“Perhaps the human body can be compared to the work of art rather than to the object of natural order“, this sentence by Merleau Ponty in his work “Phenomenology of Perception” highlights in the most passive way that the human body is not just an inanimate object of natural order, but a work of art, as in it the form of human existence is radiated. As in a painting by Cézanne, in a poem, or a novel, form gives life to matter, so it is exactly the same with the human body. Paint colors and canvas take form, the form of the female bodies depicted above, the white paper takes form through the poetic discourse and the meanings that flow from it.
The human body constitutes the unity of matter-form, as Aristotle had foreseen. The matter from which the human physicality is composed and structured individuates the Being, and on the other hand the Being refines the flesh, sculpts it, gives it form making it the bearer of meanings, emotions, i.e. a bodily totality of empathy.
The Being that activates the person, and the Appearance that endows it with potentiality constitute the Becoming of human existence. Therefore, the body is not a simple object of natural order, which man has in his possession, like a material object, nor is it a thoughtful being (Zuhanden, Heidegger), who uses it as a tool or means. Man is not in front of his body, he is his body, he lives it by inhabiting it, and at the same time the body inhabits his Being.
Sensation and substance make up the human body, which expresses and receives sensory stimuli, from the first moment it comes to life, through which it perceives the surrounding reality. The five basic senses are also studied by Aristotle, who saw that the five basic senses make up a common sense. This common sense could correspond to today’s consciousness, or much more to empathy. Human flesh expresses, communicates, feels, understands, that is, exists. The corporality of human existence does not individually feel the emotions of its existence, as it is a body of proximity, it feels the emotions of existence and at the same time accepts and empathizes with the emotions of others. Human existence is a social being, as Aristotle diagnosed. Consequently, the flesh of the individual, at the moment it experiences its intracosmic opening, feels the need to assimilate the beauty through other existences. But what is beauty?
Beauty is, according to Plato, the only visible idea. Beauty, which also feeds the driving force of love, extends between the visible and the invisible, the immaterial and the material, just as form, according to Kant, is individualized through sensory experience, while claiming a universal rule for feeling of pleasure for the sake of the faculty of beauty. Beauty is of double importance, since it is shaped as an in- betweenness between universality and sensibility, a fact which Kant perceives. Kant resorted to the distinction between beauty (Pulchrum) and the wonderful (Das Erhabene), stressing that only the beautiful belongs to aesthetics, while the wonderful only to the aesthetic judgment, since the representation of the beautiful must be beautiful in itself, otherwise it is anti-aesthetic. Even the depiction of an unseemly figure, like Milton’s figure of personified death, must be beautiful or it is immune. The concept of beauty lies in the deepest union with the object causing immediate pleasure, which is why it is reduced to ideal concepts, such as that of the soul.
The beauty of the soul for Kant implies its goodness, which brings together all the judgments of sensual pleasure compatible with the freedom of the intellect. So it seems, the dual nature of beauty that extends between the sensible and the super-sensible, in Poros (resource) and Penia (indigence), expressing this insatiable human desire to appropriate beauty through the psychosomatic tension towards the other.
Man is governed by the duality of Resource and Penia, as he straddles between limitation and his tendency to self-transcendence. In this dual nature lies the beauty of human existence. The human body is like a work of art because it is a living self- receptive body governed by perceptiveness and empathy. The uniqueness of the beauty of each existence, which, despite beauty stereotypes, is impossible to alter, lies in the asymmetrical symmetry that characterizes the human body, which becomes active through the constant struggle of the individual to conquer the goodness of the beautiful, despite its limitation.
Of course, despite the fact that man constantly strives to overcome his limitation, he is limited to the stereotypes of the social extensions of beauty in the midst of which body shaming is cultivated, with the consequence that concerns are raised about the aesthetic-moral relationship, but also about sympathy freedom – intersectional beauty. So what happens when one person deprives another person of the freedom and inviolable right to be their own body?
Today’s age is characterized by gloom and human existence is getting darker and darker. Violence of every form that negates the human being has taken terrifying turns on a daily basis within all realms of reality where man leads his life. The Phenomena of school bullying, cyber bullying, verbal, physical and psychological violence that have body shaming as an extension, unfortunately, intensify and are observed even at very young ages.
Body shaming confines physicality, regardless of gender and age, in imposed stereotypical images from which the authentic experience of physical possibilities and the harmonious relationship between Being and Appearance are absent. The 21st century unfolds within the image/videosphere, which is why our era has been characterized as the “age of the image”. The rapid, in this case aggressive, development of technology has resulted in the imposition of new embodied images and standards of beauty.
The social media images that bombard the individual with beauty standards affect the opinion the individual has about their own body image, and by extension the relationship with their selfhood. Human must understand the uniqueness of his corporality by assuming the responsibility of affirming his lived body.
Boys and girls, especially the sensitive teenage years, but also adults, men and women, rush to conform to new fashion trends and beauty standards in order to garner positive feedback and be widely accepted. The tendency of man to adapt the image of his corporality to the dictates of fashion and the prevailing aesthetics bring to the surface the social ramifications of aesthetics. Man desires to be liked by others and to become an example to follow. After all, others are the mirror in which I am reflected, or maybe they are my hell, if we remember Sartre’s famous phrase in his work Behind Closed Doors. (My hell is others. “L’enfer, c’est les autres”, Huis clos, Behind closed doors, 1944) .
The person as a whole is his body. Unfortunately, however, today’s stereotypes of the Phenomena treat, according to Bӧhme, man as a species that is led and carried by fate. Today’s images of beauty make people anxious about their physical appearance, which leads them to cosmetic interventions. These challenges intensify man’s concern regarding his own lived body, making the issue of beauty standards and body image both aesthetic and moral.
In today’s era, people experience more than ever Sartre’s famous saying: “My hell is others“, and indeed in the most brutal way, that is bullying and body shaming. Body shaming, or being ashamed of your own body, is the act of insulting, harmful criticism and ridicule towards a person. Aristotle had approached the social implications of shame, defining shame as a kind of fear of someone, not to lose his good name. Of course, shame has corresponding physical consequences. This is also the case for a person who experiences body shaming, feeling shame about their body, fear of how others will treat their physicality, and ultimately guilt, feeling responsible for shaping their body.
Body shaming is consistent with socio-economic mutations and is one of the deviations of the historical a priori of the image, since as a condition it entails the tarnishing and stigmatization of the image of a leib, locking human existence in aesthetic norms, according to the standards of beauty of each era . Beauty standards change over the centuries. For example, the forms found in the images of the Renaissance period, compared to the very thin bodies and the prevalence of the corset, during the 19th century, which implies the dehydrated physical dimension, but sometimes also the emotional one.
The Being of the individual is individualized in the human body, in each of its special characteristics, in color, sex, muscle mass, height, weight, that is, in all the individual characteristics of the human body. Body shaming goes against all the above special physical characteristics that give the human being its uniqueness. The words: fat, thin, short, tall, black, white, bald, may linguistically be characterized as adjectives. But, within interpersonal relationships, they have turned, many times, into poison darts. Rudeness, indiscretion and lack of empathy make up the hell of otherness. The sincere kindness that springs from empathy is not limited to human multiplicity, but extends beyond it and expresses itself within sensibility as one of the manifestations of beauty. It is a life-enhancing intelligence because it highlights an uplifting relationship with the world that abolishes violence.
In the intercosmic reality, the universal beauty as such does not become visible, because it is individualized through each human physicality. Therefore, we cannot speak of objective beauty, but of intersubjective beauty, since this asymmetrical symmetry of human duality constitutes its psychosomatic uniqueness. Therefore, one’s weight or body type cannot be defined as a measure of beauty, nor can they become objective health criteria, since each person’s body has different psychosomatic needs.
In addition, the various physical changes may be due to reasons of illness. Even if someone has become ill, it is not due to their own choice. There are many people today who suffer from eating disorders, but these are due to hormonal disorders, side effects after years of medication, and of course psychological factors. Therefore, it is absurd to judge, let alone criticize, another for something he had no choice about.
Also, the difference between advice and body shaming should be pointed out, since body shaming is synonymous with mocking and stigmatizing someone. On the other hand, advice and encouragement to someone about changes in their external appearance should not be given unless requested by the person themselves and if the motives are not sincere. Also, the advice that involves the disposal of cold to a person in order to bring about a change in his physicality, which cannot be carried out immediately, is useless, because, either he needs medical intervention, or it is a congenital trait, therefore the factor is not raised of the option. Furthermore, exhortations, accompanied by a judgmental mood, are likely to be harmful, because the measure of human singularities is not defined objectively, but based on the psychosomatic needs of the individual being.
Aristotle in his work Nicomachean Ethics in order to make clear the concept of mediocrity brings as an example the amount of food. So, if for an athlete ten portions are a lot, while two are few, the coach will define the average, around six portions, which for a beginner athlete are enough, but for Milos, the super athlete of the time, few. Therefore, everyone looks for their own medium based on their own needs. Just as, then, mediocrity in relation to human beings cannot be calculated objectively, because each body has different needs, so beauty cannot be objectively defined and limited to rules, since each body is formed in a different way, as it uniquely appropriates and embodies the intracosmic hic et nunc. I am my body, means I am a certain being that inhabits my body at the moment that it also inhabits my Being, and which does not become absolute.
In addition, it is necessary to make clear the distinction between body shaming and humor. Already since ancient times, the boundaries between a comic element and harm or suffering have become distinct. Aristotle in his work On Poeticsemphasizes that the comic element does not involve pain, since the pain it distorts does not cause the comic impression. Therefore, it becomes clear that humor is not consistent with causing mental and physical pain to someone else.
Body shaming, as well as all forms of bullying, goes against the inviolable and fundamental right to self-determination. The independence of the individual, as Mill emphasized in his work “On Liberty“, is absolutely self-evident. Human is master of himself, his body and his mind. The individual posits himself as a psychosomatic whole within the world pursuing his own good in the way that befits his wholeness, as long as he does not deprive others of their own good or seek to hinder it. Everyone is the proper guardian of his own selfhood, as Mill points out, since he alone knows what is best for the preservation of his physical, mental, and mental health. Body shaming deprives the person experiencing it of the right to self-determination, preventing them from being free within the socio-political plurality, as they are forced to live according to the opinions of others.
These others, or my hell, as Sartre put it, that subject a person to this soul-destroying condition of body shaming, tend to tarnish someone else’s bodily selfhood by violently trying to impose a stigmatized body image on them. of. The abuser imposes his own gaze on the victim, trying to make him his subordinate. The harmonious visual encounter of the individual with the image of the human body implies the freedom of self-realization of bodily selfhood.
The human body is formed on the basis of the fundamental right to define the intracosmic gaze mitsein. The body itself defines and freely shapes the movements of its intersubjective gaze, both towards the other and towards itself. When one imposes one’s own evil-centered gaze on the Appearance of another’s corporeality, and indeed repeatedly, one attempts to impose one’s own terms and modalities of self- determination on the other. Consequently, the other begins to have an altered opinion of his own selfhood and deal with the image of his own body with guilt, since his gaze has been assimilated into the gaze of the abuser. Phrases such as: “It’s my fault that I’m like this, it’s my fault that I’m ugly“, demonstrate the rupture of the relationship of Being – Appearance, body – selfhood, with frequent consequences of guilt and the tendency to self-punish. Furthermore, it is possible that the person suffering from any of the forms of body shaming becomes aggressive towards others, trying to assert himself, projecting to them his own feeling of failure.
Body shaming as a form of intimidation stigmatizes the person, who from one point onward is overwhelmed by regrets and guilt for the fact that it is his body, or sometimes, he treats it as an adversary. There are not a few times that body shaming, but also any form of intimidation that prohibits a person from the self-evident and inviolable: To be his body, bring negative consequences to the physical and mental health of the person, who because of this discomfort and stress, is likely to develop psychosomatic symptoms or diseases, even autoimmune diseases, or mental disorders and diseases, such as melancholia, depression and other anxiety disorders.
The body of human existence is both an idea and a fact. This is exactly where its beauty lies. The human body makes itself available the moment it vitally communicates with the world. This vital communication of feeling with the world, as Maurice Merleau Ponty emphasized, makes the world present in every existence. The human being uniquely appropriates the world, but without owning it, since it is inexhaustible. This unrepeatable and inexhaustible relationship of the human body is the highest form of beauty.
The human individual constitutes a living body (Leib) that transforms existential force into energy through the modalities of extension of corporeality within spatiotemporal becoming. The living body is a body of empathy and proprioception composed of individual functional parts, which act autonomously as a whole. The beauty of the individual features lies in the fact that each one fulfills its purpose aiming at the harmonious functioning of the body as a whole. The individual members and characteristics are appropriated to the body, just as the body is appropriated to them. Even in cases of accident where a person loses a part of the body, that part is still governed by the vitality of the bodily inhabitant.
Individual physical features, which are often the subject of ridicule and body shaming, each serve their own purpose, even any disfigurement may serve a purpose and prove beneficial. A typical example is Aesop’s fable with the deer and the lion. The stag was proud of his tall antlers, but was displeased with his thin legs. One day, however, while he was being chased by a lion, these slender legs helped him in his strides, but his tall horns, of which he was proud, betrayed him, as he climbed the branches of a tree, and as a result he was unable to escape from the lion. It seems, then, the subjectivity of beauty, as well as the fact that weakness at first sight can ultimately prove to be a person’s greatest strength.
The phenomenon of body shaming becomes the cause of the reinstatement of Merleau Ponty’s well-known saying I am my body, this time in the form of a request like a cry of agony of the person struggling to defend the absolute right of self- determination. The person cries out Let me be my body, to be myself freely by extending my essence, my emotions and behaviors. Let me be my body means let me be who I am, as I become familiar with inner world becoming. Let me be my body, claim the fundamental right to life, regardless of weight, height, color, count, gender. Let me be my body, which deserves to love and be loved by radiating Co-being within the psychosomatic tension to others. Let me be my body, this body of beauty through which human existence resonates, this body that embraces the beauty of its vital drive to create and evolve, this body that can be compared to a work of art rather than physical class object.
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TRANSLATED INTO GREEK
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Αδαμαντία Αντωνοπούλου, Τι είναι το body shaming, στο psychology η πύλη της ψυχολογίας, ανακτήθηκε από: https://www.psychology.gr/diafora-themata-psychologias/6746-ti-einai-to-body-shaming.html