Just a disclaimer before we start: I know that this post may anger some - well maybe a lot - of my audience. I mean no harm and really trying to avoid self pity on this matter. Ok, here goes...
I have recently read that when a fat person is body shamed, it sticks with them but when it comes to thin shaming, they can ‘walk away with their thin privilege in tact’. One quote of this article stood out for me and really struck a nerve. ‘And while your internal struggle is real and significant, the point is: You might hate your body, but society doesn't. That’s thin privilege.’ It was the first time I’d ever heard the phrase thin privilege, so I googled it. And, to be quite frank I was disgusted. So, I've decided to put my experiences and opinions out there. That quote alone pushed me to write this post.
It’s no secret that still, even now, men and women are judged and ridiculed for the way they look. Some would say that there is more understanding and acceptance these days but that doesn’t eliminate the fact that its still happening. In my opinion, thin shaming is something that does get swept under the carpet by society and isn't seen as ‘important’, but I need to talk about it. I need to talk about shaming those who are slim. It’s frowned upon to shame someone who are classed as overweight, and those who are an average size in fact, but what about thin shaming? Why isn't this being seen as just as damaging? Societies norms is one of the biggest issues we all face. Whether we fit, whether we don’t, how we can make sure that we do. The constant pressure that is put on us, especially growing up, can be and is damaging. But at the end of the day, what is ‘normal’? What isn't normal in my eyes is the way fat shaming and thin shaming is seen differently. So, let me tell you about my experience growing up and as an adult.
Growing up, to my family, I was always referred to as ‘boney bum’ and ‘skinny minny’ to name a few. I always laughed when they called me them and in all honesty, it wasn’t the nicknames or the comments that affected me as a child, it was the fact that I was different. Genetically, all of the females in my family are overweight. It’s something that has always been apparent to me growing up because essentially, I was the only one who wasn’t, I was the polar opposite. I always wondered why I wasn’t like my Mum, my Grandma, my Auntie, my Cousins. I didn’t understand why I was so ‘skinny’ compared to them and it bothered me. I felt sometimes that I wasn’t a part of the family because I looked different physically (facially – I’m the double of my Mum and Grandma so we’re not talking about me thinking I was adopted here haha!) and yes, it was hard to grasp sometimes. I did ask on a few occasions why I was so slim and it is because of my genes. On my Dad’s side. Ah, I thought, so I’m not the odd one out, I just picked up more from the other side. And that was it really as a child – growing up. My family knew I could eat like a horse and not really gain weight and I can understand why some would see this as a good thing. But, it wasn’t until my late teens that the thin shaming really came into play. When I moved out, people didn’t know my eating habits, and I did lose the ‘puppy’ fat I gained throughout puberty. That’s when it started, and it is still happening. Let me just tell you some of the many things that have been said to me regarding my weight.
‘Oh my god, are you even eating?’
‘Melissa, be honest, are you anorexic?’
‘Jesus, where the hell have your boobs gone?’
‘You don’t look healthy, you’ve definitely lost weight’
‘You get skinnier everytime I see you’
‘Oh my god, why/how are you so skinny?’
Note – some. These are only SOME of the things that have been said to me about my weight. Now, to really help anyone understand how thin shaming is on the same spectrum as fat shaming, lets rephrase.
‘Oh my god, what are you even eating?’
‘Melissa, be honest, are you binging?’
‘Jesus, is that why your boobs are so big?’
‘You don’t look healthy, you’ve definitely gained weight’
‘You get fatter everytime I see you’
‘Oh my god, why/how are you so fat?’
This is me trying to get society to see how thin shaming is real, it hurts and it really isn’t different to fat shaming. First off, when people started commenting on how slim I am, I laughed it off. ‘Don’t be daft’ I’d say and just move on. But they became more frequent as I entered my early twenties and that’s when it really started to have an effect on my self confidence and contributed to the way I see myself now.
I’m 5’10, around 9.5 stone and my BMI is perfectly healthy and yet, these comments that I’ve been subjected to have made me question my health. And the worst thing about it, they’re all said by family and friends and I’ve been told I’m too skinny by customers at my old job. All because my genetics mean that I am slim. That’s not my fault. It’s not my fault that I have this body and it’s definitely not my fault that some people feel the need to make comments. I’ve been told that I should take it as a compliment. Why? Take it as a compliment that people think I’m too skinny and I don’t conform to the social norm that you can’t be slim without having some underlying health reason. Don’t get me wrong, having anxiety and being under huge amounts of stress has affected me physically, and I am well aware of that. I also know that I continue to eat like a horse and completely unable to gain weight. But, then again, why do I feel like I should have to explain myself every time someone comments on my weight?
Because of the comments, I’ve stood in front of the mirror countless times and really thought about my body image. Am I too skinny? Is there something wrong with me? I’ve asked Burnie whether he thinks I’m too thin, I’ve asked my best friend. I’ve questioned the way my body is. A body that I was born in, that I grew up in, that I live with. Slowly, but surely, I started to hate the way I look.
‘Thing privilege’ is where people believe that thin shaming isn’t as damaging because thin people fit into what society deems as an acceptable weight. How ridiculous does that sound? ‘Oh because you fit into the average weight of a person, these comments cannot hurt you lol’… I cannot tell you the amount of times I’ve felt envy towards those who have fuller breasts, hourglass figures and bigger bums. Something I know that bigger women will have felt too. So, tell me the difference?
At the end of the day, we were all born to be different shapes, sizes, weights. Inside is where it matters and its sad that it still has to be said. No matter how you look on the outside, the people we are on the inside is the thing that shines through. Sometimes, we cannot help the way we look, it’s something that you learn to live with and slowly, learn to love. How are we supposed to do that when we’re under constant scrutiny to look a certain way. The sooner people realise that commenting on the way that someone looks – whether it’s criticism or meant as a compliment – can have more of an effect on them than you can ever realise.
It’s not ok to call a person fat, it’s not ok to call a person skinny. It is not ok to comment on how anyone looks - you don't know what they're battling with on the inside.
Until next week, M x