Petite Women and Body Shaming: My Personal Experience

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Photo Source: Internet

We live in a web of definitions, roles and expectations weaved by the society, the threads made strong and shiny with ideal images that invokes a sense of happiness and comfort. While we are all trapped, not all of us may realise it. Some of us realise or rather are made to realise it when we fail to ‘naturally’ meet the expectation. 

While the society controls every aspect of our being, in the present context, I am talking about the expectation regarding our physical appearance. Growing up, always looking half my age and being tiny in size, l have personally experienced the societal ‘reality’, the societal expectation to be of the pre-defined ideal size, height, colour, qualities and a mindset that all these pre-defined specifications are perfectly fine.

Always been tiny, I am so used to hearing people express their disbelief at my age that it surprises me when someone doesn’t seem shocked! I don’t mind people being surprised but I certainly wish that they would keep the after thoughts to themselves though they don’t affect me anymore. I am far more used to it and at peace with myself, with my body. Though there would be a time and I must confess, still there are moments when the comments affect me, trouble me enough to force me to look for solutions.

I have gone through body shaming in childhood, during teen years, in college and even today, there are people who try. A small physical stature combined with an introvert nature, I would be assumed to be dull, docile, subordinate, powerless, incompetent and a source of pity. While growing up, not reaching a certain height by high school was supposed to be a matter of great concern and shame. I would constantly be made conscious of my height, a friend would constantly hint at how she was trying new things to speed up her growth. She did manage to grow an inch or two taller than me but I don’t remember if I congratulated her for the achievement. I remember that once a junior kid had asked me if I was a dwarf. At that time, I did feel a sense of shame as I explained I am not but now ofcourse, I realise that it is no matter of shame even if I was one. 

But back then, it was hard to fight it. I remember that once I had said to my friend that it doesn’t matter to me if I am short and she frowned which made me think if I really said something so wrong. But eventually, I started accepting myself, my body and doing so, I realized that this was much harder than to grow in height!

I am still made conscious about my tiny stature.  There are people who still treat me, a woman in mid-20s as a “kid”. The snide comments passed off as “jokes” or sentences in “light vein” do not stop. I am still asked if I am ok with looking so young. I am suggested ways to look a bit mature, given free advices on hairstyle, dress sense and way to carry myself. But this doesn’t hold me back anymore.

I have realized that the problem doesn’t lie with me but with such people. I realise that it is actually their own insecurity and failure that they try to impose on me to become happy. They themselves failed to challenge the society that teaches us to give importance to looks than to other things, to challenge the society that teaches us to be of a certain type. They fail to fight to get our right to be the way we want to, look the way we want to. They not only failed but also try to hide their failure by sustaining the order, keeping stiff the web. If they judge me, then the fact is that I judge them more. I feel pity that they could not look beyond my physical appearance. I feel pity that they can’t find a better topic to talk about other than one’s physical appearance. I don’t know and care less whether one may agree or not but this is my tiny perspective on the body that belongs to me.

This article was published on Women Chapter http://en.womenchapter.com/a-tiny-womans-experience-of-body-shaming/

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We all should be out and proud

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The Supreme Court of India has recently recognised transgenders to be the third gender. They have been recognised as full citizens of the country who will be entitled to equal rights. This decision has been warmly welcomed by not just people of LGBTQ community but also by many amongst the heterosexual community. It is being seen as the realisation of a true and just democracy. It is being hailed as a progressive move.

However, I think that there is much more that the heterosexuals should derive out of this commendable judgement and the larger LGBTQ movement. This decision and the struggle for the equal rights should not just be seen and labelled as ‘liberal’ or ‘progressive’ by the heterosexuals. I always feel that the LGBTQ movement is a liberating experience not just for the people of non-heteronormative or diverse sexualities but for all genders. 

I consider it important to state that I claim no expertise in this matter. My understanding over the issue is based on basic scholarly literature and the little experience that I have had. In this article, I attempt to share the lessons that I derive from the LGBTQ movement. What it means to me.

The most basic lesson that I derive from the movement is in its very nature. The LGBTQ movement, as the name suggests, is not a homogeneous movement. There are many sub-groups within and they vary greatly in terms of their issues. The LGBTQ community represents and celebrates the diversity that nature has shown in everything including sexuality. Contrary to popular misconception, diverse forms of sexuality are natural. There are several forms of evidence available including the fact that diverse sexualities is present both in plant and animal kingdom. Theorists like Foucault have discussed how heteronormatity has come in a certain historical time in Europe. There are others who have shown how this was disseminated in different societies through colonialism. Other factors like religion, over-emphasis on fertility and several other social factors led to non-heteronormative sexualities being regarded as a deviant. The LGBTQ movement challenges this and brings to light the truth about the extent of diversity that nature has shown. The nature loves diversity in every aspect including sexuality. Heteorsexualty may appear more prominent but it is just one form of the diverse sexualities that are present in the nature. 

The LGBTQ movement is a movement of liberation for all. The LGBTQ movement not only challenges the heteronormative society but also the patriarchal society. This is because it challenges the notion of gender as determinants of behaviour. It challenges the gender-based roles and stereotypes. It challenges that sex and gender are natural. It proves that they are social constructions. While we are born with a particular genital, our behaviour, preferences has been constructed by the society. The society makes a man or a woman. It is the society that expects a person with a vagina to take care of the household. The LGBTQ movement disrupts all binary and opposing notions. It does so in several ways.

A homosexual person often challenges the stereotypes conforming to their gender. However, it must be noted that not all homosexuals will do so. A transgender female may be born with a penis but does not feel or consider herself to be a man. Then there is also the case of inter-sex people. They clearly transcend the binary notion of gender.

Another fundamental essence of the LGBTQ movement is the emphasis on individual agency. Who gets the right to decide whether a person is a man or a woman? They would say that the person himself/herself. I find it empowering and extend it beyond this. I see it as this beautiful idea of “I am what I think I am”. It talks about the self breaking the constructed barriers. It celebrates the individual that challenges the biased and discriminatory notions, norms constructed by the society. It gives importance to the individual’s perspective. It celebrates the voice against injustice and inequality.

To conclude, I think that the LGBTQ movement should be seen as the liberation of us all. It is a movement tied not just to the issue of sexuality. It is waging battles far beyond. It exposes the society and its norms that we take as “primordial” and “natural” as a construct. It encourages us to come out and speak against the injustice. It encourages us to be ourselves, to respect ourselves. 

This article was published at Countercurrents