I’ve been reading a lot of blogs and articles lately about “skinny shaming,” and while I may be late to this debate, I felt like I can’t keep quiet about it. People have been pointing to things like Meghan Traynor’s hit song All About That Bass (which I personally love) which celebrates curvy women and thus by default must insult skinny women. Other news items like Urban Outfitters pulling a lingerie ad because the model has a thigh gap has people saying that it’s akin to shaming the skinny model, and others like her, for her thin form.

However, all these blogs and articles have something in common. Skinny girls write about how bad and prevalent skinny shaming is, and non-skinny girls (or at some point in their lives non-skinny) talk about how it’s not the same. To me, it sounds like a lot of whining. People in one group think that they’re being discriminated against, while people in the other group think that THEY’RE being discriminated against more. I’m here to say that I am skinny, I have a thigh gap, I wear a size 2, I’m 5’8 and 130 lbs, and skinny shaming isn’t real.

I certainly don’t mean to say that because I’m skinny, my view is somehow more valid. But it’s easy to advocate for your own group, and harder to advocate for others. It’s not news to say that this country (and most of the world) idolizes thin women as the ideal for beauty. This wasn’t always the case, but in recent decades it is. Eating disorders are still prevalent due to these unrealistic expectations that are upheld for women. Famous actresses area almost always skinny, and even bigger women like Melissa McCarthy play the role of the funny fat friend, not the beauty queen lead. Weight discrimination is a very real thing, with heavier job candidates being overlooked more frequently and heavier employees being paid less on average. It’s no secret that we still very much value skinny and shame fat.

Which isn’t to say that skinny girls go through life completely judgement-free. Up until a few years ago, I weighed 10 lbs less than I do now. That’s pretty skinny. I have never had an eating disorder, but everyone thought that I did. People I just met would ask me at parties, “Are you anorexic?” or “You’re so skinny, you must be anorexic!” If I had been, it would be a highly personal problem that I dealt with, not something that I’d feel totally fine talking about with strangers at parties like it’s no big thing. It was also insulting that people would assume I HAD to have an eating disorder in order to be that thin, as if my genes, high metabolism, and healthy lifestyle weren’t enough.

Once I entered the work force, it didn’t get any better. Women in the bathroom would randomly comment, “Oh my gosh, you’re so skinny!” Thanks, and you’re not, and the sky is blue, and today is Monday. Any other obvious facts we’d like to point out? I would never talk about another woman’s body size or shape in a negative way, so I thought it equally rude for them to make comments about mine. A common comment I also got was, “Oh, well just wait until you hit 25, that’s when it all goes downhill.” It was said in a tone of, “I hope you blow up like a whale in a few years, then I won’t feel so bad.” And yes, my body did start to change around that time, but it didn’t go “downhill” like they had hoped. To wish ill health upon anyone just seems cruel.

I’ve also had lots of people my whole life tell me I need to eat more, that I need to gain weight, and that when my desk was moved closer to the company cafe, “I bet you’ll gain weight being so close to those delicious smells!” But it didn’t make me feel shamed, or feel like there was something wrong with my body type. It just made me realize that there were a lot of rude idiots in the world. It almost made me sad, too, because these women were making these comments to feel better about themselves, not just because they were malicious and trying to shame me. Given all the messages that they’ve been inundated with since birth about how thin is beautiful, they wanted someone like me to gain weight to prove that it wasn’t just them, that even skinny doesn’t last forever, that most women have these struggles and it’s totally fine. They wanted to think that I was an anomaly. They just wanted to feel normal. They’re not trying to shame me into becoming a different body shape because they think there’s something wrong with me. They say these things because THEY want to feel validated. It’s still no excuse to be rude, but it’s inherently different from someone insulting a heavy woman for her size.

Dove-Real-Beauty-Campaign

Dove’s Real Beauty campaign poster, featuring women of many different shapes and sizes.

It’s great that there have been a number of campaigns in recent years which try and reverse this trend, such a the Dove campaign about Real Beauty. There’s also the slogan Real Women Have Curves which has become immensely popular. Most of the “skinny shaming” articles say things like, “If real women have curves, am I not a real woman?” “If this is Dove’s idea of real beauty, am I not beautiful?” And every time I hear that all I want to do is scream OH MY GOD THIS ISN’T ABOUT YOU! Just because someone’s advocating for one group doesn’t automatically mean that they’re discriminating against the other. That’s not how things work. As others have pointed out, it’s similar to the All Lives Matter that has come about in response to Black Lives Matter. It’s the same reason why people say they’re not feminists, they’re humanists. They say we’re all equal, and should all be treated with equality, which is nice to aspire to but not the reality of the world. As many before me have pointed out, we can’t ignore the specific struggles that certain underprivileged groups experience because of their status in that group. Because then we ignore all the struggles that women have had to overcome throughout history and ignore that sexism ever existed, or racism, or elitism, or weight discrimination. Reverse discrimination just isn’t a thing.

When I hear “Real women have curves,” the first thing I think is “Gee, that’s great that there’s finally a campaign treating other body types as beautiful, not just us skinny girls.” I don’t think it’s a slight on me and my size, I don’t think anyone’s insulting me, and I definitely don’t want to play the victim. I realize that I’m a minority, that most women don’t look like me. I realize that if you’re healthy, your size and shape can still greatly vary in any number of ways. Yes, it’s sad to see people who are overweight and have diabetes and heart problems as a result, and we absolutely should advocate for campaigns that educate people on how to be healthy. But guess what? I’m at an increased risk for heart disease due to my genes. Weight has nothing to do with it for me.

Given all of the ill effects that fat shaming has on women, I can’t for a second think that skinny shaming is remotely close to being as wrong. At the end of the day, I can still watch any movie, see any commercial, open any magazine, and see women who look like me and feel validated that my body shape is the one that this country strives for. That is the key difference between actual discrimination and just whining.

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