On Thin-Shaming

After much discussion with a variety of people – activists, feminists, thinkers, average people – I would like to discuss something particularly relevant to our discussions of lookism, body-shaming and fat-shaming/fatphobia: thin-shaming.

I am thin. I have always been thin. I am thinner than many females, and almost all men. I model because of my thinness. I have the privilege of eating as much as I want, without major weight fluctuations. Yet, why would I speak about thin-shaming when being thin is such a highly prized form of beauty in Western countries?

Because, as a thin person, I am never treated as a beautiful, real person. Because my thinness overshadows my other qualities. Because I have been told on many an occasion that my body is only “okay” because I eat so much. Because I’m young and I have time to add the weight. Because I have been told many dozen times that somebody thought at first that I had anorexia, bulimia or some other medical problem. Because I have walked down the streets of Manhattan with people staring at my legs, particularly one woman who decided to scream from across the street, amidst a crowd of at least one-hundred people, “Becky, look at his pants! They is stuck to his skin!” Because I have been told that I cannot be an exemplum of masculinity: that my thinness marks my effeminacy. Because I have eventually and gradually begun to internalize the idea that there might be something wrong with my body, that perhaps I’m not beautiful, that I might be abnormal.

Thin-shaming is a form of body-shaming that permeates much of the feminist discourse though it has managed to go unquestioned and uncriticized for too long. We need to stop hating on each others’ bodies because, in the words of Mr. Glenn Marla, there is no wrong way to have a body – and no wrong way to be beautiful.

This is not an “Oh, poor me, I’m so oppressed by my lithe figure!” statement. I do realize that fat-shaming and thin-shaming are different concepts with different nuances, and that fat-shaming is perhaps more stigma-ridden, though I would like to stress that they both fall under body-shaming. And yes, I do realize that numerous individuals as thin as I am have been diagnosed with anorexia, bulimia, other eating disorders, etc.. But, just like the fat acceptance movement has articulated well, that doesn’t mean that our bodies cannot still be beautiful, that we can allow and condone lookist discrimination. This is about stressing how our culture does not emphasize or even value body-positivity, but rather that it is fundamentally a body-negative culture.

This is a real story about how we have forgotten that thin bodies can also be beautiful, that thin people are real people too, that we are not abnormal physically or mentally, that we can be beautiful, that we can be desiring and not simply some fetishized object that the media has valorized, stripped thin people from the fact that they are very much human. This is a call to stop body-shaming people and realizing that body-shaming takes on many, many forms.

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One Comment

  1. Posted May 2, 2012 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

    In it’s own odd way, the fact that being large is stigmatised more than being small means that it’s easier for larger people to find others who, if they haven’t struggled with the issue themselves, at least are sympathetic to those who do. Whereas is you’re thin, you feel like you have to keep quiet about any negative aspects of it because the response is more likely to be “I hate you” than “I feel for you” (I’ve gotten similar comments out of the blue, I’m not going to invite them). It’s isolating. Even being comfortable with my body size, any time weight/size comes up I am acutely aware of my privilege and I immediately feel like an ‘other’ in the conversation.

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