We’ve all heard of fat shaming, and most people know someone who’s been fat shamed, or maybe you’ve had a personal experience with fat shaming. But when it comes to the lexicon of body image, have you heard of skinny shaming being talked about? Chances are, not often. Society has conditioned us to focus on one aspect of body shaming culture, and that’s the acceptance of plus size bodies. While it is important to include this range of people in the conversation, people with thin bodies are often excluded and invalidated. As critical as it is to address fat shaming, it is just as important to address the stigma around skinny shaming.
For so long, society has taught us that being fat or curvy is shameful. The media duped us into believing that thinner is better, like runway material, supermodel thin. Plus, it is no secret that ads have constantly pushed for dieting and weight loss tips. Despite what the media may represent, thin people are also susceptible to body shaming, but are rarely defended. In fact, we’ve been conditioned to think it’s socially acceptable to judge them.
For most of my life, I’ve struggled with weight. I’ve had countless people tell me that my body is their dream goals, while I suffered in silence. I often received unsolicited comments such as:
“You look like a skeleton, eat more.”
“Why are you so skinny?” (Proceeds to grab my wrist and wrap their fingers around it to emphasize their point).
“Are you anorexic?”
“You are so little, you should eat McDonalds!” (This one came from a man at a family friend’s function, when I was SIX).
“Eat a burger.”
“You need to gain weight.”
“Gain some muscle.”
“Men don’t want a limp stick like you.”
And the list goes on. These comments didn’t just come from strangers; they came from friends and family members too, who assumed these remarks were beneficial. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to gain weight; my body actually COULDN’T no matter how much I ate, due to genetics and an ultra fast metabolism. Additionally, I tend to go through chronic stress that causes me to actually lose weight. So telling thin folks to “eat a burger” doesn’t help because you don’t know how their bodies function and other factors that contribute to their weight.
In high school, I tried speaking up about my experiences with being skinny shamed. I poured my thoughts out in a Facebook status, only to have someone from my school to tell me “skinny shaming isn’t real.” I remember feeling dumbfounded at first, then the blood boiled in my head. Never have I felt so invalidated for speaking out about this before. We argued back and forth in the comments. One of our mutual friends screenshotted the conversation and posted it on her private instagram. Humiliated, I never spoke about being skinny shamed again, even though I knew deep down that was my true experience. As I got older, I realized that my experiences and the gaslighting weren’t just unique to me. More people than I believed possible endured the same reality.
According to an article on Huffpost, supermodel Bella Hadid was subject to a storm of body shamers in the comments on some photos she posted of herself on Instagram. Decked out in fittings for an upcoming Victoria’s Secret show, her ribs and bony structure underneath her skin were exposed. Many criticized her for being “malnourished” and another commented that it seemed like she didn’t eat at all in some of her pictures, and that they didn’t like the way her ribs were sticking out. Despite the slew of hateful comments, there were also comments that defended the model, pointing out that body shaming when it came to skinny people wasn’t cute either.
Regardless, Hadid handled the situation gracefully when shutting down the negativity by expressing her gratitude for the show, and how she can’t wait to see everyone’s fittings. She further added “All body types are different and react differently to a great workout routine and a healthy diet.” Similarly, her sister Gigi Hadid has experienced extensive body-shaming criticism. Eventually, she had to explain that she was diagnosed with a disease at age 17 that caused her body to be the way it was at the time, which led to scrutiny from the modeling industry. The two sisters’ experiences aren’t the only prevalent examples of skinny shaming. You can read all about the stigma other people have faced here in the following articles:
Whether or not people perceive skinny shaming often relates to their person experiences and interactions. I can testify that skinny shaming is indeed very real. It is just as harmful as fat shaming and needs to stop. Moreover, those who have been skinny shamed need to have their voices taken seriously, instead of being outright dismissed. It is not anyone’s place to judge the sizes, shapes, and health status of anyone’s bodies. You don’t know everything that someone goes through, so always pause before making a comment, and ask yourself: “Is it my place to comment on another person’s body?” Making someone feel bad about their image is counterproductive and does not help them gain or lose weight any faster. All bodies deserve to be cherished and showered with love. Choose compassion over contempt, for yourself, and everyone around you.
Written by: Stephanie Wan