She may not fit in your beauty mould, but don’t body shame her

We live in a society that determines beauty standards for women but makes no similar demands of a man’s looks.

What you need to know:

  • Now, I have nothing against personal preferences when it comes to choice of romantic partners.
  • I have since learnt that physical perfection is unattainable. I know now that, silver stripe or not, plastic surgery or not, waiting for the day that I will be perfect is like waiting for Godot.

This week, a photograph of a male member of the former first family and an Instagram model has been doing rounds. Many unkind things have been said about her and her appearance.

I was about 21 when I first thought about body shaming. I was running errands around the Nairobi central business district with a male acquaintance, an older man of about 40 at the time. We bumped into a woman he had gone to high school with and dated whilst in his twenties. We stopped so they could do a bit of catching up.

“Call me,” she said, punching her number in his phone as they said their goodbyes.

“Gross,” he muttered under his breath once she was out of earshot.

“What is?” I wondered out aloud.

“Her. She is so fat now. She looks like she’s had ten kids,” he sneered.

“So you’re not going to call her?”

“No. Not when she looks like that. Not when there is a sea of beautiful women out here,” he said incredulously as if I had suggested that he should prick his eye with a stick.

He wasn’t perfect-looking, not by a long shot. I was in fact tempted to say something about his newly bulging belly and the limp in his walk but I thought it pointless. He seemed too far gone.

Now, I have nothing against personal preferences when it comes to choice of romantic partners. It could be a slight build that tickles your fancy, or the ripped stomach, or a full beard, or even large hands. For a functioning relationship, it’s important that you are physically attracted to your significant other.

Physical preferences

Make a list of physical preferences you want in a man if you want. Stick to it if you can but do not shame the men and women who do not fit into your mould. One man’s meat is another man’s poison, remember?

There is this man, Albert, I think, who after 13 years of marriage, left his wife for her niece, a 20-year-old woman, who was helping babysit their children. When asked for his reasons he said that she was dirty and that he was seeing more beautiful women around, why should he be stuck with her? You know, very matter-of-factly, as if he also hadn’t aged 13 years and she also didn’t see better-looking men out in the streets.

I have a lot of nasty things that I could say about Albert but I will tell you not to set unfair standards of beauty for the men you date and the women around you.

I remember standing in front of my mother’s dressing mirror, many years ago, seven months pregnant, staring panicked at the single silver streak on the side of my stomach. I was to stand here every morning after this religiously rubbing my bulging belly with the extra-virgin olive oil I had bought from the supermarket.

When I asked my mother about it, she told me not to worry, that it would go away. She knew it wouldn’t. She probably just wanted to ease my fears and keep my focus on the pregnancy. Even though I was barely in the dating world, I was aware of the pressure on women to look perfect, to have no physical flaws.

Beautiful category

I have since learnt that physical perfection is unattainable. I know now that, silver stripe or not, plastic surgery or not, waiting for the day that I will be perfect is like waiting for Godot. Just like Godot in that play by Samuel Beckett, that day will never arrive.

Every woman you see on the street is already struggling with the inner battles from all these messages she has been bombarded with from the media. We live in a society that determines beauty standards for women but makes no similar demands of a man’s looks.

A lot of women are already angry and frustrated at the narrowing standards of what fits into the beautiful category. Don’t be insensitive.

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