Fat shaming, skinny shaming, health shaming. Why are we still doing it?
I woke up to see a FB post by a friend, who’d spent the morning having to explain to their young child why it is not acceptable to shame somebody because of their size. The kid’s dad thought it was appropriate to make some choice remarks about someone’s weight , and my friend had to make sure they knew this wasn’t ok.
Children are like sponges; when they hear adults they look up to spouting this dangerous bullshit, it’s basically telling them it’s fine to treat others this way. That it’s ok to make a derogatory comment about someone because of their appearance, that it’s ok to make a joke about someone because of their size.
For every blog post or magazine article about the Body Positivity movement, there are dozens of comments of faux concern over the “wellbeing” of people who don’t fit the “standard”. Those who are plus size are made out to be surplus to requirement, and in the same breath those who are smaller than average are labelled anorexic. It seems that when someone is proud of their “healthy” body, that particular spectrum only stretches from a size 8 to a size 14. If we could determine health just by LOOKING at the size of someone’s jeans, then we wouldn’t see people with a whole wealth of health problems who do fall within that range.
Now I know the goal is to be “healthy”. I get it. I even wrote about it here. But it seems that more and more those whose aim is to shame women (because let’s be serious here, it is mostly women that these comments are directed towards) for their size use that pseudo concern BS. “Think of your health! Don’t you want to live longer? Think of how it affects your heart/joints/future! I’m only saying this because I care!” Shut UP. No one is saying this because they care, they are saying this because they feel uncomfortable that someone who they deem to be outwith their attractiveness scale dares to be confident and happy about themselves! It’s ok to be “fat” as long as you then buy into that whole culture that you need to lose those “excess” pounds. FAT is ok as long as you want to be THIN, but god forbid you’re a plus size person who is content in themselves and *shock horror* doesn’t want to diet. Who says that someone who is plus size, or someone who is a size 0, isn’t healthy? Why do people feel the need to dictate what is acceptable?
If you fall outside the arbitrary confines of a “standard” size, you will probably experience some form of body shaming in your lifetime. Considering that over 1.6 million in the UK have been affected by some form of eating disorder in their lives, and that this figure is actually a low estimate considering that there are so many who do not seek treatment, how can we still consider fat shaming acceptable? Cases of anorexia and bulimia have been steadily on the rise, and there have been cases of children as young as 4 showing an unhealthy relationship with food that is quite terrifying. It seems that it’s almost socially acceptable to shame someone for their size. Lose weight, but not too much weight, because god forbid you lose those curves.
Giving somebody the advice to “eat less and move more” is so problematic, as how exactly is the amount someone eats or how their level of physical fitness visible to the naked eye? It isn’t. I have known personal trainers, men and women who make a career out of fitness, practice some extraordinarily dangerous approaches to diet and exercise. Steroids, “legal” steroids, performance enhancers, supplements to cut fat, appetite suppressants…how is this good for the body? And yet they are held as pillars of health.
Individual responsibility for our own health is just that, the responsibility of the individual. It is not acceptable to judge someone just because their situation is different to yours. Positive body image is so important, and we need to realise that it no one has the right the judge a person on their weight, to make jokes about their size or to feign concern for someone’s health just because it makes you feel uncomfortable.
Body shaming is so ingrained in our language, in media, in every aspect of our culture that sometimes people just don’t realise how damaging their words can be. We tell our friends they don’t look fat, we compliment them on “looking thin” as if this is some sort of accolade to aspire to, or we say things like “I feel so fat today” when what we actually mean is “I ate a big lunch and I’m a bit bloated, I could do with taking a poop”. We tell plus-sized folk that they are brave for wearing a cropped top or skinny jeans when it’s not an act of bravery, it’s an act of fashion.
It’s none of our damned business.