Just to clarify, this was originally published on my first blog, “Letting the World Fall Into Place” on February 7, 2014, under the title “Let’s Talk About Body Image.” It’s a post I’ve always been extremely proud of…probably my strongest post from “Letting the World Fall Into Place,” and I kind of just want to get it out there again for a new audience; I wouldn’t be publishing this again if it wasn’t something I felt strongly about. I changed the title to something I felt better represents my original goals with the post (because really, when did thin shaming become a thing? There are so many things wrong with it!) and I’ve made a few slight changes to the post itself; otherwise, it very closely resembles the original post from February. So, without further ado…
Today, this image showed up on my facebook newsfeed:
Now let me just say, I think the tone of the words in the above image is very harsh. While I do agree with the statement, I don’t like the way it is said. So, my goal here is to say what I took away from this image in an honest and respectful manner.
When I saw this image, I immediately started thinking about all the times people have commented on how skinny I am and how much I despise and am hurt by those comments. I’m by no means tall – I’m 5 foot 4 inches – and I weigh a little over 100 pounds; I’ve always been small, always, regardless of how much I eat or work out. Yet, people still comment on my weight, as if there’s nothing wrong with that. Society has deemed it taboo to comment on the weight of someone who is bigger because it is insulting, which I wholeheartedly agree with; however, for some reason, people think it is completely appropriate to comment on the weight of a thin person to their face.
To heighten this issue, recently, girls who would be considered bigger by society’s standards are fighting back; rather than associating themselves with negative adjectives such as “fat” or “big,” they have instead embraced positive words to describes themselves, particularly by using the word “curvy.” I think this is great and I fully support these girls in their endeavor to point out that you don’t need to be thin to live a healthy and fulfilled life. However, in this campaign to quote on quote embrace people of all shapes and sizes, it seems that in reality, the opposite is happening: in many ways, thin people are being targeted as the unhealthy members of society. Now, I know this is in part because the media places so much emphasis on the female body image as sickeningly thin–real girls simply don’t look like the people you see on TV and in magazines. I agree that these portrayals of women have a negative influence on women of all ages. However, in placing this positive emphasis on curvy women while putting a negative emphasis on the thinner women that the media bombards us with, I firmly believe that a gross dichotomy has emerged.
The above image, which I’ve seen multiple times on Pinterest and across the internet, clearly represents this dichotomy. A thin girl like me has the potential to look at this picture and think, “I look more like the girls on the top than on the bottom–I don’t have curves, I’m just thin–is there something wrong with me?” Let me just say, this meme, which has the potential to hurt a thinner girl’s body image, is extremely misleading. While the women in the top images are clearly shown in full figure to accentuate their skinniness, the only woman at the bottom of the meme who is shown in full figure without an arm or a leg covering her up, is Marilyn Monroe (any even then, the angle of this image of her leads to some deception). Also, the images of the women at the bottom are obviously professional shots that were meant to make them look glamorous while all the images on the top of the meme appear to me to be taken by paparazzi, who always seem to make the celebrities they snap photos of look as if they’re at their absolute worst. Furthermore, none of these images describe a societal norm. The women at the top of the meme are obviously thin, but that’s because they are Hollywood stars who are constantly under pressure to become and stay thin, just as the women at the bottom are curvier because that is what Hollywood was looking for at the time they were in the limelight. Lastly, it is wrong to assume that the super thin ideal at the top has become “hotter” than the curvier ideal at the bottom; this meme is a testimony to the fact that these are only ideals and that ideals change over time. I think this next meme, which is below and to the right, sums up my point quite nicely.
The whole idea of “this being hotter than this” is ludicrous. As times change, images of the ideal change. Just because the media portrayed women as being curvier sixty years ago doesn’t mean that thin girls were nonexistent. It’s the same today, though reversed, and it will be the same in another sixty years. That is why we, as a people within this society, need to stay away from the dichotomy of “thin” vs “curvy” because the reality is that there have always been and will always be different body types regardless of the ideal that emerges. Furthermore, I think the age we’re living in is really great for expressing these differences. Women today are taking pride in their shape instead of trying to cover it up with corsets or fad diets. Let’s celebrate each other, not bring each other down with these stupid comparisons because they are so dangerous! Just as it is not okay to go up to a bigger person and call them fat, it is not okay to comment that a thin person is too skinny. It is hurtful all the same. Skinny does not necessarily equate to unhealthy. I know I am thin, but I also know that I eat right and I take care of myself as a healthy person should; please don’t tell me to eat a sandwich or a cookie or a hot dog. I will eat what I want to eat when I damn well please and I will finish when I am satisfied. For the record, don’t tell any thin person to eat more because although there are plenty of skinny people who are perfectly healthy, it is insulting none-the-less. Furthermore, there are also people out there who do have eating disorders–telling these individuals to simply “eat a sandwich” is a far cry from helping them to conquer their illness.
Most people know that it’s wrong to blatantly tell someone they’re fat; guess what, it’s also wrong to tell someone they’re too thin, even if it is passed off as a joke. Just stop. Right now. It’s hard enough to live in this society with the media constantly forcing ideals of how people should look down our throats. Do yourself and the people around you a favor and keep your thoughts about the shape and size of others to yourself. Being healthy is all that really matters.