Monday, May 9, 2016

Thoughts on "Skinny-Shaming"

In continuation with the Mental Health Awareness Month series, here is another old draft addressing the topic of self esteem and body shaming, tackling the controversial issue of "Skinny Shaming" and body image/self esteem in general. I write but never finish a lot of posts in the middle of the night apparently (I did fill in the incomplete parts for this post), but I think it has to do with the fact that they're often on very weighty topics that I'm hesitant to publish. Mental Health Awareness Month gives me a great vehicle to open up about these things, despite the lighthearted nature of this blog.


It's 2 AM and I can't sleep so I might as well rant about what's on my mind to get it all out of my system. I can't sleep because anxiety due to this topic and other things throughout the week has caused me to have some form of a panic attack. It's a controversial topic and I'm clearly not in the most rational mood right now but I'm throwing in my two cents anyway about:


I'd like to start with some definitions. To me, "shaming" encompasses the microaggressions and judgements that have no effect outside of self-esteem. For example, "Ew, she's too fat to be wearing those shorts," or "Ugh, is she anorexic, look at those bones." While they are hurtful to say the least, there is a distinction between "shaming" and "discrimination." There is an issue of whether skinny-shaming is equivalent to fat-shaming when "fat-shaming" is often more severe, and can result in serious problems like being untreated at doctors' offices and being less likely to get a job; in my opinion, those effects fall under "discrimination" rather than "shaming." There is very rarely, if any, skinny-discrimination, whereas fat-discrimination is a huge problem in industry.

Yes it's true that I will likely never understand neither fat-shaming nor fat-discrimination, because I never have been overweight. I cannot comment on how it feels to have those comments from that direction of the weight spectrum to be hurled my way, but I can tell you how it feels to deal with skinny-shaming. Keep in mind, I believe that as much as I don't understand the effects of fat-shaming, neither would someone on the opposite end of the spectrum understand the effects of skinny-shaming.

The problem with how skinny-shaming is perceived is that it's a sweeping blow on an individual level, but "shaming" is considered a societal phenomenon. I agree that fat-shaming is a pervasive and especially insidious attack on women's self esteem, and I agree that skinny-shaming does not exist on a societal level. The problem is when the attacks become personal. A subliminal message in an ad that says "you're too big" is a problem, but when your friend comments on how you're too fat or bony, it hurts a lot more than an unrealistic, photoshopped magazine cover. So before you say, "Boohoo, you're skinny, your life must be so difficult. Have you ever been unable to find your size in a store? Does that make life too difficult?" no, I agree that that is not an issue for me. But again, there's a distinction in my mind between "shaming" and "discrimination." And yes, fat personal attacks occur at a far more frequent rate than skinny personal attacks, but that doesn't change the fact that they do happen, and when they do, they're still damaging.

"You're too thin! Are you anorexic?" "You're just a bag of bones! Go eat a burger." I've heard all these and more. It's not related to institutional skinny-shaming because that doesn't exist, but these comments still hurt. And that's what I mean by skinny-shaming. You can be just as much of a jerk by commenting on how someone is too small as much as commenting on how someone is too big. It's personal, it's mean, and it shouldn't be happening.

And just as fat-shaming encourages or even causes eating disorders such as anxiety and bulimia, so does skinny-shaming. In an attempt to prove that I wasn't a bag of bones, throughout middle school and high school, I gorged on cakes, cookies, cupcakes, junk food, fast food, and everything else. I hated it. I loved to swim and I had a high metabolism, so I never gained weight. Despite my best efforts to prove that I wasn't anorexic, I still received microaggressions on how thin I was. Prior to this, I didn't have a scale at home and I didn't care. I ate what I wanted if I felt comfortable, and weight was no concern. The only thing that mattered was if it felt good. It wasn't until later when my issues with depression, anxiety, and panic attacks hit in full swing that I realized I had a problem, where I was binge-eating to fill the emptiness, or even just the time. I ate so much I wanted to throw up, but I didn't because I didn't want anyone to say I was bulimic.

Mayo Clinic defines the following as symptoms of Binge-Eating Disorder, or BED:
  • Eating unusually large amounts of food in a specific amount of time, such as over a 2-hour period
  • Feeling that your eating behavior is out of control
  • Eating even when you're full or not hungry
  • Eating rapidly during binge episodes
  • Eating until you're uncomfortably full
  • Frequently eating alone or in secret
  • Feeling depressed, disgusted, ashamed, guilty or upset about your eating
  • Frequently dieting, possibly without weight loss
I've crossed out the ones that I haven't experienced, and as you can see, it's only the last one, and even then I don't know the accuracy of that judgement. I know self-diagnosis is not reliable in the least, but I am 90% sure I have had BED, even if I've recovered to some degree now. (Actually, that's a lie. Just the other day, when I was rejected for an editor position, I bought and ate a whole cake. And it didn't make me any happier. It just made me hate myself more.)

I'm so frustrated that people confuse societal problems with personal attacks, and use the excuse that something doesn't exist on a societal level to excuse their rude behavior on a personal level. This goes for sexism, classism, racism, ablism, and much more. It is hard to distinguish between what is a societal critique and what is a personal attack, which makes this topic even more difficult to discuss, but in general if one or a few specific people are singled out, it's not okay. Example: "White people can't dance lol," generally isn't offensive, because it's not referring to a specific person, but "Becky looks so stupid when she's trying to dance, must be because she's white," is a personal attack, especially if you're laughing at a person, not with a person. No one person specifically should feel bad for an arbitrary characteristic that they can't change, regardless of if they're in the majority or minority. Life is difficult enough as it is, and I'm so tired of people being mean. All in all, just be nice. Please. ◊

No comments:

Post a Comment