The problem with skinny shaming

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In today’s society it is considered indecent to tell someone they are too fat but it’s perfectly fine to tell someone they are too skinny. This is skinny shaming—a term some people have labeled as myth while others are fighting to stop it.

It’s a topic that needs addressing but no one has quite figured out how to address it without bias. The articles are coming from one side (plus-size) or the other (thin) and no one seems to want to meet in the middle.

The reason for this is that our society can’t seem to get out of this zero-sum thinking: whatever is gained by one side is lost by the other. The problem with this thinking is that by empowering one body type, we are shaming the other.

For example, we have Colette McIntyre, a plus-sized woman who wrote an article for Styleite saying, “Someone telling you to eat a cheeseburger is a rude, contemptible thing, yes, but fat shaming is an institutional thing. It’s built into our society.”

McIntyre recognizes that thin women have had to deal with name-calling, but claims that plus-size women have it much worse. The title of her article includes the phrase, “Poor ‘Bullied/Victimized’ Skinny Girls” as if to emphasize her belief that thin girls don’t have it nearly as hard as bigger girls.

On the other side, Emma Woolf, a recovering anorexic, in her article “Why is Skinny-Shaming OK, if Fat-Shaming is not?” said, “Think about how we describe thinness: skinny, angular, emaciated, bony, skeletal. These terms are batted about in the media quite casually, without the caution we must now use in our references to fat.”

While writing this article I made the conscious decision to not use the terms “fat” and “overweight” when referencing women as to not offend anyone. Contrarily, I have had no trouble using the terms “thin” and “skinny” even though those terms offend people as well. This is society. Just as Woolf said, caution is used with reference to fat but not skinny.

In an interview, actress Emma Stone said, “We’re always too skinny or too fat or too tall or too short…We’re shaming each other and we’re shaming ourselves” (Sieczkowski). Calling someone too skinny is the same as calling someone too fat. In both situations we’re telling this someone they’re not what they are supposed to be. Skinny shaming is not required to empower plus-size women, so let’s stop doing it.

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