Dead Weight – The obsession with female bodies and their weight

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I went for a Hindu funeral ritual last weekend. A distant family member had died, and we have this ritual on the thirteenth day where friends and family are invited for a meal, after a puja is done, to say goodbye to the spirit of the one who has passed.

I don’t know if its an Indian thing, or this is the case with all family gatherings – be it a wedding or a funeral – its hilarious, annoying, petty, political and well, as good as watching any reality TV show. As long as you are not the topic of speculation that is.

This time, the topic of conversation is a favourite – the shape and size of the bodies of all the women present in the room. You would probably think, oh, the men are at it again is it? But no, it was the men and the women – the ones passing judgement and the ones accepting that yes, something needs to be done about their body size or weight.

A gentleman sporting a pot belly remarked, “oh these are your daughters ? They are so skinny though. Girls at their age should eat more and have a ‘fit’ body you know. They look really weak.”

Another gentleman who was very skinny himself, remarked at another young girl, who had lost a lot of weight with a lot of dedication and will, “you know, you lost too much weight though.”

She replied, “Two years back, when I was heavier, you said I needed to lose weight.”

The sarcasm was lost on the gentleman in question however.

An older man remarked on another older lady, who had recently lost a lot of weight to a serious illness, “Madam, you have lost so much weight! But you know, now you look much better!”

She replied, “I just wish I felt as fit as you think my body looks.”

Two other slightly curvaceous older women remarked, “well, we couldn’t lose weight even if we wanted to! We love to eat so much!”

Another girl said, “but why does it even have to matter as long as you feel good in your body?”

This went on for hours. The same conversation took different forms and was aimed at different people in the room – all obviously women. How to lose weight, how not to lose weight, what to eat, what not to eat. How to be ‘just the right size and shape’. But what is the right size for a woman? Who gets to define this? And for how long will women have to carry the burden of ‘dead weight’ that constantly brings them down or makes them uncomfortable in every darned social gathering?

Instead of talking about size, wouldn’t it be easier to talk about feelings and health? How are you feeling in your skin? You look great, just the way you are! 🙂

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