“Skinny Shaming” and “Fit Shaming”

Posted: November 3, 2014 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

I’m seeing these terms, “Skinny Shaming” / “Thin Shaming” and “Fit Shaming” more and more online and honestly, I don’t get it.

What is wrong with the term “body shaming”? Why specify “skinny”, “thin” or “fit”? (that last one not being a body type though) That probably sounds a little hypocritical of me because I don’t have the same issue with “fat shaming”. But of course part of what bugs me about the “skinny shaming” et al is that they seem to be specifically used by many as a means of demonstrating that these things happen just as much, or more, to thin women as to fat women.

The thing is body shaming does happen to women of all sizes! And I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone claim otherwise. And this relates to a long standing issue I’ve had with certain folks who try to claim that fat oppression is just an extension of sexism and not it’s own thing, and reduce it to body shaming. Because it’s not. Fat oppression is not just body shaming. Body shaming, and fat shaming, is an extension of that, but not all of it.

I’m also not bothered by fat shaming being called that and not just body shaming because, at least as I conceptualized the term, fat shaming is not just about the way an individual has their body attacked and mocked but also the way fat bodies are typically not represented or represented as disgusting or as jokes, within popular media. It has to do with the way fat bodies are presented as indicators of ill healtah, disease, laziness, and gluttony. How a fat body can in our society serve as a stand in for all those things. It has to do with the fear mongering around fat bodies that seek on a large scale level to shame people for being fat. And it connects with all other areas of fatphobia and fat oppression.

None of this means that body shaming is ok or doesn’t hurt at any body size. Of course it does. Body shaming of any body is wrong, it’s painful, and since we are typically talking women here- it is sexist too. It’s sexism that tells women our bodies are never good enough. It’s sexism that the body ideals we are fed are literally impossible for any woman to achieve (even the women in them do not look like that thanks to photoshopping). It’s sexism that we are taught the best way to cut a woman down is to attack her appearance or attractiveness. It’s sexism that  tells women our bodies are never good enough. It’s sexism that says we must always be attractive to men, and it’s sexism that we are taught that a woman’s worth is defined by men finding her attractive. It’s sexism that men think it matters whether or not they would want to fuck any particular woman (see comments on any photo of a woman on the internet with men commenting whether or not they would want to fuck her as if that is some great compliment or great insult, as if anyone actually gives a damn). It’s sexism that women tear each other down and feel they need to make other women feel unattractive in order to make themselves feel better.

It’s sexism, it’s vicious, it’s a problem, and all women face it.

And it is different than fat oppression. Fat oppression is having only thin bodies represented positively in popular media. Fat oppression is having thin bodies presented as healthy and as the default. Fat oppression is having fat bodies portrayed as indicators of ill health, disease, laziness and gluttony. Fat oppression is fat people receiving poorer quality healthcare because of this. Fat shaming can be having someone on the internet make negative comments about your fat body, and sure enough that happens all the time, but it’s also having your doctor treat you more poorly because you are fat. It’s being shamed by your doctor for daring to come in when you are fat, it’s being told not to come back until you lose weight, and it literally kills. Fat oppression is being discriminated against in employment. And while fat shaming can be negative comments online, it’s also negative comments from an employer, it’s being told that your weight is an indication of laziness and/or doesn’t represent a company well. It’s these things, and so many more things, that are targeted at fat people as a group because they are fat. That is fat oppression, that is fat shaming, which is not the sexist body shaming that all women experience. And inersectionality means that most aspects of fat oppression effect women far more than men, but they are not exclusive to women.

So to talk about fat shaming is to put that shaming within the context of fat oppression- within the larger social context. The same cannot be said for “skinny shaming”, “thin shaming”, or “fit shaming”. There is no larger social context of thin people being discriminated against in healthcare, employment, and other aspects of life because they are thin. The larger social context to those acts is sexism and body shaming, so just call it body shaming.

Body shaming is wrong, it’s harmful, it’s in no way ok or excusable. So why do folks feel the need to use a different word?

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