamina Sheikh, Samina Peerzada and Sarwat Gillani, model and entrepreneur Nadia Hussain, influencers Mishayl Naek of ‘The Yummy Mummy Network’ and journalist Aamna Haider Isani. The panel discussion provided several insights into societal stereotypes that plague young girls and the discussion moved on to what needed to be done to rid ourselves of these stereotypes.

“Words have incredible power. Things that are said to us and that we hear since childhood can have a lasting impact, so much so that they can dictate our behaviours and future. In a society tangled in a web of complex issues, body shaming is one of the by-products that we have taken responsibility to address at a massive scale through our campaign #MeriAwaz. Let’s equip our girls so that they are self-sufficient and able to confront the voices, and in turn inspire others so much so that the noises fade into oblivion,” said Aamina Sheikh on the occasion.

Another panellist Mishayl Naek shared the same views, “Body confidence begins at home. It’s our responsibility to make our daughters value the importance of being healthy, happy and strong.”

“We, as parents, need to filter and detox our systems of all unnecessary outside pressures, especially the pressure of looking a certain way. We have to redefine perfection. Let’s love our daughters for who they are, allowing them to be confident and successful in their skin,” endorsed Isani. According to Sarwat Gilani, “Currently, social media is the best platform to communicate issues like these. Luckily, the brand has offered ways to use social platforms in order to convey such societal problems our girls face day-to-day. This collective effort can go a long way in addressing sensitive issues like body shaming.”

Model and entrepreneur Nadia Hussain expressed that in today’s world there is an immense pressure, not just from society but social media too regarding what girls should look like or be able to achieve in their life. “With initiatives like these, it becomes very helpful to have a united forum that cares about the best interest of our daughters. Join the movement now and share the best,” she added.

Here’s one thing we know for sure: Women are strong but not unbreakable. Thankfully, the notion of body shaming is being brought at a greater scale. While there have been major advancements in the media’s perception of what it’s really like to be a woman - varying sizes, colours and personalities - there’s still work to be done. So, let’s get started!