Are skinny women shamed as much as fat women? [And, does it matter?]
For the “What I Wish You Knew” series over on Rage Against the Minivan, a blog I lovelovelovelovelove (in case you wondered), a reader submission addressed the topic of discrimination against thinner women. [Please note, the author makes explicit mention of weight, and the post could be triggering for some. Use your best judgment.]
Megyn shares her personal experience with food allergies that have caused her to be underweight and the subject of others’ critical stares and scathing comments. She makes some excellent points:
There is so much out there about loving your curves and accepting your body if you’re not thin. But what about us thin women? Is it ok to belittle and begrudge us? To make snide remarks and disgusted looks? Speaking badly of someone’s weight seems more socially acceptable of thin women than of heavier women. It’s hard to love my body when everyone else tells me I too should hate it and be disgusted. That I am wrong and not ok.
Megyn’s right. Discrimination against thinner women is not something that’s talked about very often. Society does seem to think that it’s okay to pour it’s commentary on how skinny women should “eat more” or “put on a few pounds” without a second thought. In fact, one of the very first posts on NTS addressed this issue, because I think it’s so important.
We all too often forget that creating a world in which weight stigma doesn’t exist means creating a safe space for people of all shapes and sizes. The truth is skinny women don’t all want to be that way. Some struggle with food allergies. Others with illnesses that have wrecked havoc on their bodies. Others may have been the victims of neglect or malnourishment in youth. And still others do struggle with eating disorders, but are no less deserving of respect. So, I understand Megyn’s frustration, dealing with health issues that not only cause her to have to eat differently, but to then be scrutinized for it.
Perhaps the comments she bears are born out of jealousy, discomfort, or simply our hyper-focus on others’ bodies. Whatever the reason, there’s work we need to do culturally and personally to address weight shaming.
So here’s where I disagree with Megyn:
I want you to know thin women are prejudiced against just as much as heavier women.
Perhaps I’m splitting hairs here, or playing right into the Pain Olympics (Waaa! We have it worse!). But I think that this statement is 100% untrue. To me, it’s like a white person saying, “I want you to know that I am just as prejudiced against as a black person.” I just don’t buy it. [Am I opening myself for a firestorm here?]
Everything that I know from reading countless research studies, following the HAES movement, working with patients across the full weight spectrum, and living as a person in a weight-focused world tells me that fat people have it worse. Period.
Larger folks are shamed at nearly every turn – in the workplace, at the grocery store, on the internet, at restaurants, on the playground, in the voting booths, and in their own families, as a start. While perhaps (and I say that tentatively), the comments are more underground when it comes to people we consider overweight or obese, the effects (in salary, opportunities, respect, etc.) are profound.
I think it’s important that we take a cold, hard look at the discrimination happening against larger people. We have to recognize privilege as it exists, or we are doomed to live blind and biased. That’s all.
Now that I’ve stated that fat people have it worse, I recognize that it’s not all that helpful to pit one side against the other, and that’s not what I mean to do. Really. It doesn’t make what’s happening to Megyn better. I just think that making the comparison doesn’t have to be part of her argument.
This actually shouldn’t be a battle of who is more shamed, because the real victims here are women in general. When fat people or thin people are shamed for their weight, we are all hurt. If we grow up fearing being anywhere but in the dead center of the weight spectrum, we perpetuate the stigmatization and we become terrified of letting our bodies find their natural rhythm.
My heart aches for Megyn and her struggle, because no one deserves to be stared down for their size.
What do you think?
[Speaking of not pitting people against one another, one of the best posts I’ve read recently also appeared on Rage Against the Minivan – Where Is the Mommy War for the Motherless Child? Go check it out.]