“The plus-size sisterhood can be frightening. Among the messages I received (only from women, and mostly anonymous) I was called a skinny bitch, a body fascist, and a fat-nazi. I was informed that men “love something to grab on to”, and that “curves” are sexier than skeletons.
And yet my book contains not a single word of criticism about larger-sized people. I employed the word “fat” in a literal sense, not as a term of abuse.”
While I find it odd that in an article about ‘skinny shaming’ she writes almost exclusively about obese people being the culprits, I have been on the receiving end of some ‘skinny shaming’ in my time and it’s not great. I know I might make some enemies here, but I am naturally small – I’m only 5’2” and have a fairly small frame, especially around my back. So I’m never going to look like Marilyn Monroe or Christina Hendricks, as much as society might decide one week that that is the kind of figure we should all have.
Photos like this:
seem to always do the rounds on Facebook at various times and sometimes I feel the need to weigh in, because whether you’re saying ‘women should all look like super models’ or you’re saying ‘women should all look like Marilyn Monroe’, these are equally unattainable goals for most women. I’m not even going to get started on the fact that the women in the bottom half have those figures partly from always wearing corsets. Speaking of Marilyn, though, I came across this classic photo that gets trotted out during these kinds of debate:
The article says that the image “is guilty of 3 crimes:
- Gross crimes against originality;
- 2. A curiously moronic belief that presence of ‘curves’ is exponentially linked to an increase in size (FYI: ‘curves’ does not mean fat – not all small women look like pre-pubescent boys and not all big women have bodacious bosoms and tiny waists. Stop kidding yourselves.);
- Betraying the very politics it claims to represent by not just elevating one kind of beauty ideal over another, but continuing to treat ideals as things that matter.
It’s not that they [images of ‘Real Women’] celebrate diversity or that they’re as stale, boring and tired as the kind of limited narrative that suggests only thin women deserve love or praise. It’s that they remind women that the most important thing a woman can be is desirable; that she needs to view herself as desirable, and have that view reinforced by a condescending message of inspiration about how her averageness is actually much more attractive than whatever beauty ideal happens to be fashionable at the time. At its heart, it is an infantilising, juvenile obsession that still pits women against each other and distracts us from participating in a life free of the pressure that comes from worrying about the stock market value of our looks.”
People seem to agree with this ‘Real Woman’ thing, though, because people I know (from relatives to colleagues) comment on my weight, or the fact that I look thin – I don’t know if that means they think I look thinner than I did the last time they saw me, or just thin. It also doesn’t stop people making a big fuss if I have a second helping of dinner – the implication, of course, being that I don’t eat and that’s how I’m so thin. I don’t want to belittle the pain of having an eating disorder at all, but I don’t have one (thank god). I’m just happy being the size I am and I don’t put in any effort into staying this size. But when I register at a doctor they seem to like nothing better, after measuring my height and weight, than telling me I’m a little underweight. And this is according to BMI, which we all know is total bollocks. Once I said to the doctor who was registering me ‘this is my natural size, I can’t help it’ and she said ‘Oh I’m the same’ – so maybe you wanna give me a break?!
I know I might be opening myself up to the kinds of ‘you should count yourself lucky’ attacks, but sometimes I’d like not to be judged on being small and thin in a negative way – why are women still so judged on their appearance? Some of us are never going to be a curvy, size 16, some of us are tall, some are short, some are athletic, some have big boobs, some small, and it’s all fine. Attacking people for being thin is just as bad as attacking them for being fat. If you look at the language used against thin people, like Woolf says, it’s pretty negative and harsh-sounding – ‘skinny’ is my least favourite (said at school ‘oh, you’re so skinny’ in a jealous/ nasty way – and this was Primary school). Even a pattern website that teaches how to alter patterns if you’re short (when did ‘petite’ become the acceptable word for short – I don’t have a problem with being called short. You have tall sections, why not short ones?) is called Skinny Bitch, Curvy Chick – oh, so if I were curvy I’d be a chick (which still isn’t great), but since I’m slim I have to be a ‘bitch’. I can’t help agreeing with another of the comments on the Guardian article that “both fat-shaming and skinny-shaming are disgusting, and often examples of misogyny” (ShadowOak)