Too thin for feelings, too fat for love

I asked for feedback, and you provided. The consensus was: Write what’s true to YOU. (As in, me.) Well, here goes…

My good friend McKenzie posted a link to a blog post today that said a lot of things I’ve been feeling the need to say. But for one reason or another, I’ve never gotten around to it. Probably because it’s a heated subject. Probably because I’m afraid of offending someone. Probably because it’s been said a million different ways a million different times. But apparently, it needs repeating, because the message hasn’t exactly reached everyone that needs to hear it.

But there’s also my fear of coming off as defensive on the subject, which is not my intention, though some may choose to read into it that way. Because I feel it’s more important to share my views on the subject (and maybe generate a healthy discussion?), I’m going to tell you what I think anyway.

First, read the blog post that says what I’ve wanted to say here.

If you didn’t click that link, here’s an excerpt (but really, read the whole thing):

Real women have curves! How many times have you heard this lately? I used to say it myself. I’d liken this to a person attempting to elevate women by demeaning men. Men are stupid. Men are weak. Men are the problem.

Flipping oppression just spreads the shit around.

If only curvy women are real women, what is a skinny woman? A cardboard cutout? A hologram?

……

To hear a woman say “I love my body” is a beautiful thing. But what if she follows that by saying, “…because I’m not one of those bony skinny bitches. MY body is womanly. Women are SUPPOSED TO have curves”? Or, “…because I’m curvy but not FAT. Those gigantic breasts are so ugly”? I don’t think that is a beautiful thing, a comradely thing, a feminist thing. It’s just another type of misogyny.

Yes, I told you it was a delicate subject.

Here’s the thing. I’m one of those “skinny bitches.” At 110 pounds, give-or-take, I’m one of those women people look at and say, “My GOD, eat a burger!” when I’m not eating, and when I am, in fact, eating a burger, they’ll say, “My GOD, you’re one of those people who can just eat whatever you want and not get fat, huh?”

For some reason, people think it’s okay to make comments like this to thin people. For likely similar reasons, no one really sympathizes with a woman who receives backhanded compliments for being thin. But if I told someone to stop eating burgers, that’d be really freaking rude, right?

Here I am. Clearly starving myself. Or, you know, not.

I hate to seem mad or bitter. In general, I’m not. The thing is, I wouldn’t be at all if it weren’t for double-standards, backwards logic, and hurtful comments. And most women feel the same– curvy or not. Yet we’re all defining what a “real” woman is. What a “healthy-looking” woman is. What’s wrong with the above photo? Do I make other people feel uncomfortable?

I have never felt bad about my body. Except when other people try to make me feel bad about my body.

Sure, I went through a time in high school when I wished I was more curvy to appear older, more “mature.” And I still have plenty of insecurities, don’t you worry yourself about that. My hair’s not perfect, I still break out like I thought only teenagers should, I’m pale. But I actually think my body’s pretty rockin’. I look like my momma. We’re blessed. We work out. We eat. Both in moderation, you know?

I don’t write this to alienate anyone. I am fully aware that there are likely women reading this who struggle with their weight or body image. To those women, I offer my support, my encouragement, my heart. Shouldn’t I? Shouldn’t we all?

Yes. We should do these things for all women and be aware of the comments we make that might be in jest, but are also a bit of a jab. Comments we might think are appropriate to make to a thin person, but not to someone who’s overweight. Comments we might not think a thing of when we make them, but really shed light on our own insecurities. That bring out insecurities the receiver didn’t even think they should have until someone else pointed them out.

We can’t avoid the topic of weight– certainly not in this country. But when it comes to our daily personal interactions, both face-to-face and online, we have to choose our words more carefully.

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Comments

  1. Despite a couple noticeable weight gains during college, I’ve always been one of the skinny bitches too. (Although now that my 30th birthday is getting closer and closer, my hips are taking on a decided “childbearing” appearance . . . ugh.) I don’t really think any one has a right to comment on your body’s appearance other than you. After all, there’s only one person who controls what your body looks like . . .you! Unless someone specifically solicits your comments, best to just keep your mouth shut.

    • cassie says:

      Exactly– unless it’s clearly meant to be a compliment (and even those should be worded carefully), it’s no one’s place to make comments like that. Inflection plays a big role, too. There’s a difference between “You’re so thin!” and “You’re soooo thin.”

  2. This doesn’t happen to me personally, because I’m a really “normal” (read: socially acceptable) weight and body type, but one of my best friends is also really thin. She’s just under 5’9 and is around 105-110 pounds. When I first met her she was actually under 100 pounds. Both of her parents are the same way, and gaining weight for her is a struggle, although she does try. She’s had complete strangers yell at her to “eat a sandwich”, and when she had a formspring account she was always asked if she had an eating disorder. She doesn’t, and she actually eats as much as I do – which is quite a lot.

    Of course I think that we should tell curvier women that their bodies are normal and that they should embrace them, but not at the expense of other people. The message should be that ALL body types should be accepted, and that it’s NEVER okay to comment on somebody’s body.

    The thing is that people think they know everything about a person just by looking at them. You can MAYBE say that, generally, extreme ends of the spectrum are unhealthy, but you still don’t know that in individual circumstances. You can’t tell by looking at someone if they are currently trying to lose or gain weight, on a special diet, etc. You can’t tell if they have an eating disorder or if they have medical issues that may affect their weight. And even if they are unhealthy, it’s really none of your business!

    This is a really long comment, but like you, I have a lot of thoughts on this topic, and I totally agree with you.

    • cassie says:

      Thank you so much for your comment. I can’t believe complete strangers would say such awful things to your friend. Like you said, they have NO idea what her circumstances are, and clearly yelling at someone to “eat a sandwich” is far from helpful. That makes me….(angry sigh)…. really mad.

      And this:

      “Of course I think that we should tell curvier women that their bodies are normal and that they should embrace them, but not at the expense of other people.”

      YES.

  3. I almost went away without commenting just because this is such a fraught subject for me (not just me, but definitely for me). I’m fat. There are a number of reasons for this, and they’re not just that I eat too much and don’t exercise enough, but some of it is that I eat too much and don’t exercise enough. I don’t say mean stuff to skinny people (unless I’m in my van with my friend Pam and they can’t hear us and I’m in a really bad mood). I think it’s a fair point, but in all honesty I don’t think it’s the same as the comments/prejudice/hostility directed at fat people. Comments directed at skinny people are almost wholly perceived as coming from jealousy, which turns them into a sort of twisted compliment, and a lot of posts written by thin women about this subject seem to revel in a sort of unseemly manner about the overweight women who snipe at them. Negative comments directed at fat people have the whole disapproving weight (ugh, I can’t think of a good synonym) of a thin-loving society behind them, and nobody’s thinking that the commenter is just jealous. I have never made the ‘eat a cookie’ comment about overly thin movie stars, only expressions of concern – there is a healthy sort of thin, and then there is an emaciated sort of thin that doesn’t look healthy. I think you look completely healthy and gorgeous, and anyone who comments negatively about your weight is almost certainly an ass. But if it’s a fat person, just be aware that the condemnation they’ve experienced is probably much worse.

    • cassie says:

      I REALLY appreciate your comment and am glad you decided to leave one after all. You make an important point, and I don’t disagree that the level of hurtfulness of comments directed at overweight people is greater. Those words are cruel at best. It reveals a lot about a person who makes shitty comments about someone (ANYone) who is struggling with their weight.

  4. I have always wanted to be your type of healthy thin. But it is not in my shape or genes or bone structure. I could lose 20lbs like most people. But when it comes to everyone’s own self image, they are defensive, no matter what they look like.

    Skinny women have the issues you pointed out here. People just think you all have it easy and that you don’t work for it, or that you have a bad and vain attitude because of it. That’s where the “hatred” of skinny women comes in. It all boils down to stereotypes. Skinny women are stereotyped as bitches, often unintelligent, and don’t have to work for what they want because men think they’re pretty. “Curvy” women are stereotyped as, “Wow she has a great personality!” or “She’s so nice!” Curvy women tend to be defensive because they feel that society don’t see them as the ideal, they DON’T get as many compliments for their appearance, they DON’T get the appreciation or encouragement that they see skinny people do. Everyone is stereotyped, and I have met many people who aren’t those stereotypes.

    It’s not about being skinny or fat, it’s about being healthy.

    • cassie says:

      Yes! Maybe if people focused less on being a certain weight and more on being healthy, we’d be happier in general. Not everyone can achieve what they consider to be an “ideal” weight and still look healthy. Weight alone does not define our level of health, and certainly not our level of attractiveness.

  5. Dudeski. Once again. Same page. We are on it. I have had a half-finished blog post sitting around in draft form for the past few months about exactly this topic. I, too, am a skinny girl who gets shit from everyone. I really liked all of this; you just motivated me to actually finish that post. Muchas gracias!

    • Dudeski, YES! Write that blog post, gurrl. Feels good to put it out there, and I’m relieved to have a lot of thoughtful and positive responses to it. I was nervous there for a second.

  6. Yup, and maybe we’re all a little over-sensitive, but that is the direct result of double-standards, stereotypes, and other shit that’s crappy.

  7. This is a great reminder, and kudos for not being afraid to address it and speak your mind on the subject!

    I’m fairly petite but also curvy, and recently had someone try to compliment me by throwing out that “real women should be curvy” line. I thanked him, but quickly corrected him, saying “I think real women should be a variety of shapes and sizes and celebrated regardless.”

    He’s a bright guy and obviously didn’t mean any harm, but hopefully the next compliment he throws a woman’s way won’t be at the expense of another group of women.

    • You ROCK! Your response couldn’t have been more perfect– polite and gracious, yet corrective. That’s where I struggle. I suffer from tongue-tied syndrome, in which I think of the perfect response to something hours later. I really admire you for saying just the right thing. Class act!

  8. Thank you so much for writing this!! I’m one of those skinny people and i’ve heard it too many times that I’m too thin. And I read too many times that certain people are “anorectic”. And when a certain Swedish celebrity, who was previously overweight, had lost a lot of weight people said that he looked sick. And there’s no way they would even think of expressing similar things towards overweight people.
    My sister who is a bodybuilder hears a lot of similar things about having strong muscles. People say it’s ugly and that “he/she must take steroids” yada yada. Whether it’s about being skinny or having muscles it’s all about envy and trying to feel better by complaining about others. It’s sad.

    • I think it’s freaking COOL that your sister is a bodybuilder. And you’re right. It is sad that people think it’s ugly or the result of steroids… rather than admirable and the result of hard work.

  9. YES. Thank you for writing this. What a wonderful post, made even more wonderful because you wrote it on cinco de mayo when you COULD have just been out somewhere getting wasted like the rest of America. Which maybe you did afterwards, but even so, high five. Also, you are beautiful. As are allllll of you other ladies that commented.

    • Haha! I drank no more than I do on any given Saturday night. 😉

      Thank you for commenting, and yes indeed– everyone here is beautiful!

  10. It is SO FUNNY that you write this after I was just talking to my (skinny) friend about her own problems in regards to weight. She is about 50kgs and over 6 foot…a giant, sexy beast hehe (in my eyes anyway) but she has one friend with a dad who will continually harp on her about her weight and she always comes away from it really upset and cranky. She hates it when people tell her she shouldn’t be insecure because she’s skinny, or that she is SO LUCKY to be able to eat whatever the hell she wants and not gain weight…she hates feeling like an object that is either hated or envied.

    I am actually in the middle of doing a video project about this issue so I will have to send it to you when I complete it. I’m doing an “interview” with a group of my friends, me included, and basically we are all different weights and then I’m going to be interviewing guys and other girls and their views on the whole weight thing. I’m really passionate about this at the moment for the sheer reason that I am affected by it (I’m skinny and I work out REALLY HARD to stay skinny and eat chocolate) and people just look at me and assume that I don’t work out and that I’m “one of those bitches that can eat everything not gain anything”.

    REAL WOMEN ARE ALL WOMEN.

    • Sweeeet – I would love to see this video project when it’s done! That sounds really awesome, and I’m glad someone like you is not only adding to the conversation this way, but documenting it, too.

  11. Thought-provoking and so well-written! Personally, I tend to fall somewhere in the middle, thus avoiding a lot of the negativity you mentioned, but I love that you’ve opened up a dialogue. Good for you!

  12. I wrote a post on this a while back entitled “What Does a Woman Look Like?” and everything you have written here makes me want to hug you tight. I am very over the idea that there’s a particular way that a woman has to look and if she doesn’t then she’s “doing it wrong”. I know these slogans are backhanded attempts at inclusion and empowerment but people need to know that all women are REAL women regardless of weight and size.

    So preach on, love. I am right behind you.

    • Well, I’m just going to have to look up this post of yours. I’m over that mindset, too. Thank you for your support. 🙂

  13. You’re definitely right. And I’m not gonna lie, I am jealous as hell of the women who can eat like a pig and not gain a pound.

    I am not fat, but I definitely have some extra meat in my stomach and thighs that I wouldn’t mind losing. I have a really tricky metabolism that still doesn’t really make sense to me.

    I think it’s hard for women who are unsatisfied with their weight (especially those on the larger scale) to see women who look AWESOME and not realize that those women are also susceptible to feeling hurt by comments like the ones you mentioned. Honestly, I’m probably guilty of doing just that.

    I remember telling a (male) coworker how I wish I could eat like he could and be as thin as he is. He replied by saying that he simply CANNOT gain weight, no matter what he does. He was just as unhappy with his thin stature as I am with my not-so-thin one.

    I’m definitely trying to be more sensitive to that type of thing because you’re right. Making backhanded comments about someone’s weight — no matter WHAT it is — can be really disheartening. So thanks for this. Thank you for making me think.

  14. I get you, I get you, I get you. I’ve had the same issues with being thin. In high school, I’m pretty sure it was common knowledge that I had an eating disorder, even though you’d see me stuffing my face with french fries, and when I was seen in the bathroom it wasn’t succeeding wretching noises of me trying to vomit myself skinny. A lady I work with insists on telling me nearly once a week how astounded she is at how skinny I am, and that she would kill for my body. “Really???” I want to ask. “You’d KILL? You’re a prat.” Of course, I don’t say this, but this is what I think. I even had a friend’s mom tell me I looked anorexic once, even though she knew very well that I wasn’t. Despite the fact that you look a little bit taller than me. we’re pretty much the same size, and when I saw your picture above I was so freaking happy that someone could relate to the “skinny” treatment. I just want to shout at people to stop making me feel uncomfortable about my body because they have self-image issues. They make me just as insecure about the way I look as they feel about their own looks, even if we have completely different body types. People just don’t seem to understand that. Maybe I want big boobs. Maybe I want an ass. But I don’t have them, and I’m trying to flipping love myself for it, dang it! But people make it so stinking hard! Nobody’s body is good enough. I’m not curvy enough, I’m not skinny enough, I’m not muscular enough; I’m too curvy, too skinny, too muscular.

    So, clearly this is just an issue all around. We need to learn how to love our own bodies, ourselves, before we go and try to criticize others, even if it seems like we’re giving someone a compliment. Unless a person is causing themselves serious health-related harm by way of extreme eating habits, or lack of eating habits, and the person really does need medical attention in order to survive, another woman’s body is really none of our business. That’s not to say that I don’t think women can give compliments on other women’s bodies, it’s just that a lot of women simply do not have that etiquette, or the true feelings behind their compliment are so loud as to not be missed, and if that’s the case, then again a woman needs to focus on loving herself and stop pining over and criticizing someone else. That’s my feeling, because if you’re my friend it’s because I love your soul, and your body is merely a part of who you are. If that’s something you want to change, that is your business and I will support you as long as your endeavors stay healthy. There.

    • “That’s my feeling, because if you’re my friend it’s because I love your soul, and your body is merely a part of who you are.”

      A quote I read recently: You are a soul. You *have* a body.

      Nothing could be more true, and I love that you share that sentiment.

  15. Definitely a tough subject to bring up, Cassie. My admiration for you has increased ten-fold because you somehow managed to rant about a delicate subject in an eloquent, dignified, manner. So kudos. I’ve had to think on my response a bit, but I think I’ve got it down.

    I feel like people (mostly women) who feel the need to comment on others’ weights are missing a certain filter. Tact has taken a hike. It’s almost like a knee-jerk reaction for them. They have so much self-hatred for themselves, so much self-pity and feel so self-conscious in their own skin that they cannot help themselves. And I say this because sometimes, it’s an involuntary reaction on my part as well when I see someone I feel is “too thin.” It’s a reflex. I don’t comment on it, and I immediately feel ashamed of myself when I do get those unbidden thoughts, but I’m not going to lie: they’re there.

    So reading this I started thinking about self-pity, self-consciousness, and self-hatred. Do I fit anywhere in here? And again, I’ll be honest: I do possess some of these qualities. But something has changed in the past year, and that is a completely new self-awareness that I’m holding onto as tight as I can. I’ve learned that nothing is irreversible. I am responsible for my own body. I have the tools to better myself. I can create my own happiness. And I’ve started noticing that those involuntary reflexes towards people that are too thin or just overweight have diminished.

    It doesn’t take a genius to make the connection, but I believe this new self-awareness that I’ve encountered is something everyone has the power to obtain. It’s there, we just have to work for it. We have to make a conscious effort to change the way we think and perceive those around us. Obviously it’s not easy, and I dare say even natural, for us to think beyond the physical and concentrate on what matters. Just like with stereotypes, we have to focus our energy on looking past things and training our minds to dial back on the judgment and work towards connecting with others and appreciating each other for who and what we are.

    So I feel for everyone in this situation. I feel for the people who are not happy with themselves, who feel the need to reflect the self-loathing they have for themselves onto other people. I feel for those girls who are being judged unfairly and are treated as almost sub-human because “what is there to complain about.” It’s a cycle that can only stop with positivity, mutual respect, and a new way of thinking. If we can all just urge each other to remember that our bodies don’t define us, that we can all be happy with ourselves as long as we make responsible decisions and alter the way we think, we can change everything for the better and work together.

    • Sarai, thank you for such a thoughtful comment. Seriously, this makes my day to know something I wrote only just scratched the surface and that the comments expand upon it so beautifully. I can completely relate to this new self-awareness you describe, because it’s fairly new to me, as well. Once you’ve got it, it’s absolutely necessary to hold on and examine it further. It’s what helps us (eventually, I hope) transcend from being self-conscious and all those other negative things you talk about to someone who accepts themselves wholly– flaws and all.

  16. Giiiirl, I hear you. Or rather, my 15-22 year old self hears you 😉 These days, I’m the most medium sized woman ever, but I spent my formative years being really, really thin, through no effort on my part. Several girls in my social group were really catty about it. Generally speaking, I think it’s good practice to avoid critiquing (or complimenting!) people on things they have no control over.

  17. Love what you had to say……spoken from your “fat” aunt who eats like a healthy slender person…..go figure…….

  18. This is wonderful! You found the right words to bring to light the lesser known side of the story. Health and inner beauty would take higher importance in an ideal world, but it’s comforting to know that we are not the only ones who feel this way.

  19. When I hear women or men being nasty to someone about their weight(myself included) I get right in there face and shut them up in a calm, intelligent manner if possible. If not I try to yell tactfully. Then I chat with the victim(if possible)and try to steel them against future attacks. I am a 25 year old male, 125 pounds, 5ft5 and I lift weights and eat healthy which gets me crap like the rest of you.

    I wrote this to encourage you all to do the same thing. I haven’t been punched in the face yet(I’m too quick :D) but if I do it’ll be worth every second of pain. Stand up for yourself and others!

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