Published: 10th May 2019
Being fat shamed online? Let Neelakshi Singh show you how to put trolls in their place
Why we need more body positive bloggers like Neelakshi Singh to remind us that being told we're fat online is uncool — and damaging on so many levels
For a lot of us, social media is our safe space. But if you're on the wrong side of trolls and body shamers, the internet can be a nightmare filled with hate and mean comments. With Mental Health Awareness Week around the corner, we cannot help but talk about body shaming. We’ve all been subjected to it, and no matter how hard we try, it’s something we can’t separate ourselves from. Everyone has something to say about the way we look. But with the help of body positive advocates like Neelakshi Singh, this scenario is changing ever-so-slightly.
Neelakshi Singh, a body positive blogger from Mumbai (@plumptopretty to Instagrammers) has seen it all. From struggling with Bulimia in her childhood to running the successful blog that she does now, Singh is an inspiration to us all that you look perfect exactly the way you are. She started her blog Plump To Pretty in 2012, which focuses on her take of fashion trends and how she makes it work for her body. This 27-year-old is also a lecturer at Pearl Academy and NIFT Mumbai.
Whose shame is it anyway?
One of the major reasons for body shaming is the fact that most of us have the mentality that thin is pretty. It is a thought that is enforced on us right from our formative ages, “The prime reason for this is the media. Print ads, TV ads, Social media — everything points to ‘Thin being beautiful’. We are trying to create a change but it’s still going to take a lot of time to get there,” Singh laments. With the numerous ads for body slimming tea and diet pills that keep popping up on our timelines, passive body shaming is hard to escape from.
Which is why people like Singh, the minority that they may be, are vital to the cause. Making people realise that fat shaming someone isn't cool is a small step in stopping abuse of a different kind, “I initially thought it was a waste and that the movement would fizzle out, but if I’m still able to have conversation about this (after 7 years of blogging about it), it means people have really started to care,” she explains.
All for body positivity: Neelakshi believes that every body is beautiful and deserves to be celebrated
The BIG issue
Eating disorders are a very serious issue that a lot of us fail to take seriously. Parents usually just nag their children to eat, but don’t go beyond that and help the child out. “When I was suffering from bulimia, I didn’t even have the courage to talk to my parents. Now that I look back, I feel very dismayed about the fact that I didn’t involve my parents in this,” says Singh in a resentful tone. Now, Singh displays confidence in every one of her blog posts. She stands as a voice to all those who are afraid to stand up for themselves. She has even walked the ramp at Lakme Fashion Week and many modelling gigs besides.
While the unfriendly neighbourhood aunty who has no qualms (or filter) talking about your weight used to be the pinnacle of body shaming, social media is the new BS (body shaming not the other BS) playground. Though there have been revolutions started on social media, it also happens to be the biggest source of hate comments and online shaming. “Social media is very dangerous in the sense that anybody can get away with their comments. I review a lot of my followers. If I find anything fishy, I block them,” Singh explains. Increasingly, users online have started calling out people who leave unsavoury comments on their photos, telling that it's not okay.
"Parents need to indentify the issue before it becomes a bigger problem," Neelakshi Singh, professor at Pearl Academy and NIFT Mumbai
Body shaming can get you down
Owing to her teaching, Singh is constantly around adolescents. And she understands how deep this social media stigma can cut, “One of the most important things I do is to help them talk. For me, my safe space is the internet. But now, with the evolution, everybody feels the internet has made them much more vulnerable,” she added. Studies in the recent past have some compellingly frightening numbers: Over 94% of the teenage girls out there have been fat shamed online while 65% of the boys online have met with pretty much the same fate.
Which is where the question of depression and a lack of mental health comes in. Squarely. Today, a lot of institutions have an on-call psychologist, who students can speak to and remain anonymous. “Here, in a fashion college, we want to know about our students’ personal life and we take a lot of care in what is happening with them. I feel my students are so much more comfortable with speaking to me rather than their parents. In engineering and law colleges, I haven’t seen that special care being given to the mental health of students,” she said.
Part of the recovery lies in the fact that adolescents (Read the urban young) have to come to terms with the face that they're not extraordinary, nor are they infallible to criticism, “This is something I always say — you should not be afraid to be ordinary. We’ve created a space where people think 'You have to do something, you have to make a mark' which is not true. I don’t think I’ve done enough in my life and I’ve come to terms with it,” says Singh, who is doing her PhD in Design with a specific focus on body positivity.
Follow Neelakshi Singh's work at https://www.instagram.com/