The other day I was watching an inspirational video on body positivity that someone shared on Facebook. Of course, a bigger woman made the video. Those videos are almost always made by someone double my size. I turn to these videos to find reassurance that it is okay to love my body even though it doesn’t exactly live up to the standards set by people I never met. Really, I don’t have anyone else to turn to. I don’t wear make-up. I’m not very feminine; I’m just a woman that exists within her woman(ly) body. And that’s okay. It should be okay. But it’s not. And why isn’t it? I can’t figure out why. So, like most other women, I like to hear/watch/read someone else describe their pride in their physical appearance despite the standards it doesn’t, or does, reach. The problem with this is that I feel a bit singled out and offended by most of these body positivity posts.
I’m not so self-involved that I am blind to the struggles and pressures of bigger women in current American society but I do feel that maybe, just maybe, the struggles of a thin woman are cast aside as meaningless. I read an article a few months back going on about how skinny women have little room to complain about bigger women speaking out against false portrayals of big women. I beg to differ. I have no problem with campaigns promoting self-acceptance of any kind. I think all people are beautiful. I don’t care how many heads you turn or why, you are a beautiful person. But when that campaign promotes degrading others I start to have a problem. Here’s an example:
So there I was, watching this video of this woman describe how it feels being oversized in a bathing suit. I agree with most everything she says. I can relate to her and people similar to her that are articulate when explaining that our bodies are not on display for mocking regardless of the fact it’s done anyway. No matter what a person does, there will always be at least one unhappy person in the room with them. You could be the perfect person in appearance but there will be someone to find something “wrong” with you. The problem is that despite the fact that I can relate to near everything this particular YouTuber says, she chooses to single out my body type as the exception to this rule of public mocking. She’s completely ignoring the fact that she is mocking all thinner women when saying, “this doesn’t happen to thin women.” It makes me feel like…like we don’t exist because we don’t have to suck in to get behind the wheel of our car. By comparing all the problems you have to the problems you think I don’t have to legitimize your complaints, you are essentially telling me I have no ground to stand on when I’m criticized or judged by my appearance and not my behavior or personality.
All women get stares and comments and none of them are fair to the receiver. Compliments are often awkward (Google “how to accept a compliment” and see the various articles and tips; why so much advice?) and even hurtful depending on a lot of factors; but aside from what should be seen as a positive there are some really negative ones out there for us thinner women as well. In the video, she implied that just standing there was reason enough for someone to tell her to lay off hamburgers. That’s not fair for anyone to hear this. She then went on to say that a bigger person eating fruit is an act of pretending to eat healthily. She said bigger people are treated as though their existence promotes obesity. She made it sound like anyone that isn’t overweight receives no negative feedback. In one instance she said thin women are not told to not wear certain clothing because it makes others uncomfortable. I don’t think this woman has been paying attention to anything outside of her YouTube channel. There’s a thing called Slut Walk. It started in Toronto but it spread into an international movement. This movement is against the shaming of rape victims and survivors and overall shaming of women. Why? Because women are told their clothing makes men uncomfortable enough to want to rape them. This is exactly the opposite of what this vlogger claims. I guess because this blankets all women of all sizes since it pertains to anyone that dresses like a “slut” and is not limited to size, it’s too inclusive to counter her claim…?
Thinner women get told in various ways that their existence promotes an unhealthy lifestyle. It’s implied we create an unacheivable standard to the average body type. It is implied we force younger girls to starve themselves to become thinner. This isn’t me; this is someone’s sick idea of marketing for one product or another and yet just because I am naturally thin, all articles targeting “evil” thin women are targeting me. I had this friend, Irish, who is bigger than I am. Any time we would go out to a bar or club or really anywhere, she’d look at me and tell me without hesitation:
I hate you. You’re so skinny.
I have heard this my entire life. I’ve always been the smallest kid/person in almost every crowd I’ve ever been in. I was in my early twenties when I realized how offensive it is to be told you’re hated for something you can’t change about yourself. I know, “Well, eat.” Right? Isn’t that what you’re thinking? If it is, you’re proving my point without me reaching it yet. It’s no easier for me to gain weight than it is for others to lose it. It’s just a fact of life….and biology. My metabolism works differently than yours, don’t hate me for it. I learned early on in life that no matter what reaction your body size causes on the inside of my mind, I don’t say it out loud. “Wow, that belly has quite the circumference!” You keep it to yourself not only because it’s hurtful but because some people are just shaped that way for whatever reason. Some see it as unfortunate and others learn to embrace it despite the stares. Please, show me that same courtesy. Being thin is not a reason to publicly shame me with your words, your stares or your sneers. It is not a justifiable reason to think, “Well it’s her fault; she should gain some weight if she can’t handle the haters.”
The things I’m about to say next have not affected me too greatly in my recent history. When I was in my late teens, early twenties, however, these next few statements were common occurrences in my day-to-day life. For being thin, I’ve been called a whore, slut and white trash. Why? Because shorts for thinner girls are really short and tight and when they aren’t, they look like you turned your dad’s old jeans into cut-off shorts:
One time someone asked me where to buy heroin. It was hot, my eyeliner had melted into a black smudge under my eyes and my neck was sweating as I stood at a payphone trying to figure out how to call my parents with a prepaid card (this was before cell phones were everywhere). A truck pulled up, honked their horn then with their hand motioned like they were lighting a lighter. I hung up the phone and approached them with my lighter out. The man then slapped the inside of his arm where people normally shoot dope. I stared at him and took a step back. “Why would you ask me that?!” I asked with horror. The driver, a woman, “You look…you’re so skinny and your eyes are dark. We thought you would know.”
I’ve been called Skeletor, crackwhore, anorexic and bulimic. The Youtuber said standing around is cause for comments on her diet. It’s been suggested that my size means I have no energy to do anything but standing around being skinny. Getting “caught” eating meant hearing, “I wonder when she’ll go throw that up.” Someone seeing me nibbling something healthy like a carrot or watermelon or popping something like a Tic Tac in my mouth is an invitation to make rude comments within hearing range that go something like:
I bet that’s her entire lunch
I’ve been told I’m disproportionate and look funny with my long legs and average torso. Apparently I’m disgusting because the outlines of my ribs are visible if I stretch to reach something or because I have “no waist” and you can see my hips. I’ve been told simply, “you’re just too thin.” Look, I don’t tell anyone I hate them for not being thin and I’m certainly not going to tell anyone, “You’re just too fat.” Who does that? And why is it okay to act openly bitter, spiteful and hateful towards me yet it’s disrespectful, derogatory, and abusive to act the same towards bigger people?
Let me just say, it’s not a grand existence being thin. People judge you for walking into a room the same as bigger people get judged. What makes it even less amazing to be thin than bigger people realize is that you really are disproportionate according to general sizing in department stores. Being thin is painful. Big people talk about bumping into things because of all the “fat” well try it with bone and no “fatty” protection. Try sitting criss-cross applesauce on a hard floor. Thin people know bones roll. Having your ankle roll on the hard floor is painful as f@ck! Sitting in a hard, unpadded chair is painful when you sit up after relaxing and discover that you sat directly on your tailbone the entire time and now you’re unsure if you can get up without crying. Or when you lean back in a chair and don’t realize there’s no padding until both of your shoulder blades have just been slammed into the hard wood.
I’m not asking for permission to be a disgusting excuse of a person but I am human and I do wonder about these double standards. I understand the struggle is real for bigger people to feel accepted and comfortable within their bodies and despite their bodies; I just would like others to realize this struggle isn’t confined to those whose girth extends the “acceptable” limits set by, like I said earlier, people we don’t even know. All of us experience hate, disgust and inexcusable judgments based on our body types. Just because a certain body type receives more negative feedback than another, or most others, does not mean that no one outside of that type doesn’t receive hate or deserves extra fingers pointed at them with a snarl behind it. We need to stop judging each other; women need to stop judging each other. Be who you are and let me be who I am. Let’s all have a little courtesy for others.
Side note: I think this YouTube video should be spread as it does encourage body positivity and self-acceptance in a world where superficiality is the superior law of all social interactions (apparently). However; it would be nice if people would also consider that thin people also have trouble fitting in and feeling comfortable with their bodies for similar reasons just from a different angle.