I’m sure many people have said this before in their own way, but since it’s something I think about a lot, I figured it was worth laying it out, in my words.
Thin-shaming isn’t real.
Here’s why: our culture hates fat people and values thin people. When someone tries to ‘shame’ you by saying ‘you’re so skinny! Eat a cheeseburger!’, what they’re really saying is ‘congratulations, you perfectly conform to one of the most important physical conditions in our culture!’ Even if they’re trying to put you down, at the end of the sentence you’re still left with the knowledge that you’ve ‘won’. There is basically no way to shame someone just for being thin, since being thin is so desirable that people spend hundreds, if not thousands of pounds, and hundreds of hours, on the pursuit of being thin. Who wants to be fat? Name me one thin person who wants to be fat in the same way that millions of fat women spend their lives burning, pining to be thin.
If you don’t believe our culture values thin people, pick up a women’s magazine. If it’s an expensive one, flip through it and tell me how many pages you had to go through before you saw a fat person. The answer is probably ‘all of them’. If it’s a cheap one, tell me how many pages you have to go through before you saw a fat person who isn’t being used as weight loss inspiration, talking about their weight loss struggle, or being papped in their bikini because they’ve put on a few pounds. The answer, again, is probably ‘all of them’. And then compare that to the number of favourable portrayals of thin women you come across. How many beautiful fashion editorials featuring thin models. How many makeup looks demonstrated on thin faces. How many thin celebrities talking hysterically about how they ‘eat like a horse and never gain a pound!’.
Fat-shaming, unfortunately, is very real. Fat-shaming is seats that are too small for your butt. It’s not being able to walk out onto your average high street and buy a single item of clothing that you need (jeans, an evening dress, a new bra). It’s being passed over for jobs and promotions. It’s seeing, in a widespread, systematic way, people on dating sites specifically exclude you or people like you from what they’re willing to consider in a partner. In possibly the most serious way, it’s being denied the medical care you need because your doctor is fixating on your fat before your condition. I can’t tell you how many women I know flat-out refuse to see a doctor for everything from contraceptives to mental health to joint pain because they know, based on a lifetime’s experience, that the doctor will, implicitly or more likely explicitly, blame their current ailment on their fat. Depressed? Lose weight! Want the contraceptive that works for you? Lose weight! Your knees are screwed? Lose weight before I’ll even consider taking you seriously, ridiculous woman! If you’re a thin woman reading this, and you really believe that you’ve been the victim of ‘thin-shaming’, how many of these have you experienced? How has this ‘shaming’ manifested itself? Was it just someone pointing out that you’ve hit the body type jackpot? If so, boo fucking hoo.
I think you also have to ask yourself why you’re so keen to feel part of an experience designed to belittle and marginalise women that aren’t like you. Why is it so important to you to be part of their club? It can be a really fucking shitty club to be in, and I (and my fat comrades) have to work extremely hard to get to a place where we can really revel in the joy of it, to bask in the hard-won glory of being fat. If you’re not willing to take the hits, and endure the emotional tearings-down that come with being fat, then don’t co-opt our struggle.
If you need me to, I can add the obvious disclaimer that this does not apply to people with mental illnesses that lead them to lose weight, but abuse that those people receive isn’t ‘thin-shaming’, it’s ableism. It’s a cultural lack of regard and respect for mental illness, not a cultural lack of regard and respect for thin people. And suffice to say, I don’t believe fat is the beginning or the end of the body image struggle, and there are lots of factors to be considered including race, disability. and being trans, but not having experience in those areas means I can only bring useful hot takes on the fat issue.