Skinny Girl Shame
Posted by Madeline Loshaw
I’ve always been naturally thin, thanks to some combination of “good” genetics and a fast metabolism. However, have decided that my body type is both unhealthy and unattractive, and that I’m not a real woman because I don’t have curves.
As a child and preteen, I hated the look of my “chicken legs” because none of my friends looked like they were walking around on toothpicks. I tried to eat more in an effort to gain weight, but to no avail.
Enter my teenage years and girls were always telling me how jealous they were of my thinness. They wanted to know my diet (um… I don’t know? Whatever my parents buy at Kroger?) and exercise routine (as if) so they could have the same body as me. I was told ”you should be a model since your so skinny”. I constantly saw my body type portrayed as beautiful in the media and it made me feel good about the way I looked. I had the body envied by all—and I didn’t even have to try! (Read as sarcasm.)
However, it eventually got tiresome to answer questions like “Are you anorexic?” and “Why are you so skinny?” (Oh my God, Karen, you can’t just ask people why there’s so skinny.)
I began dreading lunchtime in the cafeteria; when I would hear subtle suggestions like “Eat a cheeseburger!” I would try to combat comments like this by packing a huge lunch, which only backfired because I would then hear comments like “Where are you gonna put all that?” and “Are you just gonna throw that up later?” I began to feel bad about my body, and made an effort to wear baggy clothes, as to not accentuate the outline of my physique.
In addition, my self-esteem suffered from the opinions of boys. I remember hearing from friends that so-and-so would never date me because he “didn’t want to break me” or because I didn’t have anything to “grab on to.”
As I entered my college years, I began to accept and feel more comfortable with my body—it was mine and it wasn’t going anywhere. Now, in my final semester of college, my figure has filled out and now includes a bubble butt and, for the first time ever, a small amount of boobage. (Courtesy of keggers and late night T-Bell, I suppose.) Technically, my BMI is still in the “underweight” range, but when I look in the mirror, I see an everyday woman.
I tried to find a definition of “skinny shaming” via Google search, but all I came across were definitions for “fat shaming.” Therefore, I will attempt to define the concept in my own words:
(verb) Skinny shaming is the act of making fun of thin people merely for being thin. It can include snide comments such as “Eat a doughnut!” (this is one of my mom’s favorites) and “You look like you’re going to break in half!” The harsh criticism usually occurs between women, and is sometimes conducted under the guise of helping another woman to not have an eating disorder. Contrary to fat shaming, skinny shaming is generally not considered offensive.
There are myriad articles on skinny shaming all over the web. Many equate skinny shaming with fat shaming, and seek to end both phenomena. However, blogger Mackenzie Newcomb’s article “Why There Are Worse Things In The World Than ‘Skinny Shaming,’“ suggests that women who are skinny shamed should feel good about it; they are the lucky ones. Below are some of the quotes I find most appalling from her article:
“You say you want ‘curves,’ but you probably just want to look like a retouched Victoria’s Secret Angel.”
“Let’s be clear — you were blessed and you have what the majority strives to attain. People starve themselves to look like you. People spend hours at the gym trying to look like you. People give up chocolate to look like you. Every person is self-conscious, but most of us are self-conscious because we DON’T look like you.”
“The last thing a curvy girl wants to hear from a skinny girl is that she doesn’t diet or work out. Let me think that I have all the pizza in the world and you have all the kale — that is what I need to believe. I need to have that on you — that I actually eat. ‘I can eat whatever I want and not get fat!’ ‘I actually eat A LOT!’ ‘I hate the gym, I never work out!’ *STOP* I don’t care if you’ve gained 10 pounds in the past month — if your friend couldn’t fit into your jeans, don’t you dare bring it up.”
“Any girl with thighs that overlap would LOVE to hear she has ‘chicken legs.’ I know you don’t like it — I understand that it offends you. But realize that what is an insult to you would make someone else’s day.”
“Thank God every day that you’ll never know what Spanx feel like and that cropped tops are your thing. I work out to look more like you; you eat the extra cupcake because you know you’ll never look like me.”
I agree with commenter Siobhan O’Rourke that “This article is extremely problematic.” Let’s start with the first thing that irked me—the title. Sure, I’ll admit that there are many things worse than skinny shaming (e.g., AIDs, cancer, starvation, war). However, that absolutely does not make skinny shaming okay.
(I’ll admit that the title bothers me at a personal level too—I used to have a boyfriend (shocker) who, when I would complain about anything, would tell me “there are worse things.” I remember one time I was upset about performing terribly on an exam. He told me that there were worse things that could have happened and at least I wasn’t expelled. I get it, perspective. But come on, the fact that I’m not expelled from college doesn’t negate the fact that I got a bad grade and I can cry if i want to!)
Newcomb explains that she’s not insensitive, but that women who are skinny shamed should feel lucky, because at least they aren’t fat. I understand that she is trying to provide skinny shamed women with some perspective; sure, no one wants to have their body insulted, but skinny women should understand that they have what everyone else wants.
Women making fun of other women for being skinny leads me to conclude that a lot of skinny shaming, like all forms of bullying, comes from jealousy and insecurity. Women don’t feel comfortable with their own bodies, so they make fun of others’ bodies. Women envy certain body types, but hide this envy with mockery.
However, not all women hide their jealousy. Some come right out and say it, much like the girls in high school who wanted to know my secrets to being skinny. These envious women are the ones who will confront skinny women and tell them “You are so skinny, I’m jealous!” and “I wish I had your legs!” I recognize that these women mean to compliment, but comments such as these can easily make a person feel uncomfortable. No one likes to know that another person has been checking out their body so much that they feel obligated to proclaim exactly what they like about it.
And I’ll admit that I’ve been guilty of this sort of thing myself. When I meet a girl whose hair naturally dries straight and frizz free, I’m likely to tell her how lucky she is and how jealous I am that she doesn’t have to spend the better part of an hour with a blow dryer. We all get jealous of what one another has sometimes. But perhaps we should relish in what we have. I have huge, wavy, frizzy hair and a thin physique. I should be happy with that and not jealous of others.
I think everyone can agree that fat shaming is wrong. We all know that is tremendously offensive to tell a fat person to eat a salad. To the same effect, shouldn’t it be considered wrong to tell a skinny person to eat a cheeseburger?