One time, on a night out with some friends from the United States, I remember specifically this topic brought-up, when I’d asked them what was the first culturally shocking thing that they took note of on their first impressions of the Philippines and Filipinos. And though my friend had considered it surprising, I, on the other hand, was sadly unphased with hearing the answer: body shaming. She speaks with a manner of objectivity and tells me: “I’m actually quite taken aback at how many times it’s happened that the first thing I hear after ‘hello’ here is ‘you’ve gotten bigger /skinnier since last I saw you!’ and I don’t quite know what to say, because it seems that everybody greets everybody here, that way.”
And I couldn’t deny it. She was right. Local or foreigner, peer or family member, close friend or random stranger, the first thing we comment on when we see someone is their weight, and/or figure. To which we’d often just giggle or scoff lightly at, and reply; “yeah, I guess so.” Completely desensitized to the fact that it is actually rude and inappropriate to have your weight commented on. How is it then a problem, if for the majority, it’s the norm? If we’re so used to hearing it, then why should it be a cause for concern?
To which I’ll only ask you back:
Today, when you looked in the mirror, how many parts of your body did you wish were a bit smaller/bigger?
Did you not in some way think you would ‘look better’ if your tummy was a bit tighter, or arms a bit more toned, or your butt a tad rounder? Or at the gym, as you go through the pains of lifting those heavy weights, or doing the cardio, what goal is nagging you at the back of your head?
Yes, okay, we love it that the fitness community has seen growth unlike any other in the past decade, or so. We love it when people want to get healthier and better, and especially when they take their first steps to do so, and all the more when they press on with it and turn it into a lifestyle. But healthier and better doesn’t have to mean skinnier or more toned, or muscular.
Being healthier and better isn’t solely defined by a firmer stomach, or anything related to your physique. If you want to define health, let it be by how you don’t come out tired after climbing up a flight of stairs, or how you lowered health markers for metabolic diseases, and ultimately define it by how it makes you feel, rather than by how others perceive you. Because here’s a dismaying truth for you: no matter what work you put into working out, people will always have something negative to say as long as they believe that they’re entitled to say it.
You’re either too skinny and need to eat more, or too fat and need to run more, or too muscular and need to cut the gains.
Look for approval within yourself and if you know that physically, you feel healthy and you love yourself, you free yourself from the oppressive bonds of shallow beauty standards.
Because unless you shake yourself out of the illusion that what people think of you should define you, then you’ll be stuck chasing approval that is as easily blown out like a candle flame in the wind, and you’ll never be satisfied. Then, no matter how many times you try to get on the fitness bandwagon, you end up falling short, more frustrated than how you felt when you started and finding yourself throwing in the towel, because you sought validation from everyone, except yourself.
To your right, you have the boy with the metabolic condition that makes him weigh in on the heavier side of the scale, who can’t approach the girl he likes because his friends say he’s too fat to date her. To your left, you have the skinny girl who suffers from an eating disorder because she can’t ever feel good about wearing the new bikini she bought to the beach, because she’s been told she looks like a skeleton. To somewhere at the back you have the muscular athletic types, who don’t feel pretty in a dress, because people say she looks like a guy for being ‘too muscular.’
Too fat. Too bony. Too bulky.
Pero may ‘joke lang’ daw sa dulo, kaya okay lang.
But it’s not okay and it’s also a problem.
Remember entitlement to unsolicited opinions? Well, couple that with the empowerment of social media, and you have a recipe for misplaced hate, brewing everywhere. You see, aside from it being a self-image-shattering social issue, and although we’re used to it and know for a fact that it’s said in a manner that doesn’t intend to offend most of the time, eventually, there will be people who will express their thoughts in a disparaging way.
And nowadays, it’s very rare to come across someone who has never experienced some form of online bullying, notably on topics such as body image. And us, human as we are, when faced with negatively constructed feedback of any kind, tend to retaliate. More often than not, retaliate with the intent to hurt back, also.
When faced with these kinds of situations, our first reaction usually tends to be a clapback that’s as equally or even more scathing than the first blow dealt. And it’ll never end, because by doing this, we set in motion a cycle of hate; of you versus the person at the other end of a screen somewhere; of derogatory statements inappropriately masked as ‘honest opinions’ against others. You may win, or you may lose.
Nevertheless, and unknowingly, your short-term victory will only end up perpetuating a culture of hate, leaving us with unnecessarily bruised feelings, while achieving nothing towards a more enlightened society. Completely counter-productive.
However, in recent occasions and through sources we feel only right for it to come from, given her great influence and power of voice, we witness a very classy and tasteful manner of responding to body shaming comments in the lovely and elegant form of ABS-CBN Actress, Iza Calzado.
Through a post recently made viral by Facebook user Athena Valerio and shared by journalist, James Deakin, we witness the actress reply diplomatically to an Instagram user who derogatorily commented on a photo she posted a week ago (see below). A firm and direct answer that not only helped educate but also doused any spark of hate before it even caught on tinder and spread:
Truly at the highest caliber of class. We applaud you, Iza Calzado for standing up for your beliefs without inciting more hate. May we always remember to not confuse justice for vengeance, and that while the battle to unlatch body shaming from our Filipino culture presses on, we always remember that
Have some thoughts on the body shaming commenter and how Iza Calzado handled it? Let us know in the comments section.