I am not here as a thin woman to complain that it’s hard to be thin and that thin-shaming is a thing too. I am of the mind that while being a woman can be hard, modern standards of beauty factor into this and thus I think the female experience can be made easier if you more closely fit the standard of beauty perpetuated by the media. I am not arguing that this is right or just in any way, and I’m not saying that if you fit the standard of beauty life is a cakewalk. I am not here to talk about the conflicts of fat-shaming vs. thin-shaming or to talk from either one of these perspectives. I am here to speak from the perspective of a woman who struggles with body image.
While there are a myriad of issues surrounding body image that will require a great deal of action to change, I think a simple and effective starting place would be to stop commenting on size, both positive and negative. Obviously insulting someone’s size is immensely hurtful. Besides the emotional pain and unhappiness it causes, it can also often spur harmful actions such as anorexia, bulimia, or binge eating.
It can also be hurtful to someone’s psyche if you tell them they have a beautiful body. Now before you all get up in arms, let me explain. I mean hurtful in a deep and unconscious psychological way. When you tell someone that they have a great body this creates in them an idea that their body alone is the asset that they bring to the world, and that is the reason people like them. It creates pressure to keep their body as is or their worth will decrease if it ever changes. When I was younger, people always told me I had a lovely figure but never a beautiful face and so I started to equate my own brand of beauty as being solely based off of my body. When changes in my body started occurring, aka when I got a butt and hips and the thighs and middle that accompany these things I freaked out because the part of me that people thought was beautiful was changing.
I am not trying to devalue the hurt that people who receive negative comments about their size have, I am simply trying to point out that any comment about anyone’s size can have a lasting and harmful impact and that is why I’m proposing we stop commenting on size entirely. We need to stop insulting or complimenting people based on a superficial characteristic that is largely out of their control. While many will argue that being skinny or fat is a choice and has to do with the type of lifestyle you live, it is out of many people’s hands as they are genetically predisposed to a certain body type.
What I recommend is that we start making comments and judgments based on people’s character, their values, their actions. Beauty is so much more than just skin deep. If you want to compliment or even insult someone, base it off of something that isn’t arbitrary like the size of their body. When you tell someone they have a good body you are praising them for something they had nothing to do with. They were just born. And even if they did have something to do with it you are praising their ability to eat well (or not eat) or work out effectively. Why build someone up on false merit? Why build someone up for having the money and time that many don’t have access to, to eat well and have a gym membership?
Commenting on size at all is counterproductive to creating a society of happy, healthy, people who contribute to the greater good. I cannot tell you the number of times that I’ve overheard people talking about someone they didn’t like because of any number of reasons: mean, caddy, rude, whatever, and when describing her they’ve called her a fat insert mean adjective. Size has nothing to do with this person sucking so don’t bring it into the conversation. Conversely, I’ve overheard girls talking about a new girl they met who they think is so cool and nice and pretty and interesting and thin. What in God’s name does her appearance have to do with her being a great person who you want to be friends with?
I am guilty of much of the behavior I’ve mentioned. And I am ashamed of that. Somewhere along the way it has become engrained in society that beauty and goodness and fatness and badness are linked together. This is atrocious and upsetting and must be changed. So with that I ask that everyone stop commenting on size at all and start commenting on the people beneath. Every individual has great value and that value is tied to their character and actions and has absolutely nothing to do with their size.