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Skinny Shaming Is Just As Bad As Fat Shaming

We all know what fat shaming is. It happens all around us every day. It happens when a 7th grader is picked last in gym class because she’s still got a bit of baby fat and isn’t the most athletic person in the world. It happens when companies Photoshop the hell out of their already-fit models so that they can look “good” and “presentable” for their brand. It happens when society tells us that anyone over a size 12 is “plus-size” and forces them to shop in a special section of a store or an entirely different store that’s made for people like them.

Fat shaming isn’t a new concept to most people. It’s something that women deal with every day. The media sets these high standards of unattainable beauty and forces us to over-analyze our every “flaw” and makes us feel belittled and insecure. But luckily, we live in a day and age where women are feeling empowered to speak their mind and are taking a stand against fat shaming. With the release of Meghan Trainor’s pop hit “All About That Bass” and campaigns like the Dove Real Beauty challenge, we’ve said screw the media’s perception of beauty and let’s embrace the fact that real women aren’t all stick-thin models.

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While I totally commend the movement to motivate all women to love their bodies, something about these campaigns leave me less than satisfied. Rather than messages empowering women of all sizes, a new message has emerged from the masses:

 Real women have curves.

If you think that there’s nothing wrong with this message then you’re wrong. Skinny shaming is very real, and it’s alive in today’s culture. Sure, there are worse things in the world than being labeled skinny. You can even say that skinny people don’t have it as rough as people who are on the bigger side. I mean, they fit in. They’re the ” ideal societal norms” – the cool kids, if you will. But to say that calling out a woman for her smaller body is acceptable and calling out a woman for her vivacious one is not is simply unjust. Skinny people have feelings. Fat people have feelings. People have feelings. And the relevancy of these feelings shouldn’t be based upon someone’s body size.

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Look at this picture:

The Hunt

Sophia Bush wore this t-shirt after Urban Outfitters designed a shirt donning the words “Eat Less” across the front, as a sign of protest against the fashion outlet. Did she have good intentions? Of course she did. But guess what Sophia? It may be the fault of the fashion industry for labeling a 25-inch waist as a size “0”, but that doesn’t mean this “size” doesn’t exist. It does exist. I am a size 0 (by definition of the fashion industry), Sophia. I exist.

At 5’4 and roughly 120 pounds, I’m not nearly as thin as some of the girls who are skinny shamed but I most definitely feel their pain. Despite not being blessed with the genetic lottery or an overactive metabolism, I am what Americans would consider as small. And thanks to my Asian genes, I lack curves, even when I’m “skinny fat”. Up until I was 20, I was still wearing a girl’s size 14 (pants for 14 year-old-girls). I only moved up to a women’s size “0” after discovering the magic of squats and leg day – without that, I could very much still be in children’s sizes.

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But does my lack of curves make me any less of a woman? Some people seem to think so. And although these people are mostly joking when they tell me that I need to “go eat a cheeseburger,” there’s a part of them that’s not. (In case you were wondering, I eat A LOT of cheeseburgers.) Why is this okay? Why is it okay to tell someone with a smaller frame to eat more but not okay to tell someone with a larger frame to eat less? Why is it okay that you can point at someone who’s thin and call them “gross” or “unhealthy” but you can’t do it to someone who has curves?

I, for one, am tired of the double-standard that exists within body shaming. The truth of the matter is that bodies come in all shapes and sizes. Some women have curves. Some don’t. There is no norm, and there shouldn’t be. I hope that one day the world can come to terms with this and people can stop hating on each other based on appearances.

Vivian Huang

Black coffee drinker. Adventurer. Fluent in sarcasm. Find me rambling about life and music at vivianlindsay.com.

18 Comments
  1. I am glad you wrote something about this. I have been on both sides of skinny and fat shaming. I was chubby in middle school and someone once told me that it was obvious that I never missed meals. Now I am very skinny because of stomach issues and diabetes. I am slowly gaining weight again to be at a healthy weight but that doesn’t keep people from saying things about my current weight. I hear “you need to eat more”, friends joke and say I need to shop at baby GAP, and so on. It’s just as hard to hear about how skinny and little you are as hearing how you need to lose weight or be thin.

    1. I forgot to mention that I too have been on both ends of the spectrum. When I was younger, I carried all of my baby fat at my waist and even had someone tell me that I looked pregnant (who tells a child that?!). I’m glad to have shed light on something that many can relate to! Thanks for sharing your experience.

  2. I like this article better than others about this topic. I am a heavy woman and have been so most of my life. I am old enough to remember when being a fat woman meant you were barely a person. Many people still feel that way. I see daily reminders that fat people in general are still ok to make fun of. A sitcom I watched had fat girl jokes almost every episode. Not really seeing the skinny girl jokes, maybe I’m not paying close enough attention. Skinny bashing, unfortunately, is a result of misguided women trying to take some of their power back. I don’t agree with this, I don’t want skinny women to feel bad in order for me to feel good. I want to be seen as the person I am and not a “fat slob” as I was called out on a street by a stranger not that long ago. This article did mention some of the struggle that bigger women face and I appreciate the empathy. I will give some of my own; it must be incredibly annoying to have people comment on how small you are and telling you to eat something. Some people think they can comment on things that are really none of their business. Also, having women say “Real women have curves” is a little ridiculous. Empowerment by changing the ideal is not the answer. Let’s get rid of ideals. They are constraining and impossible for most women to achieve. Can we just say, try to be healthy and we will support you no matter what? I don’t like the sizing system either. Somehow it seems to say that the closer you are to nothing the better. Ladies, if you wear a size 0 you are not nothing. This should not be a size, I think we should use actual measurements or at least name measurement ranges something that does not diminish or belittle. I wouldn’t want to be a Zero any more than I want to be an Extra Extra EXTRA Large. I do think heavy women have a harder time. If you think that is an unfair statement, ask yourself, would you ever trade bodies with a fat girl. And just a personal pet peeve; I know that I can lose weight with diet and exercise. It doesn’t mean it doesn’t suck now to be heavy. If you have never had to lose more that fifty pounds and you want to give a fat person that advice, why don’t you put those fifty pounds on and show us fatties how it’s done. (Sorry for this last snarkiness, I just think it is a really insensitive thing to say to someone in the struggle. We are human beings and deserve respect as such.)

  3. Thank you for this. My daughter has been called a freak and been accused of having an eating disorder. She is 18. She has always been very skinny and has always eaten normally. Someday maybe she will fill out, but maybe not. Finding clothes that fit her has always been difficult and people act like she is disgusting. Nice to see someone actually acknowledge the double standard that fat shaming is wrong but that ridiculing and objectifying the body of skinny women is acceptable.

  4. Thank you! I hate it when people role their eyes at me and tell me to eat as if I am starving myself. Women can be even more cruel to each other then men sometimes. Why all the hate?

  5. This really brought back so many horrible memories from my childhood. I was so thin my mother had to make or take in all my clothes. I had a healthy appetite but just didn’t put on weight. The hell I went through at school with all the teasing. When I graduated high school I was 5′ 4″ and 98 lbs. Today after two kids I’m a ‘normal’ weight and not skinny shamed anymore but I really understand this article. It shaped my life. I had no self esteem.

  6. Thank you for this article. I am skinny and always get rude comments by people who think that they’re being funny. It’s not funny to tell someone to go eat a hamburger when that person is skinny. I would never say to an overweight person to go eat a salad. Some of us are skinny because of eating disorders and telling us to go eat isn’t helping. I’m 5’5″ and on a good day I weigh 115 pounds. (I don’t weigh myself anymore, just when I go to the doctors.) I will go days without eating sometimes. Having someone bully me about my weight doesn’t help and it hurts a skinny persons feelings just as much as it would hurt an overweight persons feelings.

  7. This was a good article that can apply to men also. When I graduated from high school in the 80’s I was 5′ 10″ tall and weighed 145 lbs. For most of my adult life–other than during a cocaine addiction, and years later a crystal meth addiction, which both dropped me below 120 lbs.–I have stayed in the 140-150 lb. range.
    People always acted like all I needed to do was eat and work out if I wanted to gain weight. I always had people saying I looked sick–even when I was at my peak weight. It wasn’t like I didn’t try. I did eat. It just wouldn’t stay on my frame. EVERY year my new years resolution would be to gain 20 lbs. EVERY year I would fail. The worst feeling was finding out from a female friend that a girl that I really liked a lot, spent a lot of time with, and got along with me great, became afraid that I was going to ask her to date me–because I was “too scrawny and bony chested”. After pulling out of the depression that brought out, I renewed my effort to gain weight. Yet more failure. I got up to 160 for a couple months, but couldn’t keep it on.
    Now, some health issues and changes in medication have resulted in weight gain up to 175 lbs for the first time in my life (after a Life Flight, life support, and a dip down to 112 lbs.). But, the weight came fast and the health issues prevent me from doing any real,exercise. So, it hasn’t turned me into a chiseled hunk. More like a scrawny guy with a pillow tied around the waist.
    So yes, men can have issues with being skinnyshamed. It may be even worse than it is for women because we are looked at by women as less manly if we aren’t filled out. That seems to be the case for even slightly skinny men. Whereas, only the most extreme cases of a woman being is consider unappealing to most men. Yes, men can be insecure about their bodies. Yes, men can be traumatized by that kind of rejection. Because, yes, men have feelings, too.

  8. I only have one issue with something in this article. The first 3 sentences:
    “We all know what fat shaming is. It happens all around us every day. It happens when a 7th grader is picked last in gym class because she’s still got a bit of baby fat and isn’t the most athletic person in the world.”

    That isn’t really an example of fat shaming. That is a choice made for practical performance reasons. It’s no different than a short,less than athletic kid being the last one picked last for basketball in gym class. It just makes sense. If the 7th grader you speak of was a middle school female version of Charles Barkley she wouldn’t be picked last. It’s the lack of athletic ability that would cause her to be picked last–nothing else. When I was in school there were always heavier kids picked ahead of the skinny kids that were horrible at sports.
    Other than that, I liked the article. (see my other comment for more opinion)

  9. yaaaaaass! thank youuuuuu!!! I am 5’5″ and my weight goes from 95 to 105 lbs constantly. I don’t eat more or less food, I have always fluctuated between those numbers for some reason, I do eat a lot and no I have never had an eating disorder. I learned to love my body when I met my now fiancé and he made me look at myself the way he saw me, as beautiful. But I did struggled thru many years with stupid comments “oh my god you are SO skinny!”, “omg you need to eat more”, “did you loose more weight?”, “you need a burger”, not to mention the weird stares at the beach and on the street. I even tried for many years to have protein shakes at night just to see if I could gain some weight. At one point I said fuck it! this is the body I have and I will embrace it, so I just don’t pay attention anymore. I buy whatever I want and wear what ever I want. But thank you for speaking out something that so many people cannot understand or relate to.

  10. The amount of times i’ve been told “eat a burger” is unreal. AH yeah because a few extra burgers a week will solve my high metabolism.

  11. AMEN!!! I have thought the same thoughts on many occasions.
    I’m 5’2, 100lbs. I work out five days a week, I’m a runner. I have a high metabolism.
    I’ve also been fat. I gained 55lbs at one point. And it was hell to get the weight off. I am happier now, healthier now and I love what I see in the mirror. I AM A SIZE ZERO.

    I’ve grown very tired of, “real women have curves”. So, I’m not a real woman? Am I a child? Am I a boy? Oh, I also have a small ass. Is that offensive as well? (The whole big booty craze is pretty nauseating, as well.) I’ve been told I need to eat a cheeseburger. Lol. Maybe it’s jealousy, idk, but it’s rude and intrusive to call anyone out on their fat or lack thereof!
    Just be healthy, be who you are and keep it movin’.

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