Fuck the Body Police
Recently, a relative of mine was talking about a friend of the family who used to be really skinny and has now gained quite a bit of weight, and said the following: “Isn’t it a shame? I remember how beautiful she used to be and now she’s just fat.” The relative in question is a woman and has always struggled with the acceptance of her own body shape —not that she’s overweight but she’s definitely more of a Monica Bellucci than a Keira Knightley— so her comment was not so much an attack as the result of deeply-rooted self-loathing. Clearly, it was only yet another example of our society’s obsession with strictly delimiting female beauty. The more we focus our attention on —literally— shaping women into frail yet sexually attractive objects, the less we think about the importance of agency, right?
The issue of shaming women for not being thin has been discussed countless times. From movie stars speaking out against the pressure of not gaining weight to the body positivity campaigns by Dove, not to mention Tyra Banks’s rant about her bikini photos, popular culture has slowly grown more self-aware of the unrealistic expectations it perpetuates for women. The criticism was overwhelmingly about every woman being expected to be thin.
Yet, over the past year, the term “skinny-shaming” made a few notable appearances, perhaps most notoriously in Emma Woolf’s essay “Why is skinny-shaming OK, if fat-shaming is not?” for The Guardian. Most people who criticized the article pointed out that, while any body type discrimination was unacceptable, Woolf seemed to assume that celebrating bigger women came with the rejection of thin bodies. Lindy West responded perfectly:
“The root of thin-shaming is not fat acceptance. The root of thin-shaming is the same system that breeds fat-shaming —the system that keeps women in a state of anxiety so intense that they’d literally rather die than become fat.”
When All About That Bass by Meghan Trainor was released, I found it instantly ravishing. I love doo-wop, the song’s message was great and it was CATCHY AS FUCK. But, of course, YouTube comments went ablaze after she used the expression “skinny bitches”, just as Nicki Minaj later did in Anaconda. Regardless of my opinion on whether Trainor and Minaj were trying to berate thin women, their critics were equating society’s relation to skinny bodies with society’s relation to fat bodies. And, as much as I have myself suffered from people joking that I should “eat a cheeseburger” or gay men literally telling me I wasn’t attractive because I am lanky/not muscular, I can’t help but get slightly angry that skinny people are appropriating a struggle that only fat people go through. I’ve written in the past about struggle appropriation, but this one takes it to a whole new level because it completely negates the fact that fat bodies are almost never celebrated for being fat while skinny bodies are almost always celebrated for being skinny.
Generally speaking, when people say “real women have curves,” they don’t mean “real women are fat.” As appalling as it is to define womanhood by a specific body type and thereby belittling women who do not have curves, no one is telling skinny women to suddenly grow rolls and double-chins. It is safe to assume that, by “curves”, these people mean “big boobs and round ass” and that’s it. I’m sure having a thin waist and an all-in-all not-too-saggy body and face is always a plus. So what they’re asking thin women here is not so much to no longer be skinny but rather select specific parts of their bodies they should make bigger in order to be more sexually desirable. However, when people ask for fat women to lose weight, they’re not just policing their sex-appeal, they’re basically warning them that, when you’re really fat, you might not be able to keep your job, you don’t get paid the same amount, and basically doctors don’t think you deserve medical treatment.
What I’m trying to get at here is that, while any act of body-shaming is always extremely offensive, the consequences are much worse for fat women than they are for thin women. And until victims of “skinny-shaming” as it is found in Anaconda or All About That Bass go to such deathly ends to gain weight as women OF ALL BODY TYPES do to lose some, we’re going to need to differentiate between the two issues.