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January 29, 2019

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall: The Perennial Problem of Body Shaming

Fairy tales is often loaded with message of body shaming.

by Dr Sonia Vashishta Oberoi

Mirror, Mirror on the wall …
We hear these words and the image of the fairy tale evil Queen flashes on our mind’s screen. We all know that the Queen is so narcissistic and conceited that the moment she comes to know about Snow White’s mesmerizing beauty, she orders to kill the innocent young girl. Anger wells up in us for the malevolent stepmother, and compassion gathers in our hearts for the pretty Snow White – the typical response expected to this fairytale.
But here’s a thought: What if the stepmother is actually a victim too? What if she is actually a victim of body shaming?
The abhorrence or disdain shown when someone does not fit in the hegemonic concept of beauty is known as body-shaming. The Queen in this particular fairytale is under so much pressure to look beautiful that she iss ready to commit the most heinous crimes to maintain the mirage of youth and beauty.
I feel pity for this woman. I also think that every woman has a part of the evil Queen in her. Every time we purchase a skin-whitening or skin tightening cream we become the replica of the Queen who wants to remain young and charming forever. Don’t you think that every time we get ready and look into the mirror, somewhere in our heart we ask the same question?
Thank God, our mirrors are not magical!
However, the omniscient question that we try to dodge day and night is: Why are we so dissatisfied and unhappy with our bodies? Why do we try incessantly to look younger than our age? Why are we so anxious all the time about how we look? Why do we try so hard to fit into the popular frame of the myth of beauty? Why is there so much clamor around us to look young and beautiful? 
I think the roots lie somewhere deep in our collective consciousness. In a patriarchal society a woman is known for her looks and a man is known for his money and status. It has been a norm for centuries that women have to look beautiful according to the set standards. This obsession regarding looks is so deep-rooted that we don’t even want to come out of it, rather it is becoming more prominent day by day especially now when it has been combined with health and fitness. That is why magazines, T.V., social media are rampant with the advertisements of skin-lightening creams, weight loss/weight gain pills and thousands of grooming products.
The cascading repercussion of our obsession with a particular concept of beauty, skin color and body shape is that we look down upon people of unusual size, shape, skin-shade or even dressing style. That is why too-fat or too-thin, too-short or too-tall, too-freckled or plain Janes, are mocked everywhere.
So common is body shaming that we don’t even realize that we are a victim of it, and the consequences can be fatal. Young girls today die of eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia to get a Barbie-like mythical body. Women kill themselves as they think that they are not pretty enough to get married. And even beautiful celebrities like Britney Spears, Jennifer Aniston, Jamie Lee Curtis, Sridevi and many more have gone under the knife, to improve their already “perfect” look.

Is there any cure or prevention for the affliction caused body-shaming? The answer is a big NO and the sad news is that scientists are not even trying to find one. The only home-remedy that can help is accept and respect what you see in the mirror and be confident about it.
Writer and Educator, Dr Sonia Vashishta Oberoi, is Ph D in African-American Literature. She hails from India and is shifted to Jakarta last year. Her writings have also been published in Jakarta Post. Many of her academic writings have been published in various national and international journals. Her blog is  https://thinkotopia.wordpress.com/