I think it is high time we address the elephant in the room. This will be neither nice nor pretty but I have felt like I need to get it off my chest for quite a while now. I would apologize in advance to anyone who may get offended by what I am going to say – after all it is an incredibly sensitive topic – but it wouldn’t be genuine. I am not sorry for what I am about to say. It is not being said enough. And with this in mind let us talk about skinny shaming.
You probably realize by now, and it comes with no surprise, but I am what is commonly referred to as a skinny bitch. Yeah, every time you listen to a Meghan Trainor or Nicky Minaj song, I am one of the girls that they enjoy taking down so much. I am reasonably tall (although luckily for me there are some limits to that), I weigh more or less six times as much as my cat and none of my dresses can actually be called midi. Oh, and I dare to be rather happy with my life, if any of the above wasn’t enough.
As like everyone else I live in a comfortable bubble (mine mostly consists of male software developers who always talk superheroes, politics or rugby, not much to do with the topic) it actually took me a while to realize this though. I have heard the term skinny bitch once or twice, I have lived my whole life with people criticizing me for my size over and over again, but somehow it passed me by, this whole Internet thing around it. But one day I created an Instagram account (you can check it out, it is mostly cute stuff) and I accidentally stumbled into one of the biggest shocks of my life.
I am not exaggerating. It still makes me furious when I think about it and I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to shake it off. You see, I was just checking out the hashtags of people I know (and where there is one skinny bitch, there is bound to be another, right?) and I stumbled across #skinny tag. Skinny. You know, you have skinny fries and skinny jeans and even skinny people, although I do prefer to call myself slim. The #skinny tag, however, had something that none of the tags that I had previously encountered before did– it had a trigger warning upon opening it.
A trigger warning. One that tells you how drastic the images you are about to see can be and how you should protect yourself from them. A BLOODY TRIGGER WARNING.
I am not only a skinny bitch but also a vindictive one, so I promise you I have tagged every single photo of mine as #skinny just because I could. And I would be the first to encourage anyone to do the same. Or at least check out the actual content of this hashtag – it is full of fat-free food, people in tight-fitting trousers, pics of girls (often not that skinny at all), a bit of occasional Instagram spam in the form of boobs, some ripped dudes from time to time too. Very triggering. Those things will ruin our kids, World, fitted jeans.
At this point I was going to tell you how #effyourbeautystandards does not have a trigger warning on it. It just doesn’t. I was going to talk to you about how I hate double standards and how much it infuriates me that it is perfectly fine for a person to tell me that I need to eat more but not fine for me to tell an overweight person that they should eat less. Which I wouldn’t, I’ll have you know, I think that is incredibly rude and additionally none of my business. But I changed my mind as I started writing – I realized that although double standards are a ridiculous thing that should be fought against at any price, this is neither the time nor the place for that particular battle.
Skinny shaming is neglected, ignored, ridiculed (a bit like that oldie but goodie: a white man cannot be racially discriminated against) primarily because of the double standards we apply. Yes, we live in a body positivity culture, wherein no one above a size 10 can be publically shamed for it. No one cares about sizes 4, 6 and 8. But the very heart of skinny shaming lies in a completely different problem.
First, there is just a complete lack of any awareness when it comes to a slim person’s feelings. If there are any fellow slimmies among you, please tell me, how often does it happen to you, someone telling you to just eat something? Or bluntly asking you if you have an eating disorder? There are many variations of these, like asking if the wind can blow you off the Earth or if your parents have been starving you. Those are, in most cases, meant as jokes – and I do understand that. But we have fought so long and hard to make people stop joking like this about other groups; and no one is ever going to fight for us. These are perfectly socially acceptable things to say. And they will be, if we carry on in the same direction. I bet you.
Can you imagine me walking down the street towards a complete stranger and asking them if they didn’t drink enough milk in childhood because they never grew tall? And yet people have the nerve to walk towards me and ask me if I could eat more.
They do. Strangers. It is INSANE.
I understand that people may worry about me. There is way more to worry about me than my weight, but I get it, maternal instincts and all that. Yet I struggle to understand why they’d think I would care. When my doctor sends me to check my Iron level over and over again although I have never been anaemic in my life – I get it, it is her job and I belong to a high risk group, being a woman on top of my low weight. But people I have never even met? Shop assistants? Old ladies on the bus? Passers-by?
Secondly, no one ever thinks about people who may actually struggle with eating disorders. I never have, thank you Universe, but I can imagine the pain that they are going through. These are some very serious issues and because you look anorexic insult is a part of the skinny shaming repertoire, they are simplified to a mere joke. How would you feel if your problems were someone else’s joke? Please don’t start telling me how other people may have it worse. I am sure some people do. But it doesn’t make this pain any smaller – and although I do not experience it personally, I have lots of empathy for those who suffer through eating disorders and the way that society uses their suffering to mock and shame and humiliate.
Besides, let us not forget about the fact that there will be people who just cannot gain weight because they lost it due to medical conditions. There is this myth that all slim people either threw up after every meal or live extremely healthy lives and this myth is very dangerous. Lots of us have our own problems. That is what happens when you put otherwise unrelated people into one bracket – you lose the details of who they really are. Because although my size definitely impacts my day-to-day life, it is NOT a defining factor on who I am.
Which brings me to my thirdly. My thirdly is the most controversial one, but also the one I believe in the most. No one wants to admit it, really, it is a very unpopular opinion. It goes against the mainstream right now; and don’t tell me anti-skinny is not mainstream in an age when France has legally banned magazine photos of people with a BMI below a certain level.
The reason skinny shaming grew so popular is the body positivity movement.
There is a dark side to every movement like that and it lies in the assumptions people tend to have that to feel confident and powerful one needs to hold power over somebody else. In other words – to feel good about ourselves we often try to put other people down. Embarrass them. Shame them. It makes us feel oh so good about ourselves. And that is exactly what a very vocal part of the body positivity movement is doing at the moment.
I try to draw my power from within me. I try to assess the things that I am good and bad at, and avoid comparisons. Finally, I try to avoid people who feed on other’s misery as much as I can, because their toxicity can only ruin and not build. That is who I am. That is the life I am trying to live. And that is why, if fate is kind or something, one day I will feel proud enough to call myself a strong and confident woman.
Yet instead of focusing on positivity and on self-improvement and on self-love, what a lot of people try to achieve is quite the opposite. How does Only dogs like bones make one more confident in oneself? Calling people sickly sticks, how does that make one believe in oneself? Fucking skinny bitches, where is the power in that? Even my boyfriend gets his share, being called a paedophile for having a slim girlfriend, seriously, HOW CAN ONE CALL THAT EMPOWERING?
I am ALL for people feeling confident in their own skin. I really am. I just want these people to understand that as much as I want them to feel good, I want to feel good about myself too. I am not their scape goat. I am not there to be blamed for the misfortunes of their lives. I have never actively done anything to oppress or offend or make them feel bad. I just EXIST.
So no, when you say Real women have curves, you are not empowering. You are being a shitty person.
Creating skinny-free zones full of trigger warnings damage a great deal of people. Why does no one care about them? I always considered myself to be extremely thick skinned; but I cannot resist the constant stream of people telling me that I should feel guilty for looking the way I look. I don’t want to feel guilty. I don’t want to look at myself in the mirror and despise it. I want to love myself as much as anyone else does.
Please, world, just stop. Skinny shaming is wrong and it is not the solution to your self-acceptance problem. You complain about people being ruined by others’ opinions and then go on ruining people who you find to be a suitable replacement. It is just not fair.
Not fair and so painful, it sometimes makes getting out of bed unbelievably hard.
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