When We Let Go of Shame Towards All Bodies


Back when Meghan Trainor’s All About That Bass was everyone’s summer jam, even I couldn’t resist its catchy tune. Not really knowing what the song was about, I was humming and singing it simultaneously one time after class when a friend asked me, “Buti hindi ka naiinis sa ganyan, ‘no? [Good thing you don’t get insulted with things like that, no?]” She was referring to the degrading implications of the song towards women with thin bodies.

Being a thin-bodied person, I guess it was reasonable for me to be irked at something like that in the same way that it’s bothersome when people comment negatively about those on the other side of the spectrum.

Me being underweight never bothered anyone when I was younger, but people were vocal about it. Whether they’re family, friends, or strangers, someone’s bound to say something related to my weight or my body. Sometimes, they make it out to sound like a compliment; other times, it’s just a general sentiment. Either way, I was always made aware of how my body looks.

Until recently, it didn’t matter much to me. I’ve never been concerned about body image (and still don’t). I’ve kind of been in my own bubble, always focused on my own mind to be bothered, and also dissociated from my body that any comment made on it never felt like it was directed at me.

And then it was.

When I recently met up with friends I haven’t seen in a while, “Ba’t ang payat mo? [Why are you so thin?]” or “Kumakain ka ba? Pumayat ka pa lalo. [Are you even eating? You lost more weight,]” would be the usual greeting. For the first time ever, when I almost thought it doesn’t happen in real life and people aren’t really as straightforward, someone eventually asked me if I was anorexic. Not that I wanted or was waiting for someone to ask—it just stunned me that it actually happened.

Having been active in dance trainings again lately, I already knew how much my body affected my ability to perform or inability thereof. Gaining weight would help so much and I already felt the need to do that without anyone reminding me, least of all with those questions.

I feel like anyone who relates to this experiences some kind of guilt when expressing their frustration. It’s not like we’d been discriminated against because of our body, rejected at work or by a potential lover, prejudiced as lazy, denied health care or any service, or was seemingly stared at and avoided by strangers in a public space because of fatphobia. Though problematic, skinny people still benefit from thin privilege.

In this society, being a size zero or a size two works like a ticket to the better things in life that involves other people. It warrants being treated better and being viewed as more attractive, among other perks (for the lack of a better word).

For this and many other reasons, skinny shaming and fat shaming can’t be perceived or treated the same way. People who have been at the receiving end of either of those have completely different experiences that can’t be converged into one thing.

I feel like in trying to validate one side, some people choose to shame the other. It’s not about taking sides though. No side or body type should be left out of the conversation (except the use of shame in all discussions about body image).

Discrimination based on a person’s body is a completely different thing but, at the very least, shame is the common denominator where the two kinds of body shaming meet. No one wants to be shamed for what their bodies are naturally and genetically wound up to look like.

Companies are already profiting off of our insecurities and the patriarchy has already been set long ago to put us down. The last thing we need is hate from each other. None of us will benefit from shifting negativity about one body type towards another.

In any society, the only body type that’s mattered for so long is the one that conforms to all the unrealistic expectations set by the media, or at least any that could pass up for what’s been traditionally acceptable.

While most of the Western world is trying to recondition this mindset and shifting it to a more accepting one or at least a neutral one, our local culture is still blinded by unrealistic standards and is embedded with problematic instincts and behaviors when it comes to approaching body image.

I had the advantage of experiencing only light and playful teasing from titas about being the next Wilma Doesnt, which isn’t telling of anything other than that’s just the nature of their banter. But I’m witness to how frank they can be when my cousins gain weight.

Apart from the fact that almost every woman in my family is always conscious that they don’t have this ideal body even though they’re generally healthy, there had never been other serious effects that transpired in mental health or eating habits—at least not that I know of. Others aren’t as lucky.

The concept of an ideal body that’s based on societal norms runs deep in our culture and is passed generation after generation. That is the sad truth. Maybe some will justify it by saying it’s coming from a place of concern for their health. It’s hardly believable that statements with the words fat, anorexic, or something related are anything but demeaning, but the strongest among us would still give the benefit of the doubt.

Hopefully, we can come up with better words and ways to express concern moving forward. Anything better than “Anorexic ka ba? [Are you anorexic?]” or “Ang ganda mo sana kaso ang taba mo. [You look beautiful but you’re just fat.]” Anything that doesn’t insinuate shame, even if intended as a compliment. That’s it.