Sunday, 5 November 2017

Perfect body vs Health body: conversation with adolescent boys

“Didi, but why did the gym people allow that 14 year old to join gym and suggest him to have protein shake?”
This question was asked by one of the participant after the story of an adolescent boy who was into body building and was very conscious of how he looks and how can he have body as good as a model was shared with the participants from the government school, Dwarka. This innocent question was quite relevant in the context of how the gym culture and the concept of perfect body are flourishing in the light of consumerism.

From the very first workshop, there was constant reminder of how the participants are conscious about their body, how they keep taunting/mentioning the body trait in terms of color, height, hairs etc during their interaction with each other, so it became even more crucial to talk about body image and peer pressure.

The session began with “happy dance” where in each participant was invited to perform a dance move when they are happy- though it began with little hesitation but as it moved ahead, it was a dancing riot in the room. After this various popular advertisement was screened following which the participants were asked to fill questionnaire in groups of 2. These questionnaires primarily were to check the body norms dictated in the advertisements and media. The participants shared how advertisements influence them to use a particular beauty product or inspire them to go for gym though they agree that these actors don’t possess this body/face in real life neither do they use products which they advertise. 

On the basis of questionnaire and discussion, the concept of body image, the pros of having healthy body image and cons of unhealthy concept were explained. The issue of body image has been very close to me since my school days. I could hear participants still using names and slang related to body shaming, so I shared my personal story of being body shamed right from my school days till now, how that effected my self-esteem and confidence. Later Mona, shared the story of the adolescent boy who was into gyming, body building and obsessed with his looks! The boys related to both the stories and the space turned very intense. They were concerned and worried about the boy whose health deteriorated because of negative body image.

“So what is the right age to do gym?”
“Why do these protein shake harm our body, the elder people/film stars also use them. We also eat proteins in our food?”
“I play sports so I won’t think of joining gym”
“My friend is going to gym, will he also fall ill?”
“Didi, how is that boy now? Did he recover?”

We then screened a video on ‘smoking’ which shows how a new boy in order to fit into the group ends up smoking, though initially he resists.
“He didn’t want to smoke, but his friends forced him, he choked but nobody listened to him”
“Friends always do this, many a times they don’t listen, I don’t like it”
“Didi, smoking ke liye toh hamesha se hi pressure hota hai”
“Many a times friends insist on bunking classes, going out for fun, tease girls etc. Sometimes I do with my wish but many a times I do what my friends do otherwise they won’t stick around”

It was interesting to see how that shared their stories of peer pressure instantly as all they needed was a space to share. The conversations on body image and peer pressure during the workshop just emphasized more that adolescents really need a space to share since even the friends they long to have end up pressurizing them without realizing it, they have enormous questions which needs to be answered!   

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