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Why being heckled for being fat hurts more than being heckled for being thin

As a skinny girl I hate the bones are for dogs comment. I am naturally skinny to the point I have to work very hard to keep my weight up and steady!!! I love being skinnybut it’s hard… it’s mean and hurtful when we are called skin and bones, referenced to attracting only low class guys, or called anorexic. It’s not ok to insult a plus sized woman so it shouldn’t be ok to insult a skinny woman. I have nothing against plus sized ladies. All that matters is you’re happy and healthy. And for the record, my fiancé is not a dog or anywhere close to it!!!!” -Facebook User commenting on a plus sized model’s photo.

Dear (Thin) Facebook User,

First, let me say that I agree. People should refrain from voicing hurtful opinions about the weight of others regardless of which end of the spectrum that person occupies, period. Generally, that person is aware of what their body looks like, and doesn’t need your input on the matter. Such commentary accomplishes nothing except for boosting the ego of the perpetrator by putting down the target, often in the guise of snide concern. Making fun of a fat person and a making fun of a thin person are equally condemnable. Neither is O.K..

real-womenHowever, the way this sort of commentary hurts a thin person is often very different from the way it hurts an overweight individual. Barring very low self-esteem, eating disorders, or other mental disorders that distort body image, most thin people are generally comfortable with their bodies even if they are not entirely satisfied. The above user said herself that she loves being thin. While this is becoming true for a growing number of overweight/fat/plus-sized/choose-your-adjective individuals, a vast majority of them (should I say us?) are constantly uncomfortable in their own skin.

Overweight people, especially women, tend to face a lot of imagery in magazines, television, and movies telling them their size is not only not beautiful, but not acceptable or at best, something to mocked. While there are a growing number of non-traditional models, big girls tend to have to seek out imagery that positively represents bodies similar to their own. On the contrary, thin women regularly see imagery that reinforces and reassures them that their bodies are attractive even if they hear remarks to the opposite effect. Being inundated with this sort of exclusionary imagery tends to make overweight women, and the men who are attracted to them, unnecessarily aggressive toward the idea of thin being sexy.  Often men attracted to fat women are seen as fetishists and the fat women themselves are seen as a fetish,  further increasing their defensive nature.

It is true that thin women still face the same pressure that all women feel: to have the perfect boobs, an exaggerated waist, and round perky buttocks. Disparaging remarks about our bodies hurt no matter what size we are; few people don’t inwardly long to change their appearance. The main difference here is that the remarks of peers regarding weight are much less likely to encourage or perpetuate harmful behaviors in the average thin person.

Thin women, because they tend to feel more confident about their bodies, are more likely to recognize the commentary as ignorant and hateful, label the person dispensing it an asshole, and move on. But it is fairly common for overweight women to already have an inner monologue that tells us we are unattractive because we are fat, and though we may hide it at the time, the commentary validates our negative self-image.  In women who are overweight despite vigilant diet and exercise, this can lead to starvation dieting or even encourage them to give up. In people who compulsively overeat, or eat for emotional reasons the implication is obvious.

In summation: Yes, thin Facebook user, the person who tells you to eat a cheeseburger or asks if you are anorexic is an asshole in the same way as the person who tells me I need Jenny Craig and asks me how I escaped SeaWorld. Yes, we both as women have to deal with insensitive assholes telling us that we don’t fit their ideal of beauty… But, unless you have a sense of worthlessness strongly linked to your weight…unless you have a loud inner-monologue that tells you that you are less than worthy because of how you look…please…don’t pretend you know how I feel.

 



On beauty ideals, advertisement, and body image

Jezebel featured an article almost a year ago which bluntly sums up the below ad in two sentences. “The message: your wife, though she’s clearly gone to some effort to look sexy and seduce you, is too fat. Solution: adultery.” Since then, the ad for the website Ashley Madison  has been periodically resurfacing on blogs and Facebook pages, stirring outrage. Most recently, Volup2., an online magazine geared toward female body acceptance, posted it to their Facebook page.

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Another offensive ad from Ashley Madison

What I find most appalling about this ad is my initial reaction. While after regarding it for a moment I can dismiss it as just another hateful ad, my first thoughts are clearly influenced by being inundated with these sorts of images and ideas about what a woman can look like and still be considered beautiful.

In actuality, I admire all women who are brave enough to put themselves out there like this and am envious of their self-confidence. I am especially impressed with women who are working to make the public idea of female beauty more inclusive such as Jacqueline aka “Juicy Jackie,” the plus sized model who was featured in this ad without her knowledge.

But, for just a split second after seeing these women (particularly in the context of this ad) I am momentarily glad that I am smaller than the plus sized woman, and I hate the woman who is thin yet buxom. This is clearly sick thinking.

So what is going on here? I consider both of these women attractive, and don’t mean either of them disrespect. If I think about it, the hate I have for the thin model isn’t actually directed at her, but rather that I don’t have a body like hers…something ads like this suggest I should have. In this ad, the message to women is pretty transparent. Unless your body looks like this (possibly airbrushed) model, you shouldn’t necessarily expect your mate to be sexually attracted to you.

Women, and men to growing, but admittedly lesser, extent are overwhelmed with similar images on advertisements like these, as well as in television and movies that not only push certain ideals of beauty, but also actively shame those who do not fit it.

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While both a woman and a man are body-shamed here, by the rules television he would still be allowed to marry someone “out of his league”

For women, it seems these ideals are especially narrow in media representation. Think about the sort of woman most often featured in advertisements, catalogues, television, and movies. Not only should a woman be smaller than a size 6, (or size 12 for plus sized models) but she should have an hourglass figure, not too much muscle tone, an angular face, and professionally done hair and make up. While these standards don’t always carry into the real world, body shaming certainly does.

A thin woman might hear “eat a cheeseburger” which implies that she must be thin because she doesn’t eat enough. A plus sized woman might hear, “like she needs that” implying she must be fat because she eats constantly. A woman with defined abs and arms might be called “manly” or even told, “Stop working out so much and have some icecream,” implying that well toned bodies aren’t feminine. Of course, not everyone engages in this sort of behavior, but just a few comments can be damaging. The worst part is, sometimes people aren’t even aware they are doing it.

Once, while sharing my body insecurity woes (for the umpteenth time) with a past boyfriend, he told me, “You’re no Natalie Portman, but you’re acceptable.” He went on to say something along the lines of, “just like I’m no Johnny Depp.” I realize this response was not meant to be hurtful, but the wording certainly compares both of us to people famous for their good looks..and finds us lacking. For you guys who are wondering, the correct response to a woman shaming herself would have been: “I think you look great, and there are more important things to me than just how you look. I feel like you should stop talking down to yourself.”

Jacqueline said of the ad she was featured in, “Not all women are necessarily insecure, but it’s no secret that body insecurity is endemic, regardless of size. This kind of message is extremely damaging to self worth…A size 2 woman who sees this ad sees the message: ‘If I don’t stay small, he will cheat.’ A size 12 woman might see this ad and think ‘if I don’t lose 30lbs, he will cheat.’ A size 32 woman could see this ad, and feel ‘I will never find love.’ It’s horrific.”

She said the photograph was taken before she began her modeling career, and she was unaware the photographer would sell it as a stock photo without regard to its usage. “I am a size 32. I am beautiful..Beauty is not and has never been one-size-fits-all. I do not appreciate my image being used, without notice or permission, to tell women I have never met otherwise.”