Fighting Fatphobia

It is essential to prioritize ending fatphobia over skinny phobia, as this issue is deeply rooted in our society and needs to be addressed immediately.

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Almost every girl in 2014 knew about the “Eating Disorder Tumblr” that glamorized anorexia and encouraged girls to continually shrink themselves down. This type of content has reemerged widely again on TikTok. Posts frequently remind girls that food is “a moment on the lips, a lifetime on the hips.” Any comment section of a larger person is plagued with this toxic fatphobia. Unlike in 2014, however, the “body positivity movement” combats these harmful posts and attempts to foster a more healthy culture. Larger-sized creators are showing off their natural and non-societally ideal bodies without shame.

However, a strange countermovement has emerged that focuses on “skinny shaming” instead of fat shaming. Claims that “fat shaming and skinny shaming are the same thing” float around the Internet, with jokes like “You’re so fat. Eat a salad” being used as a response to comments such as “You’re so skinny. Eat a burger.” However, these two types of “shaming” are simply incomparable. Though both can be bad, fat shaming is far more harmful than skinny shaming. The focus on skinny shaming tends to drown out the voices of larger people and is actually counterproductive to the body positivity movement. Therefore, combating fat shaming should be prioritized to truly achieve body positivity for all.

Larger people face all sorts of discrimination that skinny people do not. No advertisement has read, “Get fat quick! Gain an extra 30 pounds fast!” No one has sold weight gain shakes, supplements, or suppressants, and no multi-billion dollar industries are based around weight gain. In contrast, open any infomercial channel or walk into any drugstore and you will likely encounter a product aimed at helping larger people lose weight. Larger people tend to have a harder time finding jobs, as many companies rely on the stereotype that larger people are lazy and incapable. Larger people are even paid less. In 2016, researchers at the University of Exeter found that a woman who is 14 pounds heavier earns on average about €1,500 less a year than a comparable woman of the same height. Most skinny people cannot fathom the daily experience of a larger person.

Some claim that “skinny is no longer the standard” and that the “ideal” figure nowadays is a curvier, hourglass body type. Though this assertion may be true, the “hourglass” that is considered the ideal today includes a flat stomach, which many larger people do not have. Larger people have never been the standard, and the toxic culture that society has enforced can be seen in the smallest of interactions. Many girls consider it a privilege and accomplishment to shop at Brandy Melville, whose “one size fits all” sizing system only caters to very skinny girls. Many fashion retailers that sell clothes considered to be “on trend” do not offer sizes that cater to larger women. Shopping at plus-size stores is looked down upon, and many who do so feel ashamed. High fashion models are almost all size zero or two, with very little plus and medium-size representation on the runway. The idea that skinnier is better is even ingrained in our language. “You look so skinny” is considered to be a compliment, whereas “You look fat” or “You’ve gained some weight” is negative. The issue is not that we should not encourage overweight people to lose weight, but rather that these compliments can sometimes encourage people to continue losing weight in an unhealthy way. It is important to remove such connotations from these terms as they are incredibly harmful to women who are struggling with their weight and body image issues.

The comments are different in and of themselves. When people are told to “go eat a burger” or that they “look anorexic,” these comments can be damaging, but they are telling these people to eat more. However, when larger people are told to starve themselves or to lose weight, they are being told to eat less. In the majority of cases in which a person is a healthy weight, eating less will be more harmful than eating more. Encouraging people to eat less through fat shaming is highly correlated with the development of eating disorders, with 80 percent of girls having gone on a diet by the age of 10. Additionally, breaking the standard that skinny is better will also help those struggling with anorexia and other eating disorders. In many cases, these disorders are rooted in the feeling that a person is not thin enough, a direct result of fatphobia in society.

The body positivity movement does not mean that obesity should be celebrated. Health-threatening problems are dangerous and should be addressed. However, they should only be identified by licensed medical professionals. Others have no right to comment and tell people that they need to lose weight. Though some members of the movement may interpret it in this manner, this movement should celebrate healthy bodies, no matter what size. Bodies come in all shapes and sizes, and people carry their weight differently. Everyone’s struggles are valid, and it is important to remember that conversation around weight should not be an “Oppression Olympics.” However, skinny shaming being used as a retort to larger people discussing their oppression is akin to, and maybe even more ludicrous, than the “All Lives Matter” retort to the Black Lives Matter movement. Yes, all lives do matter, but the issue in today’s world is that all lives don’t matter equally. In the same way, body positivity is for all body shapes and sizes, but some body types and sizes are less accepted. We must prioritize fighting against fatphobia first to truly achieve body positivity for all.