I saw a tweet a couple weeks ago that has really stuck with me. I’ve thought about it and thought about it, and it’s still annoying me.
Trigger warning: this blog discusses bodyshaming and EDs.
The tweet compared “What about teh menz?” to “What about teh thinz?,” suggesting that these were similar complaints.
What I took from this is that people who oppose bodyshaming of any body types are the same as men who complain because they feel excluded by feminism.
I disagree. You could say I disagree because I suppose I’m considered one of “teh thinz” so of course I would say that.
I’ve written about my difficulties with eating and weight before. I know many of you might get angry because I don’t truly understand what you go through. But I *felt* and *still feel* like I am overweight. I haven’t been persecuted in the same way since I was a teenager (even a few kilos means a lot at that age, and I was definitely considered unattractive by my classmates) – but I do persecute myself. All the time.
When I was researching this post, I found this blog – This is Thin Privilege. I learned a lot. I understand why it would be eye-rolling and offensive and “shut the fuck up” for many people that I’m even talking about this. But I just felt like I had to respond.
I guess the first thing I thought when I read that tweet, was that thin people can suffer body shame too. Not to the same extent necessarily, but a remark about my weight to me, with my history and my health, can be incredibly damaging – even if it’s what the giver might consider a positive remark.
Since I got sick, I’ve had people tell me I “look great” because I’ve lost weight. (which is insane because I’m SICK). I’ve had people tell me I need to eat more. I’ve had people call me “skinny minny.” I’ve had people wrap their fingers round my wrists and tell me it’s unhealthy that they can do that. Every doctor I go to wants to know what I’m eating, and how much of it. I know that’s because of my digestive condition. But, since I got sick – it feels like my body is public property. It might be considered impolite to tell a fat person they’re fat – but because someone may think I’m thin, it’s fine to comment and criticise?
I guess what it comes down to is no body type should be shamed. You don’t know what anyone else is going through. Maybe people don’t have a choice about their body shape – or they maybe they’ve chosen to be exactly the way they are, and they’re happy and healthy, and it’s really none of your business.
Body shaming can lead to the same difficult place for anyone regardless of their body type. That’s why I don’t think excluding thin people from the body shaming discussion is fair. I understand that some types get shamed more. This post on This is Thin Privilege “But Thin People Get Shamed too,” helped me understand this. But I also know personally how damaging personal comments and advertisements and just general fucking society can be. That’s why I’m still resisting drinking the nutritional supplement that is meant to help me get better. That’s why I keep throwing food away. That’s why I eat late at night once I’ve taken my pills and when no one can see me. Because I’m terrified of putting on weight. So if that’s not shame to you, then I’m sorry. But please don’t tell me thin people don’t experience body shame too.
I think the difficulty with weight privilege is that, with the exception of trans guys, men have never experienced oppression for being a woman. But some underweight people have been overweight. (As hard as it is to change your body shape.) I mean in some ways it’s similar to how the patriarchy hurts men too, like when people compliment you for losing weight you could equate it to men getting positive reinforcement for hyper-masculine behaviour even if it’s self-destructive and damaging to them and the people around them. But there’s also a lot more fluidity between the two, as well as the fact that they’re not objective categories all the time due to dysphoria (when assessing your own weight), different weight distributions in different people, people who are hyper-critical of anyone who’s not completely tiny. So you might have someone who looks a completely average size but who wears a higher size clothing, someone who has trouble with the medical system because their BMI is skewed high due to heavy muscle, someone whose normal size is what other people think is overweight, etc. Not to mention eating disorders and neuroses and the unhealthiness of constantly dieting and people’s weight yoyo-ing. So, yes, thin privilege does exist, but it’s slightly more complicated than some other forms.
The amount of comments I’ve had on my weight since I got sick is insane. To give context, I’m 5’8, so when I’m 42kg, I look like a skeleton. I get various “eat a pie” type comments (those are the kinder). Once I had a PICC line in my arm with a big bandage around it, people just started assuming I had cancer or something, basically, and the pitying looks are comical to me. None of it “gets” to me anymore – I’ve had it for so long and and the longer I’m sick and the older and hopefully wiser I get, the less I care about what people say. Some of it is “nice” from the speakers perspective, like being told I look like a supermodel at my current 48kg. Like that’s some goal I might aim for, as opposed to being able to get out of bed on a daily basis and not be in chronic pain and not have ulcers on my colon. But it still boggles my mind that people think they’re entitled to say anything at all about my body – even when they think it’s a compliment.
I think actually the worse ones are the ones where the speaker thinks they’re being nice – telling me I look good now, [since I got skinny], or encouraging me to eat more. Yes pretty much what you say – it’s amazing people think they’re entitled to say anything.
Definitely a complex issue, and the deep emotions involved in it make it more so. Appearance has so much worth in our society, and attempting to match the “ideal appearance” puts so much pressure on people.