Reflections from #BodyShamingArchetypes

In my last post, I had written about my new illustration project (shared on my Instagram) called #BodyShamingArchetypes. I have also written a little more of a personal anecdotal motivation behind it here.

Up till today, I have illustrated and written about 15 archetypal forms of the body under the project. This was my first illustration project done as a series focused on a theme in a while. I was excited because drawing people has always been more interesting to me, allowing me to really see them as I drew. I had known that the topic may be slightly challenging to navigate through on some days because the thing is that the trauma of unworthiness lives within the body until one allows oneself and is able to witness it and move through it.

The archetypes that I came up with were based on observation, experience and people's stories. When the phrase 'body shaming' is mentioned, for each one of us, there is a body image that may pop up in our heads. As an experiment, close your eyes and really look at this image that comes to you mind as you read the words body shaming. Maybe draw it and share it with me too?

Each one of us will undoubtedly have a varied image of a body when we read or hear "body shaming" based on our own individual identities and experiences, which of course, are informed by not just who we are in isolation, but who we are in society. That is why, I feel it is important to not brush off body shaming as a teenage, school, bully phenomenon; but as a systemic and internalised set of rules that define our perception of bodies as we meet them, informing our feelings about their very worth.

One of the people who responded to the project shared an incidence from their past wherein a remark made by someone significant had been hurtful and they found themselves wondering how it would have been, had they been able to find their voice back then, and stood up for themselves. Their story informed the archetype, Denting Smiles. For me, it was a confirmation yet again of how often these markers, whether coming from well meaning loved ones or someone out to pick a bone with us, serve more often as "what makes you slightly not good enough". While yes, it can be used as feedback or fuel, but where it stays as a thorn in the foot is when it comes at the cost of one's boundaries. Erosion of boundaries with remarks on the body are the beginnings of slow dehumanisation, which if circumstances do not allow healing of, can lead to a burden of shame and grief.

My intentions on this page (and through most facets of my work) are to help each one of us understand the finer, intricate workings of oppression within our own minds, that end up serving as influences into our beliefs, behaviours and imaginations in the daily.

Through the 15 archetypes I have drawn so far, some may seem more commonly visible, while a few are seemingly general characteristics, overlooked, but with a similar burden of discontent. Through the process of illustrating them, a singular observation emerged: somewhere along the line, every body seems to be moving through life with a dagger in the back, hurting constantly as a reminder of lack, of how one is or is not worthy enough, good enough, loveable enough.

There are of course, on the face of it, some who may consider themselves outside of these archetypes. They may well as be counted as privileged enough to embody themselves with perhaps greater levity than most. However, if the responses to the archetypes and personal conversations alone are to be considered (outside of the larger caste-class-religion-gender-socio-economic access-colour-race-ability web of markers on the body) the numbers still overwhelmingly tilt towards there being some learnt experience of unworthiness of the body found somewhere or the other.

To wrap up, my desire to talk about this was not to simply pinpoint the pains of living in oppressed bodies. That, I believe, is more common knowledge - whether overtly articulated or not. Instead, my intention has been to visually display that each body has the right to exist, to be embodied in peace, love, contentment and safety. I do not say this as a campaign on mental health or any other catchy highlight on social media. Those narratives are great on their own. I say this to further allow the visual medium to break into the minds of anyone who engages with the project to remember to integrate their emotional experiences with their bodies, the carriers of our traumas that if left unacknowledged, do not magically disappear.

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