I’ve never been skinny – and this is just a fact of my life that I’ve come to accept. I guess there have been times in my past where I was “small” or what some people would consider “skinny,” but I’ve never had a flat stomach, or small legs, or a petite figure. So I’ve never really come face-to-face with “skinny shaming.” Skinny shaming is still important – it’s just as important as fat shaming – and I wanted to talk a bit about it today, and include quotes from real-life people who have experienced real-life skinny shame.
“I like my body the way it is but being compared to a ‘twig’ by someone I care about just hurt. Especially since I knew they were talking about me behind my back. You’re calling me a puny dead fragment of a tree while you compare yourself to Queen Latifah, a gorgeous human being. Are skinny people not human too? Am I not worth more than my physical characteristics? Call me smart, kind, ambitious. But please don’t call me a twig.”
I didn’t really realize how bad skinny shaming was until this summer at a family cookout. It was a relatively large party for my dad’s small house and there was a collection of both family and friends. I had just a few friends with me and after most of them had left, my friend Hannah stayed back. She and I were headed somewhere after the cookout so we said our goodbyes fairly early. It was when she went to go hug one of my older family members when she was told that she was too skinny. I don’t remember the exact words, but I remember the way I had felt: how could they say this to Hannah? How could they tell her she looked unhealthy, too skinny?
I felt my blood begin to boil under my skin. The heat in my body began to rise. I’d been on edge that entire evening, and that nearly sent me off the cliff.
Immediately after, I apologized to Hannah but her reaction was kind of surprising to me: “Oh no, it’s okay. I get it all the time.”
I guess this makes sense. Hannah has always been skinny (I’m actually incredibly envious of her body). To me, she has the picture-perfect model body: the perfect height, size, looks. And she’s been like this basically her whole life (well, since I’ve known her – and from the pictures I’ve seen from her childhood). She isn’t unhealthily skinny, and she does a lot to maintain a healthy lifestyle, but she’s always been told she’s “too” skinny.
“Basically you’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t.”
I find this funny because I come from a similar, yet different background. Since I was about eight or nine, I remember the women in my life telling me that I needed to “lose weight” (literally those words exactly). I was told that I was “bigger” than most girls or that I had “big thighs.” These struggles really played into my pre-teen and teen years when I discovered that finding clothes to fit me was quite the challenge.
But here’s the difference from what I’ve experienced and what Hannah’s experienced: the women (and, yes, they were all women) talking to me about my body and weight were always women in my family, women I was close to – it was always discussed in private. I’ve never publicly been told that I look unhealthy because of my weight.
So why do we find it socially acceptable to publicly shame women’s bodies for being skinny while we privately shame women for being fat?
“Obviously skinny-shaming is not as prominent an issue in our society as fat-shaming is, but I believe it is still something to be considered.”
Why is it that my family member, who had met Hannah maybe a total of two times before, felt it necessary to tell her that she was looking “too skinny” as part of their goodbyes? Since when was this a compliment, or anything complimentary at all? Since when was this not degrading?
Skinny shaming is the same as fat shaming – but is it worse?
“I honestly thought there was something wrong with me because I was so skinny.”
All shaming is bad in my opinion. Shaming someone for how they look, how large (or small) they are, what their voice sounds like, who they choose to love, how they were brought up – shaming someone for anything is wrong, no mater the circumstance.
But the thing with skinny shaming is the fact that it’s swept under the rug. We’re all about embracing women’s bodies, but suddenly we only want to embrace the curvy bodies. I get it – for the past century, skinny has been accepted as the “only” beautiful. I get why we want to embrace curvy bodies with a special emphasis – but this doesn’t mean that we need to degrade people for being smaller than others.
“After I worked my rear end off and lost my weight, I got skinny shamed ALL the time. Like, ‘why did you lose weight, you looked so much better with some meat on your bones.’ And oh, ‘your ass looked better when you were bigger.’ I could go on for DAYS.”
And a lot of people don’t even realize that they are doing it. Skinny shaming, for a lot of people, is just a side-thought. The comment of “oh you’re really skinny” is considered complimentary, without regards to the person it’s being given to. But, if you think in reverse, we would never say, “oh you’re really big.”
All in all, we just need to stop shaming people for their bodies. We need to work to embrace all body types, and learn that calling someone skinny isn’t always a compliment.
“I think that people skinny shame without even knowing it. Yes I would love to have a body like Marilyn Monroe but I’m an Audrey Hepburn and that’s how it’s going to be.”
Photo courtesy of: Ruby Addiline