At first glance, it is pretty obvious that I am thin. It is one of the first things that people comment on when speaking to me. Even if it is not one of the first things, it always gets brought up somehow. In other words, my being thin seems to be a hot topic that many do not think twice about before speaking.
It used to bother me when people defined me by my weight. It hurt that people believed that there was something wrong with me, even though I am naturally skinny. It made me feel like I was under a microscope.
All of these comments stopped bothering me after I wrote one of my first Thought Catalog articles, which revolved around “skinny shaming.” After writing this article, a lot of the people in my life became more aware of how it affects me when my weight is used against me, even though I am healthy and happy. It made me feel better knowing that I had gotten the message out that there is nothing wrong with being naturally thin. Overall, the responses that I received on this article made me feel less alone.
I stopped noticing when people would comment on my weight and I would happily correct people by saying that I am “naturally skinny and healthy.” That is, I was okay with it until today.
Today, two separate incidents occurred where someone made me feel terrible about my weight.
Early this morning, someone mentioned that they were out shopping for clothes. They were talking about buying adult-sized clothing and they mentioned that they saw a kid-sized shirt in the adult section of the store.
Then, they casually said, “I should have picked that up for Anna.”
I was flabbergasted. As a 19-year-old woman, I do not claim to be a #1 adult, but I am definitely not a “kid.” The person that said this was not someone close to me, but they do know enough about me to know that I am absolutely not a child. But, once again, my weight defined me. They thought that since I am noticeably thin, it would be okay to refer to me as a child.
A few hours after this occurred, I overheard someone talking about me with a friend. Throughout the whole conversation, they kept referring to me as “the girl.” Whenever someone else was mentioned, they were called by their first name. So, why was it that I was denounced as someone without a first name? Why is it that I was talked about as if I was a little girl with no purpose in the world?
Well, based on the fact that this is not the first time that I have been called this (although, this time, it was used less maliciously), I would venture to guess that it has something to do with the fact that I am naturally petite.
Now, I am not saying that these people meant to offend me, but I am saying that it is important to show respect to people of all shapes, sizes, colors, and backgrounds. After all, it doesn’t hurt to think twice before you speak.
To hit this point home, I have devised a list of words that could be deemed offensive when it comes to speaking with naturally thin women (I have been called all of these names, so I am not making this up):
1. Anorexic (which is a medical disorder, and not a synonym for “thin”)
2. Bulimic (again, not all thin women have an eating disorder)
3. Little (calling a person “little” can make them feel that way on the inside)
4. Cute (little girls and puppies are cute; women are beautiful)
5. Little girl (insulting to a grown woman that has proven herself to be an adult)
6. Adorable (save this phrase for anything pink, sparkly, or sequined — not a human being)
7. Weak (I did not know that being skinny meant that I failed a strength test)
8. Sickly (although they both start with “s,” skinny does not mean sickly)
9. Breakable (whenever people call me this, it feels like a threat)
10. Skeleton-like (last time I checked, skeletons did not have skin and muscle)
11. Scrawny (nope, try again)
12. Unhealthy (skinny women do see doctors and can be healthy, just like everyone else)
13. Unnatural (how is being yourself unnatural?)
14. Fake (see the above, please)
15. Malnourished (skinny women do eat, it just affects our bodies differently)
Please, keep in mind that some of the above words, on the surface, are not offensive. But when used in a critical manner, they can be just as hurtful as the other words listed. For instance, after having accomplished one of my long-term goals at the end of my high school career, someone walked up to me and said, “You are so little and cute.”
Saying that to me made me feel inferior and it completely diminished what I had accomplished. Being called “little” and “cute” right after I had done something to prove my worth and maturity was belittling, insulting, and completely unwarranted. Focusing on my appearance, instead of my self-worth and accomplishments, is unnecessary and rude.
When people talk to me and comment on my appearance, it is as if they think that thin women wear an impenetrable shield. It is as if they think that because I am thin, my life is perfect and nothing that they say can hurt me. Just because I do not have a curvier figure does not mean that I do not have feelings.
Instead of being careful about what you say to heavier women (and men, for that matter), be careful about what you say to all human beings in general. It is just as offensive to call someone “too thin” as it is to call someone “fat.”
I am not saying that thin women deserve special treatment; I am saying that all women and men alike deserve to be treated with respect and to be seen for who they are on the inside: complex human beings with personalities, feelings, dreams, fears, and a whole lot of other stuff mixed in.