In Asia, we are accustomed to relatively smaller body sizes. Also in Asia, we don’t speak openly about body acceptance and body shaming. It may not be entirely an anomaly to find a woman wearing XXXL but it is surely culturally frowned upon enough for these women to avoid the public eye. Unlike our Western counterparts, we shy away from the luxury of topless beaches and bikini-clad lifeguards.
Celebs in Body Shame Game
You may have come across the body-shaming Instagram post by local Malaysian model, Cathryn Lee earlier this month. The Insta Story received too many views (and subsequent screenshots), that it was too late for the celebrity of 1.4 million followers to undo her sentiment.
The body-shaming post read:
Comments flooded Cathryn and the post went viral almost immediately. It seems many a Malaysian didn’t agree with her calling her followers out for having different body types. To remain neutral, she uploaded a follow-up post expressing her regrets.
The condescending post only shed light on the ridiculous industrial beauty standards Asian women (and men) are forced to conform to if they wish to pursue a career as a public figure.
Government Initiative in Mental Health and Body Positivity
It may be in direct correlation to the recent mass cyber-discrimination, but our government has released a new law to curb body shaming trolls on social media. Under the Communication and Multimedia Act 1998 (Act 588), Section 233 1(b) charges cyberbullying as a criminal act and can be fined up to RM 50,000 or a year in jail or both.
Ministry of Health urges us to be more aware of mental health by looking out for and identifying effects of body-shaming:
- Stress and emotional disturbances
- Loss of self-confidence
- Eating disorders
Malaysian Netizens have expressed their support for the Ministry of Health in their endeavour to create awareness around mental health whilst curbing cyber-crime. The need to express one’s opinions on another’s well-being should be executed in a constructive and tactful manner.
It’s likely that virtual personalities give users a sense of invincibility in interactions, providing a filter that we are personally responsible for but divert to on-screen protection; face-to-face holds us immediately accountable, hence a certain sense of shame to what we say.
Suicide rates have increased by 60% since the 1960s according to Malaysian Psychiatric Association. Maintaining a small world helped us keep unwanted opinions at bay, which limited the impact of unfamiliar voices in our lives. Due to the Internet and even more so with social media, our toxic doctrines of what is socially accepted is easily transferred and imposed on to someone else.
We’re excited with the care our government is displaying towards millennials and their mental health. The hundreds that give up their lives in the battle for mental awareness should not have to continue the struggle. Instead, we urge family and friends to be more mindful of those around them, to notice a cry for help online and offline.