This is a post that is constantly evolving, as the skinny- VS. fat-shaming debate is always growing and changing. Below, a snippet from Kim Powell’s News with Nipples, in response to Bob Ellis’ take on the ADFA sex scandal, which I linked to last week:
“The belief that women’s bodies are public property is all around us. News websites and tabloid mags are filled with body policing—’evidence’ of a baby bump, boob jobs, nose jobs, a hint of cellulite helpfully circled and ridiculed, weight gains, weight losses, muffin tops, what a ‘real’ woman should look like, skin and muscles in motion decried as freakish, etc etc. (My personal belief is that if you’re going to enlarge a photo of a thigh in motion and hysterically scream ‘See! Cellulite! Here! Here! This woman’s body is disgusting!’ then you need to include exactly the same photo of your own thighs. Fair’s fair. Sure, there are people who make a living from their bodies looking a certain way, but we all know the magazines insist the photos are digitally altered so frankly, they can fuck right off with their body policing.)”
More on this to come next week.
I originally wrote this article in December last year in relation to my mum and her weight problems.
Now, I’m updating with a comment my friend April posted around the same time:
“My mum is faced with the same skinny-shaming as yours. She gets called anorexic all the time. She has always been thin. Her bones have always been visible. And although she is of a rather small stature, her average weight of 42kg is well below the normal weight range. However, my mum doesn’t have an eating disorder or even a problem with food (if you don’t factor in her aversion to vegetables!). My mum put on quite a lot of weight when pregnant with me, peaking at a size 14. That is the biggest she’s ever been and it took a toll on her poor skin. The fact she has stretch marks or even wrinkles that have come with age do not affect her self esteem anywhere near as much as people pointing out her weight (or lack there of!). I don’t know if it’s ever brought her to tears but I have witnessed her get angry about it. There is only so much judgment we can take. My mum still has a womanly figure, with child bearing hips and thighs that touch. It’s what she’s been given and she’s learnt to live with it. But when it comes down to it, if people ever actually saw a real anorexic they would definitely see my mother’s au natural body in a different light.”
I’ve met April’s mum before, and can’t say her size was the first thing I noticed about her. Then again, I’m used to tiny mums!
But on the weekend I went to a part at April’s auntie’s house, which her mother also attended. Some comments about April’s mothers’ weight I overheard prompted me to republish this post, with an added musing: JUST BECAUSE YOU’RE NOT COMMENTING ON SOMEONE’S FAT DOESN’T MAKE ANY OTHER NEGATIVE COMMENTS JUSTIFIABLE. If you don’t have anything nice to say (like, “You look great” or “Wow, you’ve got a lovely shape”), don’t say anything at all.
My mum is very thin.
She wasn’t always, though. In her late teenage years and early twenties, she was quite overweight. Dare I say, borderline obese?
Now, though, she’s tiny. At 52 years of age (and about 47kgs on the scale), she struggles to put and keep weight on.
She is constantly told how skinny she is by friends, family and even people she’s just met. If she were heavier, do you think people would be drawing as much attention to her weight; at least to her face? I doubt it (with the exception of the media if she were a public figure).
Why do people feel the need to objectify and vilify thin women—using their weight as a weapon against them? Is it because it’s un-PC to do so with a fat person? Because they’re jealous? I would tend to lean more towards the former.
I have received this treatment myself, and while my body is nowhere near the slight size of my mother’s, I do try to take care of it by exercising. And to offset the fattening effects of my sweet-tooth indulgences. (The other day I ate a whole block of Cadbury Top Deck. And another whole block the following day!)
I wasn’t always the size I am now, either. (Truth be told, however, I have always hovered around a size 12; now I’m just more toned and lean towards a size 10.) In high school, my weekends usually consisted of sitting on the couch watching Friends and Will & Grace and eating. I led a very sedentary lifestyle back then; the difference between me then and me now is the fact that I exercise to counteract hours spent at the desk (okay, I won’t lie; it’s usually the couch!) blogging, or evenings spent chilling out with some books, magazines, blogs and TV.
So what gives people the right to blatantly draw attention to a small frame to the inhabitant of that frame? Don’t get me wrong; inhabitants of a larger frame have attention drawn to them all the time. But we usually have the decency to not do it to their faces. I don’t know which is worse; personally, that kind of thing is water off a duck’s back to me. Because I come across as cold, aloof and feeling-less, people think I have emotions of steel and they can say and do anything they want to me. I can take a lot of shit, but people like my mother can’t. People pointing out her pin-thinness is a sore subject for her; it’s not like she wants to be that thin.
I think it comes down to a similar school of thought that slut-shaming belongs to. And that seems to be that women who sell their bodies out to succumbing to the ideal shape or to receiving sexual pleasure are at the mercy of ridicule from others.
In this day and age, we’re learning to accept the curves of a larger woman (but only as large as the advertising and magazine industry displays as acceptable). But when can we learn to accept that women do take care of their bodies, and shouldn’t be singled out for doing so. More importantly, though, when will we learn to accept that some people really just can’t put weight on, and they shouldn’t be targeted as succumbing to the narrow beauty ideal presented by society. Much the same way as overweight people shouldn’t be targeted for not succumbing to it.
[News with Nipples] Bob Ellis & Believing You Own Someone’s Body.
[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] On the (Rest of the) Net: 6th May, 2011.
[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] UPDATED: Skinny-Shaming VS. Fat-Shaming.
[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Body Image: Skinny-Shaming VS. Fat-Shaming.
Images via Holy Taco, Losing Weight Zone, Pink Sheep of the Family.