by Juniatian Editorial Board
Growing up I was constantly bombarded with questions and comments regarding my weight or the way my body looked. At first, I only thought of them as the annoying comments I heard at every family gathering, but as I matured I realized those minute sayings were not quite as minute. They were actually a detrimental form of skinny-shaming.
“You’re so skinny! Are you eating?”
“You could use another burger.”
“You don’t need to work out, you’re already skinny.”
These are phrases a great deal of society uses when talking to or about someone of a smaller body type. To them, it is nothing more than a fact because that person generally does appear skinny. However, the fact that these phrases do exude is insensitivity.
The main dictionary definition of skinny is “lacking usual or desirable bulk, quantity, qualities or significance.” Somehow, society has lost this definition and inherited the meaning of skinny to be “very thin”.
When a person gets called skinny their mind unconsciously refers to the main definition. Due to this, calling someone skinny might as well be the same as calling someone “a lack of desirable quantity”. The more they hear it, the more the idea that they do not amount to the desired look gets communicated to their brain. Insecurities, doubt and distaste for their image begin to infest their brain.
Frankly, it is insensitive to a person’s feelings by calling them skinny. Nobody wants to hear that their body is not up to par with a desired look. It is also rude to judge someone based on their looks without knowing their backstory. So, before calling them skinny think, or learn, about the circumstances of how they got their body shape. Maybe that person had an eating disorder, they have a fast metabolism or they physically cannot gain weight. Many people who struggle with being considered skinny have often felt insecure about their body and image, especially if it is not something they can control. There is a disease called hyperthyroidism where the metabolism will rapidly increase and bypass the rate of weight gain.
As a kid with a fast metabolism I grew up thinking there were tapeworms in my body, the kind that eat everything within the stomach, including the stomach itself. The constant comments of my, what seemed to be non-existent, eating habits made me believe that the only explanation for my lack of weight gain were tapeworms. I began to think that it could not be normal for me to eat healthily and not be an ‘average’ body weight.
Calling someone skinny is not only detrimental to that person, but also to others around them. Somebody who constantly hears a friend getting called skinny may think lowly of themselves when they do not get the same remark made to them. They may fall into an unhealthy lifestyle of attempting to get smaller in hopes of gaining these comments of how skinny they are.
While a person believes they may be complimenting someone when they utter how skinny someone is, they’re unknowingly saying they are not good enough. But for what? Media of this century has generally separated from the meaning by making it a word to strive for. Models are required to be the tiniest sizes and to exhibit near impossible proportions.
However, today’s society is starting to stray away from the archaic ideal body type. Instead of praising a ‘stick thin’ body, media is beginning to praise thicker bodies. The admiration over a body like Nicki Minaj and Meghan Trainor have been in full swing within the past year. While they claim to be promoting body positivity with acknowledging and admiring thicker bodies they are insulting tinier bodies. Minaj’s lyrics from her hit song Anaconda includes degrading phrases such as, “f*** the skinny b*****s” and “I wanna see all the big fat a** b*****s.” Along with that, Trainor has lyrics that say “boys like a little more booty to hold at night,” which implies that people with tinier behinds and bodies are not desired by men.
Skinny-shaming is putting those of skinnier bodies, or tinier proportions, down because of insensitive comments that may make them feel not unworthy, abnormal or insecure. There is nothing wrong with a male or female that is of a petite build. It is generally not their fault that they are smaller. But that person cannot help but feel ashamed for having a high metabolism, or that they were simply born small.
What needs to be noticed is that bodies are not competitions. They are not meant to be compared to, laughed at or judged for. Whether a body has a bigger or smaller proportion, it is not entirely at the fault of the person. Therefore, making comments on someone’s weight, height or shape is not a compliment but rather an insult.
The world would be a much better place if instead of choosing to compliment someone based on their body and appearance we choose to compliment their intelligence or way they brighten up a room with laughter. Compliment people on their personality, the things they can change. Wouldn’t it feel better to be complimented on how strong your heart is instead of how skinny your body may or may not appear?
Categories: Volume 97 Issue 4 Oped