I reconnected online with a childhood friend of mine after a long time and after catching up on her life, I asked about her older brother. She told me that he is doing well and is married with kids. I asked, “Who did he marry? How is his wife?” She replied with some disappointment, “She is fat, she was big boned to begin with and now she has put on some more weight.” I was taken aback. Why is that the first adjective which came to her mind whilst describing her sister-in-law? Why does the physical attribute of fatness take precedence over all the other amazing qualities one may have as an individual. You could have a beautiful smile, a kick-ass attitude and a great sense of humor but the first thing anyone notices or defines about you is your weight? I gently chided my friend that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes and if they are happy and she is nice, let’s not worry about her bigness.
The social stigma of obesity is a reality. Fat people not only bear the burden of their physical weight, they are also crushed by the weight of society’s sarcasm and disdain.Overweight people are stared at, laughed at, called names like fatso, fatty etc. and we as a society do not realize that we are being mean and hurtful. It is somehow okay to make a face if a heavy person sits next to you on the plane or laugh at negative stereotypes of fat people in movies.
When friends in an online group responded with laughing emojis to a video which had an overweight woman dressed modestly in an orange sari and a black cardigan dancing to a Bollywood song, I shook my head and thought to myself, this is not right. We cannot normalize making fun of and mocking such videos. I felt relieved and reassured when one of the friends in the group wrote that the lady is dancing very gracefully and she admires her self-confidence to go up there on the stage despite her weight and dance alone in front of a big group of people. Dancing is really not just the prerogative of slim people, talent and graceful dance moves can be exhibited by people of all sizes.
In today’s society, it’s not just the morbidly obese who bear the brunt of fat jokes. You could be a few pounds overweight and still have micro aggressions thrown your way. I have put on some pounds over the years but I have no health problems and I am confident enough to know that I look and feel great for being in my forties and being a mom to three teenagers. You cannot be expected to look the same as you did when you were younger. There is such a thing as aging gracefully. Age adds character to your face.The curious case of Benjamin Button is not a reality. However, it’s interesting when people who meet me after a long time expect just that and literally lament that I have let myself go and woefully remember my yonder days of slimness and slenderness.
Scrolling through Facebook, I always shake my head with some annoyance when I read comments such as, “You look so pretty, have you lost weight?” as if you cannot look beautiful without losing weight. The perception in society is that if you are slim and toned it means that you have self-control, self-discipline and you have it all together. If you are fat, then by default you are perceived as lazy, unmotivated and unworthy of adulation. Sometimes, you are not fat because of your habits, you could have a thyroid imbalance, water retention problems or just a genetic disposition towards weight gain. All slim people do not eat healthy, they could be on a diet of fatty foods and desserts and yet have an active metabolism which burns all their extra calories.
In the world today, when I see actresses who looked gorgeous being an average size aspiring to be slimmer, I wonder, how slim is slim enough? Is it just about health or largely about vanity? It is so refreshing to read an interview of Vidya Balan who is secure in herself and in her talent and is unapologetic about her weight. I completely agree with her when she says that she does not need unsolicited advice or questions about her weight, it’s really nobody’s business.
The body positive movement in social media is a welcome start and it needs momentum and acceptance. What we need more of, is positive connotations attached to the word ‘fat’. In Bollywood, instead of a stereotypical Tuntun providing comic relief, we need a big beautiful heroine completely confident of herself, who knows she can do anything and be anyone she wants to be. Such a heroine should be portrayed as totally worthy of the love of a dashing hero.
I am not advocating that people should put on weight or be unhealthy. What I am advocating is that we as a society should change our attitude. Let’s not be so harsh and unfair. Let’s not judge human beings on their weight alone and lose the chance of knowing them as people. A fat person should not be an embarrassment to their family and friends. Let’s celebrate their qualities and talents without focusing so much on their physical appearance.