Skinny Shaming Sucks, But Fat Shaming Will Always Be Worse

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.

My Mad Fat Diary

My Mad Fat Diary

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.

Projet Harpoon

Projet Harpoon

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!

You can follow the author, Ashley Reese, on Twitter or Instagram. Don’t worry, she doesn’t bite!


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  • James

    This isn’t the first article I’ve seen along this thread and I hope you don’t take this as insulting because it’s really not meant to be, but as a “skinny” person I am getting seriously sick of “fat” people telling me that the problems I face in regards to my weight are negligible.

    A bit of history: I am male, 29 years old and have always struggled with my weight (or lack thereof). When I was 19 I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma – cancer of the lymph glands – a side effect of which obviously being I lost a lot of weight. For me this was a major problem because I’ve never had a lot of weight to begin with and I seem unable to gain weight to any successful degree (something I suggest nobody even try suggesting to me is somehow a positive thing unless they want an earful).

    Since my treatment ended I seemed to have settled at a weight just under 8 stone.

    Now, for the record, never once has anyone come up to me to rave over how wonderfully thin I am in this world of ours that so values thin people. I’ve been called more things than I care to remember, I’ve been told I look ill, dead, anorexic (including a very lovely hour long session with a GP who wouldn’t believe me when I told him I was not living under the impression that I was morbidly obese and starving myself as a consequence). You want to talk about finding clothes to fit a size? Male clothing sizes tend to run from a size XS (if you’re lucky) to a size 5XL – I see that more as catering to obesity than giving privilege thin people personally. It’s perfectly legitimate to have a plus size clothing shop, excluding people who aren’t overweight, I invite you to imagine the warcry if it were the opposite way around.

    And herein lies the kicker for me; I sympathise completely with overweight people. I know some people find it easy but I genuinely seem to have no control over my weight at all and it’s a terrible feeling. I understand that the majority of the human race are assholes and a lot of them will go out of their way to tear an overweight person down and I find it disgusting.

    However, this is about the seventh article along the lines of “skinny shaming isn’t the same as fat shaming” article I’ve come across in the past couple of months and, as much as they all seem to start out with the “I disagree with body shaming full stop” disclaimer you seem more than ready to bulldoze ahead with your own one-sided opinions and care not that you’re basically making people who do struggle being thin feel as crap as you do when someone rips you for being larger. You make a lot of good points and you put across well the way fat-shaming can make a person feel but honey, as someone who’s been shamed for being skinny let me tell you you didn’t capture it in the slightest. I suppose so goes the old saying “The grass is always greener on the other side.”

    So while I don’t particularly blame you or people like you for the way you brush off what I’m going through in your certainty that what you’re going through is so much worse, I would point out that from one body-shamed to another I would never write an article attacking you for your weight because I know what it feels like to be in that position and I sympathise completely.

    And honestly, I find the “privilege” thing horendously insulting. Tell you what hon, I’ll trade you your big thighs for the bruises I have permanently down my back where my spine sticks out and we’ll see who feels privileged at the end.

  • watcher

    Fat shaming is much worse, those who deny it are delusional or lying to themselves. The prettiest, top paid, and most demanded women are always thin. Top models and the universally most attractive girls are thin. They literally force fat chicks to dress like grandmas if they can find clothes to fit. EVERY female is on a never ending on a diet for what? TO NOT GET FAT or LOSE WEIGHT. Media shoves weight loss ads at you 24/7 and the weight loss industry, IS THE TOP INDUSTRY in $$$ so you know fat girls have it worse…This is like insulting a white for being white vs insulting a black for being black in a society that is Euro-centric and caters to whites…the one with the stigma is always going to be effected more. To those who talk about hurting skinny chicks with EDs, Why do you think they are hurt, BECAUSE THEY DON’T WANT TO BE FAT duh. Noone wants to be fat, but many want to lose weight and be thin. And thick/curvy is not the same as fat..actually even normal and skinny girls want to lose weight or not be fat if they are told to gain some weight

  • Da Troof

    Yes because you should be ashamed to be fat, so of course it’s worse.

  • Army Officer (Ret)

    Where’s the “body positivity” for short men? If you’re a Body Positive” fat girl and your dating profile has a minimum height requirement, you’re NOT body positive, but you ARE a hypocrite. Short men have it FAR worse than fat women, because fat women can control their diet, whereas short men cannot do anything about their height. And yes, short men face all the same types of discrimination as fat women, including less pay and fewer work promotions, as well as open mockery (including by “body positive” fat women). And no, I’m not especially short myself.

    • watcher

      Perhaps men shouldn’t have deemed “tall women” as unwanted…since males are supposed to be defenders, height is pretty relevant in masculinity…

      • Army Officer (Ret)

        When did that happen? Oh, right. It didn’t. When I was single I dated two women who were taller than me.

        Anyway, what does height have to do with masculinity? I’ll tell you: nothing at all.

  • Snargle

    Being skinny is nothing to be ashamed of. Being fat is. And butter golems know this, which is why they react the way they do. As Eleanor Roosevelt said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your permission.” If fatties didn’t instinctively hate themselves for their laziness and gluttony, they wouldn’t have any problem with other people pointing it out.

  • Abbie H

    My mom just had a stroke. HAES almost killed her.

  • Nevaeh

    This is a really bad article. Instead of whining about how skinny girls don’t have it “as bad” to you, you should have just talked about how people have it bad in general. It’s people like you who think that they’re helping a situation, but are only making it worse for others.

  • Jenna

    I understood where you were coming from. Even though any type of shaming is bad, it is kinda worse for fat people. I’ve been underweight and overweight and I got a lot more crap when I was overweight. While I was underweight, I got a lot more compliments and the skinny shaming was few and far between. Because if you’re fat, you’re thought of as a lazy, out of control foodaholic. You can be attractive, but a skinnier person will be seen as even more attractive. Society puts thin people on a pedestal, so you can shame a skinny person all you want, but there will be a mentality of ‘well at least I’m not fat.’

  • Bethany

    Personally I don’t think they can be compared, just because you may experience fat shaming means that it’s worse? Bollocks.. no matter what kind of shaming it is it still hurts.

  • To be fair, I don’t really feel comfortable using the words “fat” and “skinny” but did in this case because the author of the article did.

    I think this article would have been better off with a thesis on how body shaming is not good, period. By attacking “skinny” girls in this article (it really reads that way) you are shaming them for their feelings and giving a big “fuck you, you’re not as affected as I am” to half of the community trying to help change this situation.

    Shaming fat girls is NOT worse than shaming skinny girls. Shaming ANY girl about their body – sucks! Body shaming, the act, is the problem, regardless of who that shaming is pointed at. Because when a fat girl gets body shamed, some skinny girl seeing it happen loses something too. And what about skinny girls with body dismorphia who see themselves as fat girls. An offhand comment about their weight can derail months of positive progress.

    It’s all bad – it’s all inappropriate – and it all affects us all.

    • Lady Carissa Capella

      I just want to hug you right now, girl. That’s so true!

      A wise person (can’t remember who, sorry!) once said that you can’t compare a person’s suffering to that of another, and this is much the same way. I’m sorry if this is coming across as shallow-minded (as I only experience “skinny” shaming), but I just can’t see how anyone could compare what big-boned girls face to what the opposite sized girl face. It’s just that body shaming overall should stop, PERIOD.

  • alexis

    This article is so wrong and biased. Yes, we live in a society where skinny bodies are admired. Wait, let me correct that. We live in a society where skinny bodies are “admired”. If you hadn’t noticed, based on CULTURE, certain body types will be admired. Like myself, I’m African American and naturally skinny. The two do NOT MATCH. In my culture, curvy, thick and bigger bodies are seen as beautiful. Not skinny, including naturally skinny. No one even believes you can be naturally skinny, and even when TOLD, they state otherwise. I’m not sure if this is a rant, but no, “fat” girls are not ridiculed more than skinny girls. Look back in history. What was preferred? Curvy girls. Voluptuous girls. Not skinny girls. For you to even say if someone’s worst experience being naturally skinny is being told to eat a sandwich or being called a skinny bitch isn’t that bad is cruel. Skinny girls get victimized just as much. They are equal. Many people in the REAL WORLD know that very few people actually look up to models. Very few people look up to skinny women. You can’t even speak out for skinny women, because as you said, you’re not skinny. There’s a LOT more to it. And for you to even call any woman “fat” is sad. You should’ve just stuck to plus sized. Now, I don’t know exactly what plus sized women go through, but they’re not getting criticised no less/more than skinny women. Take a clear look at many teenagers and grown women. They will all tell you what they wish for. Big butts and boobs. I’ve seen many guys go for a girl with a big waist and diss many skinny girls. Even in music videos, bigger women are wanted. The guys hate them and the girls shame them. Nicki minaj said,” F*ck them skinny bitches.” Mind you, she was very skinny before her plastic surgery. Obviously, she felt insecure like many of us skinny women do because everyone tries to downplay when a skinny girl gets body shamed. Nobody wants to look like a “12 year old boy”. You’ll be surprised if you actually looked in the real world. As far as I’ve been told, not even the models are as skinny as they’re presented. Also, they’re put on diets. I don’t want to come off as a bitch, but you can’t say,”fat shaming will always be worse”. You don’t know what every plus sized or skinny girl go through. I suffer from many mental illnesses BECAUSE of this type of thing, and these types of articles. Stop trying to say plus sized women have it worst, because everyone has a different story. And you’ll be surprised about how many messed up stuff happen to skinny girls as well. Thank you.

    • Ashley Reese

      There’s a difference between yearning for big butts and big boobs and yearning to be overweight or plus size. I’m not erasing your experience with negative commentary for being skinny, but to say that skinniness is shamed the same as fatness is just disingenuous.

      And as somebody who is also black, I understand how curves are admired in our community. That doesn’t mean that fat shaming isn’t rampant in our community either, because it is.