It’s easy enough to understand why we’re obsessed with bodies. I mean, we walk around in these flesh suits of ours every single day. We dress it, lather it up with soap, wish it looked like someone else’s… our relationship with our bodies is intimate, often secretive, and sometimes public, but either way it is hard to not have a fixation on our bodies. Or someone else’s. Cue body shaming.
When we zero our attention in on someone else’s body, it’s hard to do so without some sort of critique. It can be a critique on them, on ourselves, or both. This is dangerous territory, especially for combative people who can’t keep their mouths shut.
Yeah, I’m talking about body shamers, the people who spend their free time criticizing somebody else’s lovely little flesh sack. She’s too fat, she’s too thin, she’s got love handles, she’s got a visible rib cage, she needs to go on a diet, she needs to eat an effing burger…it goes on and on. It’s important to note that sometimes these attacks are unintentionally offensive, but that doesn’t make the pain of having your body at the center of inspection any less violating and hurtful.
Any body type is susceptible to these attacks–but it’s time to get real: Fat people receive the brunt of body shaming, period.
I know that a skinny girl reading this is already pissed off. I’m not erasing the fact that skinny girls get crap thrown at them too. Skinny girls are told to eat more, they’re accused of harboring eating disorders, and they’re the center of mockery in songs asserting that their lack of meat and curves will leave men unsatisfied (sup, Meghan Trainor?). It’s not like skinny girls have hearts of stone that can never feel the sting of a personal jibe. Nobody wants anyone to talk shit about their body, skinny girls included, and hurt feelings suck and can leave a lot of damage.
But fat girls have it worse.
It’s time to stop doing mental gymnastics to attempt to equate the plight of fat girls and the plight of skinny girls. It’s disingenuous to be against body shaming in general and pretend that people respond to skinny bodies with the same vitriol as they do fat ones. Think about it: If the worst of your experiences with being naturally skinny are being told to eat a sandwich or getting called a skinny bitch, then you’re probably relieved that you don’t encounter some of the violence and anger that fat girls receive.
The reason why shaming fat girls is worse than skinny girls is because we live in a society that already shames the hell out of fatness. We’re raised to associate fatness with laziness, a lack of hygiene, and stupidity. We’re supposed to find fat people jokes funny. We’re led to believe that people can only be naturally skinny but not naturally fat. We’re made to believe that fat people cannot possibly eat healthy or exercise, or else they wouldn’t be fat. We imagine all the health problems they’ll have, and we even have to audacity to think that it’s our prerogative to let fat people know that they might get a heart attack and die, despite the fact that skinny people with poor diets and bad health or die every day. We’re not doctors, but we think it’s okay to let someone know via anonymous Tumblr message that they should stop being so unhealthy. We see no problem in being paternalistic aholes, hopping onto Instagram, and letting a fat positive style blogger know that her fatness–her body–comes with a dangerous message.
Even us at Gurl have been accused by our own readers of being bad role models for highlighting plus size clothes and giving body positive advice to plus size girls. As if it was wrong of us to dare to acknowledge the fact that plus size teen girls exist, or dare to exist.
I can’t help but think of this poignant scene from the show My Mad Fat Diary which illustrates that angst all too well:
Those are just a few examples. Should I go on? Okay, we also live in a society in which overweight girls have a hard time finding clothes that fit their bodies. Plus size models are still a rare commodity. People have extensive lists of what fat people shouldn’t be allowed to wear, and try think it’s cool to post such lists on the Internet. Someone overweight can’t enjoy chocolate without being worried that somebody is judging them for not eating s celery stick instead.
Somebody thought it was okay to create an Instagram account called Project Harpoon, in which fat people are photoshopped to look skinnier. After a ton of backlash, the creators deleted the photos, but as someone who took a peek before their deletion, I wish I was surprised by the amount of ridicule and anger hurled toward the pre-photoshopped bodies. Sure, there were people talking about how horrible this project was, but there were plenty of people defending it, too.
I’m a little overweight, I have big thighs. Someone decided to comment on some photos of myself in a bathing suit on Tumblr and say that my thighs were disgusting. The thing that gets me the most about that is that, by our culture’s assessment, she was just spitting facts, not a rude opinion. Because of course hating on legs that have some fat on them and aren’t skinny and toned is fair game. That’s a big reason why skinny shaming will never reach the vitriol as fat shaming.
Our society values skinny bodies, and it lets us know every single day with the images we see in media and other forms of pop culture. From commercials on your TV, to billboards along the road, to the slim girls on Instagram who get thousands of likes for taking a mirror selfie in a pleated skirt and crop top, the idea that skinny is right and beautiful and fat is gross and wrong is everywhere. So when somebody goes out of their way to insult a skinny person’s body, it’s seen as a fringe belief.
It’s weird to think a thin body is unappealing. It’s totally understandable to think that a fat body is.
Gone are the days when having a rounded belly was beautiful, even envied. Despite the popularity of fat acceptance and increased visibility of plus size representation in spaces like fashion, entertainment, etc, thinness is still seen as the unquestionable ideal. It reigns supreme. Even in communities where curves are more heavily appreciated, you better have a skinny waist at the very least!
We need to be a little more realistic in the way that we approach body shaming. Reality check: It’s a privilege to be naturally skinny. The argument that body shaming works with the same level of hate “both ways”–the two way street argument–is like a rich girl getting mad about being the subject of a rich girl joke, or a white person feeling oppressed by a “LOL white people” joke. Sure, people can be jerks, but making fun of somebody for being poor is always going to be worse because our society craps on poor people. Making a joke about a non-white person is always going to be worse because our society sees whiteness as default and values it above all other races. And making fun of somebody for being fat is always going to be worse than making fun of somebody for being skinny, because our society sees skinniness as an ideal.
I still think that we need to combat body shaming on all fronts. Whether that means looking critically at song lyrics that imply being skinny makes you an unappealing partner in the sack or calling out your friends if they’re making fun of somebody for being overweight. But we cannot pretend that fatness isn’t the primary target of body shaming. When people derail conversations about how awful people treat fat people by mentioning that skinny people get shamed too, it pushes the focus off of body shaming’s main victim. If a skinny person can’t talk about body shaming without having to make their life as a skinny girl at the center of the discourse, that’s a problem.
Everyone should be opposed to body shaming, but nothing is going to change if we keep ignoring reality. Let’s do better.
Do you think that the two can be compared? Have you experienced skinny shaming or fat shaming? Tell us in the comments!