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Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Skinny Privilege


Content warning: discussion of body shaming. 

Unless you've been living under a rock, you will probably have noticed that, regarding fashion industry, the increasing consensus is that the overuse of young, white and above all skinny models is a bad thing. There's been a big move towards body positivity in fashion and in society over the past several years, which is great news and something I really support. I think it's important that we show all women in media and celebrate each and every one of their physiques, and recognise that healthy isn't just the one image. Unfortunately, this is also where I differ from a lot of supposed 'body positivity' proponents, because I think all physiques should be celebrated.


I recently read on a blog I follow (which I'd rather not identify) how the author just 'doesn't get' super thin models, calling them sad, skeletal and otherwise insidiously denouncing their status as real, healthy women. I really wanted to leave a comment but decided against it, partially because it was such a short section of the post that I hoped I had just been oversensitive reading it and partially because whilst some 'feminist' campaigners are happy enough to enthuse about 'real women' bodies out of one side of their mouth - which is just as limiting as conventional standards - they're also happy demanding that skinny women use trigger warnings for selfies they post of themselves (link content warning: body shaming) out of the other.

And, well - I'm tired. I'm weary of hearing how we need to recognise that fat women can be perfectly healthy but that anyone below an eight is definitely too thin. I absolutely support plus size women and their fight, and I will back them up to the hilt in the discrimination they face - but the truth is 'Amazonian model' is just as natural and healthy a body type for those who have it as plus size is for others. Some of you may also have heard about the recent '00' size, which everyone who enjoys moaning about is declaring as the next, even higher benchmark which women need to meet (spoiler: it's vanity sizing). I hear the same bullshit there as I do in that blog post, ignoring how calling these women 'sacks of bones' might affect their emotional and mental health, and a refusal to realise that our problem with image runs far, far deeper.

I know that the fashion industry is neglectful; there's a culture of encouraging models to diet down to sizes unnatural to their bodies, which has potentially contributed to the deaths of some. But when you call these models freakish, or fake, or otherwise denounce their status as human beings, you don't know if these women are healthy or not, and are denouncing the humanity of all women who are just too skinny to 'pass' by your standards - which includes me.

I am sick of people I don't know coming up to me at parties, exclaiming 'you're so thin!' and putting their hands around my waist without asking. I'm sick of people ordering me to go eat a McDonalds with no idea of how much I do eat and what exercise I take (too much of the former and too little of the latter). It's unacceptable to make comments like that to a fat person (and rightly so), so what makes it okay to say it to me? There's a certain blindness within these actions to how women who are supposedly the most privileged still suffer as a result of the ideals we hold about beauty.

These ideals are superfluous, changing and western centric. There was Ruben's models, then there was the Gibson girl, then there was Ziegfield and Marilyn and Twiggy and countless other shapes and sizes which were touted as the definitive ideal, and regardless of what it is we all get fucked over in the end. The hypocrisy of these body positivity campaigners is in not recognising how arbitrary these ideals are and how it's the emphasis on ideal beauty which is flawed, but instead touting their own image of what a 'real woman' looks like. Well, this real woman is tired of your shit.




Fee


16 comments:

  1. Most of all, the general idea of when does 'plus size' and 'skinny' begin is laughable for me. Some time ago I saw models described as 'plus size', while they looked perfectly normal. For me their image was the one of an average adult (in her 30s) woman doing exercises to keep her body in shape. No bones sticking, but no curves either, and the only one difference I saw between them and the runway models, was their chest size, to be honest. It seems like because your boobs are too big to fit a size 0 blouse, then you're certainly plus size, yeah sure...
    On the other side of the coin, the whole 'skinny panic' is also a giant facepalm for me. I know it's a bit different in Poland - as far as I know, the USA ad UK struggle with obesity plague. It means besides having people with really unhealthy weight, there are also more curvy girls. My plus size friend felt really ugly in Poland, but she visited London once and she was really in awe how random men on the street viewed her as beautiful. So, as you can see, Eastern European average size is smaller than Western. I feel really uncomfortable with the thought someone could tell me that I'm skinny - because in my country I'm just slightly below average, more 'slim' than 'thin'. You, too, don't look 'too thin' in my eyes, but slim. And it's really unpleasant to think this skinny paranoia goes so far to call the average looking girls 'too thin'. I can understand somebody is triggered by the view of a real anorectic girl, the one being nothing but bones and skin, not the one just trying to lose weight to be slim. But if it would come so far to call your or my figure a triggering one... well, to be honest, I would only shrug my shoulders with distaste, because it would mean it's not my body which is ill, but their mind. I am average, not skinny.
    I'd say eg. Razor Candi is skinny, but still she is far from anorectic and skeleton, to be honest, she is what I'd call a healthy skinny.

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    1. What is presented as 'plus size' on the catwalks is a pretty shitty substitute for the great variety of real plus size people out there. Obesity is a problem in the UK; the discussion of obesity is very poorly run in the media, however, and it tends to run very much on the fat-shaming side.

      I'm happy to identify interchangeably as slim or thin, but even girls who are visually 'worryingly thin' are still humans; it would be rude to call them 'sacks of bones' or accuse them of anorexia. Having also had teaching on it now, it's incredibly offensive to see the anorexia paranoia - to me, it doesn't feel like this self righteous behaviour actually gives a shit about those with the disorder.

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  2. I totally agree with you. I think its all about balance, everyone has their own natural size and shape that is healthy for them and people should recognise that. We aren't gingerbread people, we aren't all cut the same.

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    1. Exactly! Size and build are very individualistic parameters.

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  3. I agree with you. Prior to having my son, I was very thin and had people put their hands around my waist. My weight gain while pregnant was also very sad. People made me cry. They always commented about how big I gotten, how I was carrying twins when I really wasn't..I was carrying one baby!. Usually, it was the same people who used to put their hands on my waist that made those comments. I think we should support each other, no matter our shape or size.

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    1. Oh, I'm so sorry that people were so hurtful towards you. :'( You have every right to throat punch them.

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  4. I am technically overweight, thankfully I hide it well enough that I don't even recall the last comment regarding my weight.... so perhaps I am privileged in that sense. It's detestable behavior, to promote body equality and turn around and shame a thin woman for simply being thin... and vice versa.

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    1. The hypocrisy is pretty awful, yeah. There's certainly privileges associated with being of an 'acceptable' shape if one is fat; it's those with hourglass figures who aren't 'too big' who are seen in media when talking about body positivity.

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  5. Too fat, too thin, too odd shaped, sigh! People are never happy and have to pull down others to make themselves feel better. I am a pear shape, a bit smaller and flatter at the top and big bum and thighs for my size. I think everyone should just shut up about giving each other crap or at least start worshipping pear girls like me (joking)

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    1. It's a cultural ideal, which, because it's so built into our societies and changes so slowly, we don't realize how completely meaningless it is. (I don't tend to worry about 'body shapes', as if I look good in something I will wear it regardless of if I'm a melon/apple/screaming hollow void, but I would probably be a pear shape? My thighs are of thunder.)

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  6. Also I have bigger friends who are an ok weight and skinny friends who are an ok weight for their body types, both get insulted. People don't get there are a huge range of body types and it is different for everyone!

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    1. Yeah, a friend of mine is obscenely tall, and there's no way that she can fit in a size eight; the idea of skinny = healthy is so western centric and blinkered.

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  7. yeah...personally I hate the "healthy" euphemism. They're a "healthy" size. Since when did health had anything to do with how a person looked? I know plenty of "healthy" people who have health problems or smoke. And not to completely go off the rails with the PC stuff, but that's some ableist language. So if you aren't healthy, you're ugly?

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    1. God yeah; I completely forgot to mention the ableism of it (I really need to get more involved in disability rights); might add that in.

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  8. I definitely agree with you. As someone who was very thin when I was younger and who is now a size 10, I have been on the receiving end of negativity for being both a thinner person and a larger one. When I was a teenager, people called me flat-chested, said I didn't eat enough, etc. and when I gained weight in adulthood, I got many negative comments from people around me at the time of my weight gain. I have come to realize that as a woman these days you just can't win....be thin and people will snark about how you must not eat; be larger and people think you're a lazy and eat cake on the couch all day. Lose the weight that you gained and people will whisper about you starving yourself. What is a woman to do these days?

    People forget that body shaming goes BOTH ways, it is not just fat shaming. Women who are naturally thin do not deserve to take any crap about their body type and neither do larger women. I personally do not think it is appropriate to comment on anyone else's body as the weight of another person is nobody's business but their own. A person's weight is affected by genes, environment, personal choice, and even illness or medical conditions and all of these things are, once again, no one else's business! I will never understand why people waste so much time snarking/judging/worrying about other peoples bodies, seriously, get a life!! One of the life lessons that I have learned as I have gotten older is that I am a much happier person when I mind my own business and "live and let live". I have learned to accept and make peace with my own appearance and that is all that matters, I do not want negativity in my life and that includes negativity towards others and also myself. I know lots of women who make the "skinny bitch" sort of comments and I must wonder why they waste their time being so negative; you are only bringing unhappiness into your own life and that of the person you are insulting and you can be jealous and rude all you want but it won't make you any skinnier. I think if people are unhappy with their bodies, they need to redirect their energies into lifestyle changes rather than being negative towards the sizes of others in some misguided attempt to make themselves feel better. Another thing I have noticed over time is that it seems to be mostly WOMEN who make body-shaming statements. I hear so many women say things like "I've gotten too fat, no men will want me blah blah" but it is usually not men in my experience who make disparaging comments about women's bodies or appearance. Women are becoming their own worst enemies and then blaming it on men......what a crock of sh*t. I think women need to be a lot more supportive of each other instead of spewing vitriol about body size all day. We need to accept ourselves and and learn that other people's bodies are none of our business.

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    1. '... I think women need to be a lot more supportive of each other instead of spewing vitriol about body size all day. We need to accept ourselves and and learn that other people's bodies are none of our business.' Can I second this? The person who makes me feel the worst about how I look is my mother, who is constantly telling me I'm fat even though I am a UK size 10/12. She harks back to my ideal weight being when I was 17 and a size 6 after a prolonged illness, and probably dangerously thin. I see photos of myself from back then and they are awful. I know some of it stems from her own body paranoia (she's gained a great deal of weight as she's grown older), but she and her cronies are all to ready to comment on other peoples' appearance (starting with their weight) and it drives me nuts.

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