Thought Catalog

Kate Upton Is “Fat”: Why I’m Tired Of Competing With Other Women

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A few days ago, an acquaintance of mine posted a link to this take-down of Kate Upton’s body on my Facebook news feed. The friend was a man, and his commentary was what can only be described as amicably oblivious, something along the lines of, “I think she looks great!” I think we can all agree, even if her particular style isn’t our cup of tea, that Ms. Upton looks pretty objectively great and that this “article” — and the website it’s published on — deserves far more than a chuckling disagreement with their assessment of her looks and shape. Though you could argue that the understanding of the deeply problematic nature of this article is not universal, and his response to it is so light as to be frustrating, it’s clear that that a simple compliment to the woman for what he perceives to be her A-OK body type was only meant in kindness. Some people are fortunate enough to not understand why a site like Skinny Gossip is so incredibly upsetting.

It’s hard not to be on that website for more than 10 seconds and not feel a stomach-turning wave of rage and frustration about all that’s being said of these beautiful women’s bodies. How could another woman be so cruel? How could these women with rather low BMIs be publicly flogged as “fat?” Why is this site so popular? And yet, even though the initial reaction is one of anger and even blistering self-consciousness, with a bit of reflection, the more pressing question becomes: What could possibly make a woman — only identified as “working in the fasion industry… around 5’7 and 100 pounds” — feel this way about the women around her, and ultimately, about herself?

There is no secret about what looks “good” in media today. The models — male and female — are mostly lithe, tanned, tall white people who are either well-muscled (for men) or very, very thin (for women). We have endless information about the pressure people go through in the public eye to maintain a certain look, a certain presentation of a lifestyle that they may or may not be living, and we know that the consequences are often dire. As the actual public is gaining weight, the icons to which we are supposed to be looking for our beauty cues are becoming increasingly thin — a narrow body ideal on which almost all of their career rides. And while men certainly must experience feelings of inadequacy when seeing movie heartthrobs or action stars (and they have their share of body shaming — not the least of which, the mocking of less-than-enormous genitalia), it is women who are most afflicted by this profound desire to achieve an ultimately unattainable image of physical perfection.

We are told, in no uncertain terms, that we are ranked and put into a very tangible scale (she’s an eight, she’s a seven in good lighting, etc) based solely on what we look like. Other things that we might bring to the table, from intelligence to sense of humor to lived experience, fall as a very distant second to the way we present ourselves physically — and the guidelines for what is acceptably attractive seem to become narrower every day. We all know this profoundly; it’s a world and a set of stringent rules that we exist in every day and have grown so accustomed to as to forget that it’s there. Yet every time a woman calls another a “fat cow,” or “anorexic,” we’re showing with striking precision just how much these concepts of competition and ranking are so deeply embedded in the way we look at ourselves, and each other.

Paradoxically, though, many of us have also been raised in a culture that encourages us to “love our body” and be “body positive,” to feel love for ourselves and the way we look unconditionally, with a sage understanding of the things we can and cannot change, and an appreciation of the relative importance of physical beauty compared to other aspects of who we are. While we are bombarded from all sides with images of women who look flawless and a dating world that values us only as one might a delicate statue, we are expected to somehow overcome this with ourselves — and each other — to be wholly comfortable people, able to join hands and be nothing but happy and supportive for one another. And while Skinny Gossip may be an extreme example of caving to societal standards of beauty at the expense of compassion and acceptance, even so-called “body positive” blogs are often guilty of shaming a woman here or there for looking as though “she needs to eat a cheeseburger.” It’s as though, behind whatever façade of solidarity we are able to maintain, there is always a voice echoing at the back of our minds, telling us that “The prettier she is, the less pretty I am by default.”

I know that, personally speaking, I am guilty on countless occasions of passing judgment about another woman’s looks, of putting her into a category of some kind or making assumptions about her habits, lifestyle, or even the kind of person she is. I have ranked myself and considered where I stand in any group of women I happen to be in, assessing my “market value” and those of the women around me, often without even realizing it. And I would consider myself, if asked, a “body positive” person. I like to think of myself, as so many of us do, as someone who is not convinced or tricked by the images we see every day into thinking our worth can be determined by small pores or a good hip-to-waist ratio. Yet this constant, pervasive competition that I feel — that we are taught to feel — with those around us can unconsciously influence and even define so many of the interactions we have.

It’s as though we believe that attractiveness and preference and value are finite resources that we all have to divide amongst ourselves, that one woman cannot be beautiful as she sees fit without it being at the expense of someone else. We are often threatened by the flaunting of beauty we were taught not to value, just as much as we are threatened by the women that society might deem “perfect looking.” It’s a damned if you do, damned if you don’t scenario from which it feels like we can’t escape. And though the seething hatred and jealousy may rarely be so clear as it is on sites like Skinny Gossip, those cruel words coming as a slap in the face, we cannot pretend that such feelings of competition don’t exist within us all, though perhaps to a much smaller degree. That writer may have horrific words for her fellow woman, and she may revel in dragging them through the body-image mud, but we should ultimately have compassion for her, not hatred. What could possibly be sadder than a woman who has so completely buckled under the weight of societal pressure, who has become so consumed with shape and image and food and the way others look, that her life is now dedicated to making others feel ugly and herself feel temporarily vindicated? Hating her will do nothing, but trying to understand why she — and to some degree, all of us — can feel this way is perhaps the only way to confront the root of these problems, and not just the vicious symptoms.

We see things like this every day, glaring examples of the narrow, conflicting images we’re being shown, and the very human, flawed ways in which we respond to them. There are nasty articles, unflattering photos, cruel comments, and perhaps a response or two (like that of my Facebook friend) which serve to offhandedly counteract the general sentiment with some variation of “You’re just fine as you are, girls!” It’s skimming the surface of a roiling sea of jealousy and self-consciousness and anger and shame. It is the vortex in which, no matter what size or shape you are, there is always some way in which you could be better, someone who is doing it better than you, and someone who is not good enough. There is always judgment to be passed, and someone to put down to make yourself look higher up in comparison. And though it can often feel as though this is a system of negative reinforcement from which we will never escape, perhaps the first step would be acknowledging, when we see commentary and cruelty about the women around us, to not pretend it’s just one isolated woman’s opinion of another woman eating a cheeseburger. TC mark

image – Terry TV
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Kate Upton Is “Fat”: Why I’m Tired Of Competing With Other Women is cataloged in , , , , , , , ,
  • http://twitter.com/yesjessica Jessica Thompson (@yesjessica)

    Thank you. I refuse to go to that site and give them any further traffic, even though I am curious. I really like that Kate Upton did a Carl’s Jr. commercial of her eating fast food. I don’t know if it was thought out as a nod to the “fat” criticisms she receives, but I like to think so.

  • H

    Frankly, I can’t take the take down of Kate Upton (who is gorgeous, and I would sell my nephew to have her figure) seriously, because it’s blatantly evident that the girl who writes that blog is unwell. Despite her protests to the contrary in her “self harm statement”, it’s clear that she suffers from some kind of illness. If not anorexia, then perhaps body dysmorphia or an EDNOS. If anything, I pity her. Primarily for the fact that she has nothing better to do with her life than go through Internet images and attack beautiful famous women (jealousy much?) for their outward appearance.

  • http://gravatar.com/kaz91 kaz91

    This woman is the lowest of the low. If she wasn’t hiding behind anonymity she would be the target of so much hatred right now. Also, you should read her self-harm disclaimer. HINT: IF YOU NEED TO HAVE A DISCLAIMER YOU ARE PROBABLY DOING SOMETHING VINDICTIVE TO MAKE PEOPLE WANT TO SELF-HARM. http://www.skinnygossip.com/some-changes/

  • Michael Koh

    when kate upton eats that hamburger… yum

  • http://musabee.wordpress.com musabee

    That website has my blood pressure up three notches. The pressure on women today is so unreal. But what saddens me, is WOMEN who only perpetuate such stigmas and expectations. It’s truly heart breaking.

    • Lee

      I couldn’t have said it better myself. As women, we blame the media/men/etc for our body image issues, but there are many women who perpetuate these stigmas.

  • http://www.joujoulovesyou.blogspot.com joujou

    Funny, I JUST posted a link to a photo shoot with Kate Upton on FB praising her body. The girl is a Goddess. I love that she isn’t stick thin, I love that she embraces her body. You can clearly see she embraces herself in all her glory and I LOVE THAT!!! I’m so sick of women hating themselves because they are not a size 0 and I’m equally sick of seeing the same body in magazines, internet, and TV over and over again. Obviously she is doing something right she is booking work non stop. That TROLL who wrote that article should be muzzled. When was the last time she did a photo shoot… probably never.

    • LP

      I think that may be the exact competitive, hateful talk that the author is arguing we should AVOID.

  • http://raycrackthesky.tumblr.com raymondthimmes

    Girl, I’d buy you a cheeseburger any day.

  • Guest

    That site upset me far more than I would like to admit. Especially some of the comments in the forum. I don’t understand how people think others weight is their place to judge, speak of, or a concern to them. I am curvy and have had several people at my work- some women who are over 200lbs!- comment on it. It’s inappropriate. And some of the arguments the “thin” people use against the curvy or “fat”….makes me shake my head.

    • Guest

      * Not that there is anything wrong with being 200 lbs. I just would think us curvy women would stick together…

      • JK

        I couldn’t agree more, I will literally NEVER understand why people think that another person’s weight/figure/shape is any of their business. It’s about as relevant as commenting on someone’s hair or eye colour. Contributes nothing!!

      • fatty

        Aaand you just judged the women who are over 200 pounds at your work in the same way they judge you. So. Cool.

        Also, fat people know what fat looks like. It’s not any more rude for fat women to comment than for skinny women to comment.

  • paintthinnr

    When I first saw that a few weeks ago it triggered the hell out of me. Especially the “well marbled” title. It still makes me cringe. I’ve battled an eating disorder most of my life. So while I think this girl is beautiful, yeah, I can see how someone could see her as fat. She’s NOT, but I have the messed up brain that gets how you can see fat looking at that image. And I hate that I can.

    The site is a thinspo site. Most are not as cruel. Most just show pictures and make comments like “swoon” over pictures of jutting ribs.

  • Jolie

    God, she has the most fantastic breasts.

  • awilim

    Not only does the blogger have serious issues, but the commenters on the blog do as well. That site, “skinnygossip.com”, is used to promote unhealthy views on weight loss. Degrading a model’s body because you are uncomfortable with your own is pitiful. Also, on a fair note, almost all of the bloggers use fake profile pictures of very thin models. Poor girls need some help.

  • http://stepstochangetheworld.wordpress.com ChangeTheWorld

    Thank you so much for writing this. Articles like this can contribute to a real change to the way that women view their bodies

    http://stepstochangetheworld.wordpress.com/

  • http://rm113.com Brandon Scott

    I applauded after reading this. That site is one of the most disgusting ways to pass judgement.

  • Jules

    The most disturbing part of that website is the comments– girls sharing their weight and height, asking whether or not they’re considered “fat.” There are hundreds of comments that look pretty similar to this: “Hi I was wondering if I am skinny or not? I weigh 104 and am 5’6″ and 1/4 should I lose more weight? I want to be around 100 but its soo hard I eat only MAX like 600 cals a day and workout 4 times a week for 4 hrs!!”
    The author of the website claims that they are simply a community of women who believe skinny is beautiful and are trying to help each other achieve that goal of becoming skinny. But the website doesn’t promote that idea at all– it is simply “fat is bad” (although the women on there are so far from fat, it’s ridiculous).

  • Sam

    Granted that I agree with your end message and I like your writing, I must say I was disappointed, as a male, by the way you set aside males in this discussion. I see that the article’s target audience is females, so maybe that should have been my cue to stop reading and move on to something else, but I really think you lost a lot of potenial substance by disregarding the hardship caused onto men, either gay, straight, or bisexual, from societal pressures relating to body and image. Women are not alone in feeling these pressures, and I wouldn’t even go to say that they face a greater pressure than men, as you suggest. This is unfair, I think, and it detracts from the fact that the societal expectations that we have built up are not only effecting females, but males too, and generally the population at large. It starts from birth, and as children who are very impressionable, we begin to mold our own thoughts and judgments of ourselves and others to match the behemoth that is popular opinion. We praise physical beauty and excellence. Yet the damage done to the psychology and emotions of a newly independent woman in her 20s should not be compared to the damage done to a pubescent teenage boy. It doesn’t make sense to say that one sex is receiving more pressure from society, that females’ end of the stick is worse than males. Females and males are both victims to the pressure, and they are also both guilty of contributing to the societal stigma and pressure themselves, whether we want to admit that or not. The point is, I don’t think there is a point in dividing the negative effects and seeing who got a bigger piece of the victimized pie. This is a problem that all humans face, all sexes and ages included. Except, like, you know, babies and toddlers. Anyway, keep it up with the good work, I just hope you read this and maybe gain a different perspective or somethin’. End rant.

    • Joe

      The blog is called Skinny GIRL. That’s probably why Chelsea chose to focus on women. And, the fact that she is one.

      • Sam

        I don’t mind the focus being on women, that’s totally okay. I was writing specifically in response to this: “it is women who are most afflicted by this profound desire to achieve an ultimately unattainable image of physical perfection.”

        Personally, I know a few males (myself included) who are also very afflicted with this “profound desire”. All I am saying is that it doesn’t seem fair to me to say females get it worse.

    • Hailey

      Can you say “What about us males?!” one more time? I really don’t think the world focuses on males enough and how hard it is having a penis.

    • Lady

      There’s no doubt that men also have pressure to look a certain way. HOWEVER–you are just completely incorrect that there’s no difference. I don’t mean to play the “Who has it worse game” but the fact is, no matter how much pressure men have to look a certain way, a man is valued for far more than their looks, whereas women are prized for their looks above and beyond anything else. This is just a fact. Times may be changing, but there are hundreds of years of this kind of attitude to overcome. Of course the world prefers beautiful people of both genders, But consider this: Adrian Brody, Michael Cera, Zach Galifankis. All of these men are not conventionally attractive. And all of these men are celebrated and lusted after by many women because of their personality attributes. A woman’s personality does NOT hold as much weight as her appearance. And it certainly doesn’t hold as much weight as a man’s personality–and the value we place on men’s personalities helps temper the need to be physically beautiful.

      • Claire

        While I agree that women are valued for their looks more thanme, we seem to be leaving out the HUGE pressure for guys to be “masculine” and what that entails. In some cases that does far more damage than what women endure. They are expected to stifle their emotions and be strong at all times. At least body image issues are discussed in schools now to an extent and it’s an issue that is out in the open even though it hasn’t much improved. The “be a man” idea and the pressure boys face isn’t really brought up very often. In high school they warn kids about eating disorders and what they look like, AND young girls are encouraged more and more and go to into “male” career paths like engineering. Do you ever, EVER hear of high school boys being encouraged to do things that would come off as even remotely feminine? Nope. That issue is barely even addressed to young people. In the end we all struggle and I’m not saying anyone has it harder or easier than the other, but it’s just something to think about.

  • Dogmudgeon

    If I may “correct” (actually, “amplify” is a better word) you on one point: This isn’t about competition or jealousy so much as stark, pathological hatred. And it’s covered up with some high-sounding moralizing on another page (her self-justifying “Self-Harm Statement”). Yet other pages, such as “Fat Pride Burns My Hide”, illustrate just how much “hideburn” is going on:

    (quotes:)
    “A magazine for “plus size” women (aka. fat girls) … made me both angry and sick to my stomach. … I’m not sure what is more disgusting – the pictures or the statistics they are using to make their point – some of which are incorrect. … The “average woman” nowadays is a fatass!”

    (and then, there’s …)

    “This is the first time I’ve ever seen a skinny girl and a fat girl posing together naked – and I’m hoping it’s the last, because it’s really gross and a little scary. This reminds me a little of those pictures where a big killer whale is about to devour a beautiful little seal. When I see this picture, I just want to yell ‘RUN, RUNN!! IT’S NOT YOUR FRIEND, IT’S GOING TO EAT YOU!'”
    (/quotes)

    It’s not the kind of “snarky, edgy, sophisticated” humor that has become so popular in our culture of cowardly rage, it’s flat-out dehumanization. This kind of Interspew is one step removed from Stormfront. It’s body-bigotry and sexism with a little concern trolling mixed in, a diarrhea-and-vomit casserole topped with low-cal marshmallow Fluff for the Fashionable Hate crowd.

    Time was, and recently, I would have been incensed, but it’s too difficult to keep up with the flood of narcissistic inhumanity that’s making it into print these days.

    I’m a man, probably older than most of the men who read and comment on these pages; yes, I think Kate Upton is quite pretty. And I fear that as a society, we’re going through a new phase of Puritanism, where Food Is The New Sex, Good Girls Don’t Eat Meat, and Obese Is Just The Latinate Form Of “Slut”. This will all end in tears — but cycles of Puritanism last long enough that I (and possibly you, too) will probably not live long enough see the reaction against it.

    • Leeza

      “And I fear that as a society, we’re going through a new phase of Puritanism, where Food Is The New Sex, Good Girls Don’t Eat Meat, and Obese Is Just The Latinate Form Of “Slut”. ”

      spot on and very much quote worthy.

      blogs like this make me worry about raising children, and about how we all will be able to cope in general in a society that is developing such a distorted list of priorities. we claim to be leading the free world on so many issues, and yet kate upton’s weight (along with many others) is the CENTRAL focus of not only this blogger, but the women who commented, and what I can only presume is many others. what does this say about our credibility, our future?

  • http://paperballpotluck.wordpress.com paperballpotluck

    Everyone on that website and in the discussion forum (WHY did I go there) qualifies in the worst human being category. I go a text out of the blue from my friend the other day saying “You know you’re gorgeous right? I feel sorry for you girls. Society puts too much pressure on you to look a certain way”.

    • Nathalie

      Love this post. We don’t need to be twigs to have men that appreciate us, and neither do they– they just don’t understand.

  • Meg

    You know…it’s just weird. Most guys I talk to think that girls who look like a twig are gross. Don’t guys like curves on a chick? I’m not talking about being overweight, i’m just saying seeing someone’s rib cage isn’t attractive right?

    • Unsympathetic

      In response to that; yes, we do like some curves.

      I am an unapologetic misogynist, among many other qualities that your kind would find repulsive, but even I don’t find stick figures to be attractive. In fact, if you don’t have a bubble-butt, and some type of athletic curve to your thighs and calves, and a part beautiful/part cute (yet with a hint of slutty) face then you are practically invisible to me.

      The only reason I’m being open about how I am here is so you know that I’m not just some mangina or white knight fattie apologist trying to score internet points with the community of bitches here. I am a full-on douchebag who would sooner screw a fleshlight before ever hooking up with a feminist, and I am confirming for you that too skinny is gross.

  • Mallory

    I love you, Chelsea Fagan. You are magnificent.

  • SEJH

    Thank you. As an overweight female (and I do mean overweight, not “omg, I need to lose a pound of water weight” overweight), this resonates. Here I am, working my butt off to get healthy: eating better food (yep, I still indulge in my favorites every once in a while), working out on a regular basis, and cutting back on alcohol consumption. Honestly, it’s a maturity thing as much as wanting to feel energized. But when people look at me, they still see the fat girl and judge accordingly.

    When I’m by myself or around my closest friends, I never once think of my weight. I am totally okay with who I am and how I look. I haven’t let my weight dictate my life. My career is going along nicely, I have a very active social life, I even have an active romantic life. Beating the stigma of “fat” has kind of become my life mission (even when I do come down to a healthy, happy weight. No number or size in mind, just whenever I feel it’s ok). It freaks people out and they aren’t really sure what to do, but whatever. I’m still a person deserving of human respect.

  • alysiavictoria@gmail.com

    My older sister is about 200 lbs. I’m 107, and I know for a FACT she’s more beautiful than I’ll ever be. That doesn’t make me feel bad. I simply recognize that she’s gorgeous. I’m a Chelsea fan because I respect what she writes, so I follow her and Gaby’s twitter accounts because they are hilarious. This is creepy, but pardon me because I just finished school and I’m spending my days on the internet, but I clicked on a funny post that led me to one of Chelsea’s friends, and then I clicked on a thought provoking post that led me to her friend’s friend. There, I read this really interesting post about how the girl no longer reads fashion blogs. She grew tired of these high standards of women who are so gorgeous and fashionable that they’ve quit their day jobs to maintain their popular sites, and are now being endorsed by big companies to feed us their products that the bloggers just so happen to love. I decided to follow Chelsea’s friend’s friend’s path and removed all of the fashion blogs from my bookmarks that I’ve been addicted to since around 2008. That week, wow. I just felt so much better about myself. I hadn’t realized the effects of these blogs on my mentality! I always thought I was meh okay. Suddenly I only had me to compare myself to. (I was studying for an exam and had no tv to watch, etc.) I suddenly felt beautiful in my own skin. I no longer looked at tall blondes wearing the latest fashions whose blogs I’d check out in the a.m and then again at night. It’s been just lil ole 4’10 me and a mirror everyday, and it’s been pretty great.

    • http://faganchelsea.wordpress.com Chelsea Fagan

      Yay!! :)

  • Nathalie

    As a social worker, and fellow twenty-something, I found this above mentioned website disappointing. I explored this skinnygossip.com and looked through the comments on various threads, including Kate Upton. Being comfortable and accepting yourself is beautiful, and what we should strive for– not being skinny. We should aspire to be our best possible selves, and that is our business as to how we define it. I would guess that the author of the site is judging other’s weight as some type of coping mechanism to deal with her own self-body issues. She may come off as quite confident, but the anger she feels towards weight issues stemmed from somewhere in her past. I appreciate this article written by Chelsea, and look forward to more work in the future.

  • http://gravatar.com/emmamcgrath Emma McGrath

    Oh god, I wound up perusing that website for about five minutes before I had to stop for fear of vomiting everywhere. Unfortunately, SkinnyGossip is by no means the the only website around like that, nor is it even the most vicious.

    The thing is, women are told, since birth, day in and day out, from every billboard and commercial and magazine ad, that super-thin is the way to be. We are supposed to worship thin and abhor fat. Thin deserves praise, thin deserves money, thin deserves respect, thin deserves love, thin deserves fashion and sex and expensive champagne, and fat…well. Fat deserves nothing but shame.

    So when a group of women like those on Skinny Gossip, who have seemingly devoted their entire existence to the pursuit of thinness, suddenly see women like Kate Upton on a runway, it makes them a little angry. They are desperately chasing after thin, and here this woman has the audacity to strut around in a bikini at a higher weight. It’s kind of like a, “Who does she think she is?” kind of thing. If they can’t have that kind of confidence at 100 lbs, why should she get to have it at 130?

    Yes, it’s easy to be angry at them for being so heartless and shallow. But it makes more sense, and it is more productive, to be angry at the society that created this monster.

  • Iamreal

    I work for a fashion company and not a day goes by where I don’t recieve an email or Facebook comment from women referring to the size of the models we use- She’s too skinny. I feel sorry for how ill and thin she is. She looks anorexic. Yet the most common thing I read is, “Why don’t you use real women with curves and flesh modelling your clothes?” You see, the problem with statement is, what defines a real woman? We can sit here and pull data, compare statics and measure up BMIs, yet there will never come a day where we can say, “Here, here’s a real woman for you modelling out latest collection!”

    And I think of it like this; if I were asked to define my own personal idea of what a “real” woman is, I would say this: she isn’t a size or shape, but a magnitude of self-loving confidence. She walks with her head high. She smiles a bright, wide smile. She is busy with her days, working hard through life, achieving her goals. She is a mom, a sister, a daughter and a lover. She takes pride in her appearance. She laughs freely, without fear of the future. She appreciates her abilities to be active, and takes care of her body; be it with the fresh foods she eats or her weekly 10 mile run. She is a woman who is simple thankful for the body she has been given, and for having the desire to love it unconditionally.

    Call me crazy if this seems far fetched, but instead of aiming to be a size or shape, we should aim or aspire to be this.

  • http://www.facebook.com/rebecca.raymond.3 Rebecca Raymond

    I just logged on to this skinny gossip website and the lady sounds a little out there… I mean the things she is saying. I am really thin so I could relate to like two sentences then I exited out because it seemed strange. I felt like because I wasn’t striving to be thin I should not be here. But whatever people like. Good article!

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