we need to talk about skinny shaming
I’m fed up. Fed up with being called anorexic, of being told to eat more, of having my health questioned and of hearing friends’ mums and family members ask, ‘Gosh you’re thin, you are eating, aren’t you?’
In a society where we are increasingly accepting of all body shapes and sizes, I find it confusing why such questions and comments are seen as remotely appropriate by so many people. I find it hard to believe that those same people would question so invasively the eating habits of someone who is overweight. I for one would never dream of it. Not only is it not my place, I personally don’t think it’s remotely relevant to anyone but that person.
‘Boo hoo,’ I hear you mutter. Poor skinny girl, can eat whatever she wants, fit all the clothes, yet still finds something to moan about. Well I want to moan, and I will moan. I receive comments of a similar tone to that of which someone who is overweight likely receives. ‘You’d be hotter if you gained weight’… ‘You can’t be healthy’…’You look ill‘, and so on.
In no way do I wish to invalidate others’ struggles: I’m not naive to the fact that overweight men and women get a lot of stick, from verbal to physical abuse, some of which can be so warped and intense mentally that it becomes life-threatening. My ability to understand and empathise with their struggle, despite it being on the surface different to mine, however, is exactly the reason why I’m fed up of receiving grief myself. If you champion body positivity for larger men and women, I struggle to understand how you can condemn it for those who are technically underweight.
My BMI is classified as ‘dangerously low.’ In France, to walk in Paris Fashion Week, I would have to obtain a letter from my GP to confirm that I was fit to work. The new legislation introduced by France is most definitely a step in the right direction in regards to tackling the modelling industry’s troubles with eating disorders. However, it draws a worryingly thin line between protecting both models and the public from the promotion of unhealthy body weights, and between shaming models themselves into thinking that they look physically ill, when in reality a significant amount are naturally just very slim. Combined with regular comments from people around me regarding my physical appearance, I wouldn’t say it’s surprising that I, and many of the girls I’m around, are made to feel awkward and uncomfortable in their own skin.
I don’t deny that in the grand scheme of things my plight seems fairly trivial. I’m also not denying that smaller bodies are idolised in our society and have been for a fairly long time: that will most likely continue to be the case. I recognise that my body comes with a privilege that some are not afforded. For one, it has allowed me to earn money and gain opportunities through modelling for the past 6 years, on and off. These privileges, I think, are part of the reason why the shaming and ridiculing of thin bodies, so openly, is seen as just.
Yet nothing gives someone the right to condemn me, question me, and ridicule me for my perfectly healthy body. It does not mean that I don’t look in the mirror and feel the same pangs of disgust and dislike at my own appearance that someone larger than me also experiences. My body should not have to become a battle ground, and my mind should not have to heal from the scars that obtrusive and oblivious friends and strangers have inflicted upon it over the years. I should not have to fight off accusations and insults on a regular basis from people who feel they have the right to pick me apart. No-one should.
A less aggressively judgemental approach to different body weights, shapes and sizes is clearly needed, not only in the real world, but on social media too. Empathy and compassion are vital if our twitter feeds and other social media platforms are going to become less overwhelmingly toxic and vicious. We pick each other apart on a daily basis with a mobile device as a shield and stand by idly as we see venomous comments flying around the internet, yet find it surprising when young people take their own lives before they’ve even reached adulthood. Social media seems to numb us of all feeling and sense of what is, and is not, appropriate, particularly in the arena of body weight and image.
I shouldn’t have to grin and bear insensitive comments just because I’m thin, and my own insecurities can’t and won’t be invalidated by the existence of someone else’s. Putting yourself in someone else’s shoes could be one of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever taken on. Taking the time to consider just how someone might take a comment or question involves very little effort, and could genuinely have an impact on someone’s mental and physical well-being.