First off, I want to say that I am in no way, shape or form trying to promote any sort of body shaming, nor am I trying to promote any unhealthy lifestyles on either end of the spectrum. Any type of body shaming in unacceptable. I don’t think that anyone should be judged on how their body looks. I know that skinny-shaming is both real and it is awful but it is in no way the same as fat-shaming. Here, I am merely going to try to explain how fat-shaming a much bigger issue than skinny-shaming is.
In the summer of 2014, Meghan Trainer released her song ‘All About That Base’ and almost straight away complaints about the song were flooding in and most of them were related to skinny-shaming. I really did not want to use this song as an example but since it’s one of the songs that is most associated with skinny-shaming, I thought that I should. I want to emphasise how much I am against this anti-feminist song, but not for the reasons you might think. I don’t think that Meghan Trainer is skinny-shaming in ‘All About That Base’. She does in many interviews and many other aspects of life but just not this song. She is simply praising bigger women for “bringing booty back” and just leaving out skinny girls. That is not skinny-shaming. People who claim that this is skinny shaming are making the argument that, “anything that purports fat bodies as worthy of love are inherently skinny-shaming”.
Fat women are left out of the traditional idea of “beauty” they need an extra boost, including this song, to be seen and heard as much as privileged groups, in this case skinny women. Melissa Fabello explains this by saying,
“That’s like if someone uses the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter and someone responds with “All lives matter!”
Of course all lives matter. Of course all bodies are deserving of love and praise.
But only some lives – and only some bodies – are given that privilege as a birthright. Everyone else has to be louder in order to get even close to that status.”
I am not saying that skinny-shaming is not real, because it is, but instead I am saying that many people mistake the promotion of bigger girls as skinny-shaming when it’s not.
At this time of the year, fat-shaming seems more evident than ever. On Instagram especially, we can already see women posting photos of themselves in swimsuits. It’s great to see all of these women being confident and showing off their bodies but what isn’t great is that depending on your size, these photos can be deemed “inappropriate” and removed from the site. I have seen this happened numerous times with bigger girls, but I have never seen it happen to a skinny girl. If photos of larger women in swimsuits are going to be removed, then in that case, all photos of women in swimsuits should be removed.
Another well-known case of fat-shaming on social media came in the form of “The Dancing Man”. Earlier this year, some photos were posted on Reddit of an over-weight man dancing and another of him sadly looking down at the ground with the caption “Spotted this specimen trying to dance the other week. He stopped when he saw us laughing”. My heart broke when I first saw this. No one should be laughed at it public just because they wanted to dance on a night out. Luckily, the British ‘Dancing Man’ has been found and there are a group of women who are throwing him a party in LA where he can freely dance without judgement.
Social media is not the only place where discrimination against fat people is clearly visible. Unfortunately, it can also be seen in healthcare of all places. In the UK, 54% of doctors who took part in a survey said that they should be allowed to refuse treatment to someone who is obese. Even though obese people are more likely to have more health problems than someone who is of an average weight, this is still a denial of their human rights. I know many people who have real health issues that are responsible for their weight gain and it is not just a case of over-eating or not exercising enough. Yet they are still told by numerous doctors to simply, “eat right and exercise!” even though their diet is obviously not the issue. Of course heavier people have more health risks than an average sized person, but the same goes at the other end of the spectrum and they should not be discriminated against for that.
The average dress size for women in the UK and Ireland is between sized 12 and 14. Plus-size is usually considered to be a size 16, or sometimes 14, which is not far off the national average. Therefore, many shops stop stocking clothes any bigger than the average woman’s size meaning that if you’re even slightly bigger than average, you’ll have a very difficult time finding nice clothes on the high-street. Plus-size women constantly have to fight just to get brands to start making their sizes. While this is mainly an issue for bigger women, I am aware that it can be the case for thinner women as well. This mainstream idea of body-shaming was reinforced yesterday when singer Jamelia said on Loose Women, “I don’t believe stores should stock clothes below or above that range” and that high street stores should only cater to average women.
While I am fully aware that skinny-shaming is an issue, it is nowhere near as serious of an issue as fat-shaming is. Fat-shaming and discrimination can be seen in all aspects of life from healthcare to the judicial system. No one should be made to feel bad about their bodies and all forms of body-shaming should be stopped. However, we cannot even start to try to get rid of it until we realise what issues are more serious and realise our own privileges.