From Shame to Fame: Flipping the Script on Body Talk in the Philippines



Remember that awkward moment at a family reunion when a Tita loudly asked if you'd gained weight?  Or when a random stranger online felt the need to comment on a celebrity's thighs?  Maybe someone called you "payatot" assuming you don't eat well, or teased you about your legs. That's body shaming, and it's way too common in the Philippines. 

I remember when the saleslady grimaced and suggested a bigger size when I asked for a pair of jeans. That stuck with me for weeks. 

Tired of letting those comments erode your self-esteem? Maybe you're even guilty of making similar remarks without realizing the harm they cause. Well, it's time to change the conversation.

The Reality of Body Shaming in Our Culture

Let's be real; in the Philippines, commenting on people's bodies is practically a national pastime. We discuss weight fluctuations, make "helpful" diet suggestions, or tease people with nicknames like  "balyenang baboy." Body shaming masquerades as concern, humor, and even love. But its impact... that's far from loving.

I know firsthand how this feels. As a bald guy, I've heard my fair share of jokes and unsolicited advice about hair growth. Sometimes, it stings, even if people don't mean it maliciously.  Those seemingly harmless comments from well-meaning relatives take a toll, affecting how I see myself and interact with others. I found myself overcompensating in other areas, trying to be extra nice – all because I worried about my appearance.

Embracing What Makes Us Unique

But what if we flipped the script? What if we celebrated the amazing range of bodies in the Philippines?  Tall, short, curvy, slim, bald, with long flowing hair – it's all part of who we are and worth celebrating.

"Your body is your home, your vessel in this world. Treat it with kindness, and it will reward you,"  words like this remind me that my body deserves respect and acceptance, no matter what societal standards say.

It took me a while to embrace my baldness. I'd try to hide it, wishing for something different. But now? I feel confident owning my look. It's part of what makes me me. We all have those unique traits that deserve to be celebrated.

The Damage Done

Body shaming isn't just about hurt feelings. Words wound deeply, sometimes leading to anxiety, depression, and even eating disorders.  The pressure to conform to impossible ideals is overwhelming, especially for young people. They look at filtered, airbrushed images on social media and think that's what they should look like. It's a recipe for self-hate, and it has to stop.

Body Shaming Goes Beyond Appearance

We need to remember that body shaming doesn't happen in a vacuum.  It's often worse for women, people of color, those with disabilities, or anyone who doesn't fit the narrow mold society promotes. Think about the hurtful stereotypes about weight and skin color and the lack of representation – this compounds the damage and makes people feel invisible and less worthy.

Filipino Youth and the Tyranny of Trends

Our young people have it especially tough. They're constantly bombarded with picture-perfect images on social media, promoting unrealistic body trends or pressuring them to mimic influencers and celebrities.  Remember that "thigh gap" craze or the filters that make people look like they have completely different facial structures? This constant comparison is a recipe for insecurity. We need to offer them a counter-narrative where self-acceptance and embracing your natural features are celebrated.

Combatting Online Body Shaming

The internet has a cruel side. People feel emboldened to tear down complete strangers, critiquing an artista's body with vile comments. This negativity spreads like wildfire; one hateful remark begets more of the same. But we don't have to just accept it.  Report abusive posts, unfollow toxic accounts, and instead seek out body-positive communities online where support and empowerment are the norm.

Changing the Conversation, One Word at a Time

We all have a role to play in dismantling body shaming culture. It starts with our words – think twice before commenting on a friend's weight loss or posting a snarky remark about a celebrity's figure. Instead of focusing on appearance, let's praise people's personalities, their talents, or their kindness.  Even within families, we can shift the dialogue, gently pushing back against outdated beauty ideals.

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