I used to be extremely skinny. There was a time when I needed a belt to hold up my size 0′s. As an adult average, pre-pregnancy, I was never more than a size 2.
I never realized then that my collarbone jutted out. I was still constantly afraid of looking fat.
Lots of thin women face criticism for their thinness, and I was definitely among them. I got picked on because people assumed I was anorexic (or, when watching me shovel fried chicken and chili cheese fries down my gullet like I’d never tasted food before, bulemic). I got picked on for not being “curvy” enough, for having “boyish” hips. I got picked on for lots of things, all of them ridiculous and inappropriate. Was it right that people bullied me? No. But the more important question is: Should that be talked about in the same frame as fat-shaming? The answer is a very strong “no.”
It’s taking a theological approach and manipulating the idea of oppression olympics to apply it to an unoppressed class. Should anyone be bullied for any reason? No, of course not. But you absolutely cannot conflate the issues faced by fat people with those faced by skinny people. They can’t be talked about in the same sphere. Comparing them as things that both should not be bullied about is the same as saying, “You shouldn’t be bullied for being *insert minority here*, and you shouldn’t be bullied for having long hair.” Well yeah, duh, on the surface that works because no one should be bullied for anything. But classing the two together is erasing the reality of what it’s like to be the minority.
The bullying I got, most of the bullying skinny women get, is backlash for fitting into a socially acceptable standard. Is it still bullying and is bullying still wrong? Yes. But that’s where the comparison ends. A white girl getting picked on for being pale is not being victimized in the same way as a black girl getting picked on for being dark-skinned. When the victim is an oppressed minority, the damage is deeper, it is more culturally impactful than when the victim is privileged. This is Social Justice 101 stuff, and you need to accept this, understand it, before you can learn to challenge your privilege, and understand what it’s like for those you have privilege over.
Was it hurtful when I got bullied for being skinny? Of course, bullying hurts. But I could then open a magazine or turn on the TV or get on the internet and see nonstop reinforcement of my cultural superiority. I was never the advertiser’s “before,” always their prized “after.” I’d be inundated with subtle and outright declarations that my body was socially acceptable, and that allows comfort, and actually allows bigorty, as it lets a person to disappear into “well those bullies are just jealous” because oh, being the socially accepted norm is just so wonderful! Even if you don’t want to admit it, and you sit around sulking about how hard you have it being bullied for being privileged, it does not erase your privilege and you are still benefiting from it. Period.
And allow me to make one thing very clear: Body-shaming is a misogynistic structure and it should be attacked as such. But fat-shaming is a subsection that deserves real attention. Skinny-shaming is the “reverse racism” of body-shaming. Individual experiences of prejudice do not make it something that needs to be held on-par with fat-shaming. If we create a world without body-shaming, such as the magical Oz of racial equality, then they can be talked about together. This is also why the body-shaming of men (for not being Marvel-standard buff) takes second chair to the body-shaming of women; not only is it a less serious issue, but if we solve misogyny, men won’t be body-shamed, either. You can’t topple the power structure by worrying about those at the top. Chip away at the foundation, and the building will crumble.
One of the saddest things, for me, is hearing people talk about how “fat privilege” is a thing, so let me shoot that down right now: Fat women suffer inequality in the workplace. Fat women are denied proper medical care. Fat women are blamed for their own disabilities, as if fat magically makes one crippled (and lord knows being crippled is no socially-accepted excuse to be fat). When people talk about “fat privilege,” what they’re attacking is actually just a fat woman’s right to say “I’m fat,” to simply exist as fat, and not be ashamed of it. Because fat women are supposed to live a life of self-loathing.
I’m fat now. How fat, I don’t really know, because I don’t weigh myself. My self-worth does not rely on those three little digits, and I refuse to let it dictate how I feel about my body. I’m not going to call myself “voluptuous” or “curvy” when I mean fat. There’s nothing wrong with being fat, and acting as if there is, learning ways to work around saying that dreaded three-letter word is just another way to body-shame ourselves and others.
I’m also hot.
And one in no way negates the other.
Frankly, I think I rock my new weight, and I’m happy exactly where I am.
If you really want to educate yourself on the realities of fatphobia, start here. And remember to treat fat people like people along your learning journey.