This one has been on my mind a lot lately. As a person that publicly promotes body positivity, I often get asked… “Can you skinny shame?”
In my opinion, yes. Yes, you absolutely can. And to be honest, two or three years ago I would have said something very different.
As Facebook feels the need to show me “memories” from the past (please stop), I’m reminded of many unpleasant things. I’m reminded of how bad my use of punctuation was, some of my humour, and even some of my beliefs. Most recently, one of the reminders was the whole “real women have curves” meme. As I looked over at my precious Hannah, long and slender, I felt immediate shame on behalf of my old self.
I often feel like I am teetering the line of being a “chubby” and “not chubby” person. By no means am I thin, and in some contexts, I may not even be average. I have fat deposits, a soft stomach and a broad frame… and I’m just not little. Thinking back to it, I shared the post because I finally saw something that validated my body as it was. After a lifetime of media and public opinion contributing to my shame, I finally felt empowered and represented. I was allowed to love my curvy body. But at what cost? At the cost of shaming someone else’s body?
“Real women… eat a cheeseburger… get on a treadmill” … It’s all the same thing.
To be honest, I have heard more commentary on my (thin) partners’ body than I have my own. She is stared at in public when she eats, she is greeted by people about how skinny she is, and she (like many) feel unable to vocally promote “body positivity” because of her thin frame. And why is that?
Why is it that if someone calls me fat it’s socially unacceptable, but in the same breath can tell a thin girl to eat a cheeseburger?
Why do my self-love posts have more weight (pun intended) than hers?
“Real women have curves/eat a cheeseburger” is the same as “get on a treadmill”. Which is the same idea as attaching sexual orientation to hair length, or gender to body parts, or any concept onto any physical attribute. The point is, this kind of verbiage inadvertently sends the message that you’re worth and experiences are only as good as your body parts. That you are your body, and that your (very real) emotions aren’t valid.
The pendulum swings
I believe it was Mark Twain that said something along the lines of, “whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to reform (or pause and reflect).” Historically (unlike racism, or sexism), privileging of certain body types varied. During times of Famish, to be “thicker” implied wealth. Whereas in the early 90’s, “heroin-chic” became the coveted thing. Fads have always changed. That’s kind of the point. I think it’s our way of anchoring our self-worth throughout these changes that we ought to address.
I find when people become aware of an error on their part, they often feel so much shame that they go running in the opposite direction with their new opinions. They feel so much guilt and shame that they go out of their way to be “extra aware”. We then adopt the notion that to “give privilege” we need to take it away from someone else. To empower one, we must shame the other.
But what we often forget is, oppressing one group to uplift another will never – and I mean never – create sustainable empowerment. Taking from one to give to another will only ever lead to a continuous pattern of imbalance. And how long until the pendulum shifts again?
Attack the societal belief, not the person.
I think it’s important that just because societal structures are designed to endorse some people and not others that it doesn’t mean that we should forget the human component. I think we should remember that people of privilege (and in this context, thin people) still feel. And often, these feelings are similar to our own.
Many of my thin friends feel just as insecure about their bodies as anyone else. They struggle to find pants their size, they are dismissed as body-positive representatives and are often made to feel as if their beauty is contingent on their body… just like, anyone else. To tell a person that their feelings are invalid (for any reason) only serves to take the same pain you feel and project it onto another. Why not let the pain end with you? Why not do something magical by empowering everyone to love the skin they’re in?
In a world that is designed to pit women against each other, people against each other, it’s important to buy into those hopeful notions of empowering one another. At the end of the day, we’re all people, and we’re here for a short time. We’re all trying to make ourselves as comfortable as possible, and get as much out of this life as we can. Why not help someone along that journey a little faster by sharing your light?
In short, as a not skinny person, there is such a thing as skinny shaming. And really, it’s not necessary. There is no shame in loving the body you are in. And there certainly is no shame in the thin, fat, short, tall, red, blue person beside you loving theirs either.
Thin is beautiful.
Curves are beautiful.
Self-acceptance and love are beautiful.
All of my love,